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As MotoGP™ bikes can reach top speeds of more than 340 km/h, taking every step to protect the riders’ safety is of paramount importance to everyone involved with motorcycle racing’s premier competition.
In 2002, the FIM became concerned at the advances in design and engineering that resulted in higher speeds around the racetrack. For purposes of increasing safety, regulation changes related to weight, limits on fuel and engine capacity were introduced.
GRAND PRIX SAFETY COMMISSION
The FIM (see Governing Bodies section) created the Grand Prix Safety Commission in 2003 following the tragic death of Daijiro Kato at Suzuka in April of that year, to work on improving the safety at each World Championship circuit.
The original committee included Kato’s former teammate Sete Gibernau and fellow Japanese rider Nobuatsu Aoki, while the current incarnation includes numerous MotoGP™ riders, in addition to Claude Danis (FIM Safety officer), Franco Uncini (Head of the IRTA Safety Commission), Loris Capirossi (MotoGP Safety Adviser), Javier Alonso and Carmelo Ezpeleta (of MotoGP™ organizers Dorna).
Loris Capirossi (MotoGP Safety Adviser), though not part of the committee, will play an indirect role in proceedings, giving his expert input throughout the season.
At each Grand Prix, the Safety Commission meets to consider proposals on any changes that could be made at the respective circuits to improve safety. Their recommendations can include adaptations to track layout, changes to asphalt extension zones, enlarging gravel run-offs, alterations to safety barriers and tyre walls, the improvement of medical facilities and accessibility, and similar additional safety measures.
The day before each Grand Prix the IRTA Safety Commission represented by Franco Uncini, and Claude Danis of the FIM Safety Commission check every inch of the respective circuit on foot, before rechecking it each morning of the Grand Prix weekend by car - ahead of the relevant practice sessions or races.
Safety officers Uncini and Danis then follow all the free practices, qualifying sessions and races at trackside, via television monitors in the Race Control Centre, in their roles as members of the Race Direction - the body which oversees the marshalling of each race and can impose penalties varying from a warning to suspension or exclusion if specific safety rules are violated (See Key Rules section).
The start of each race, meanwhile, is monitored closely by the Official Safety Car, supplied by official MotoGP™ partner BMW.
The Safety Car leads the riders on the sighting lap, during which the Safety Car driver inspects the state of the track one final time before the race commences, checking that it is clear of oil, fuel or other debris and is in constant communication with Race Direction should anything require their attention.
Once the sighting lap is complete the Safety Car takes its place at the back of the grid and follows the riders round on the first lap of the race, closely observing the scene ahead, as it is on lap one when closely grouped riders are logically most likely to collide with each other. When a multiple crash occurred on the first lap at the 2006 Grand Prix of Catalunya for example, the Safety Car was on hand to provide immediate assistance and instructions, reporting from the ground at close quarters.
Once the first lap has been completed the Safety Car will only reappear if there is an interruption to the race caused by a crash or rain, in which case the riders will also see the relevant safety signals around the circuit (see Flags and Light section). The riders are also aware that if they see the Safety Car on track other than on lap one, they must proceed with caution and not overtake.
SPECIFIC SAFETY RULES
In addition, there are some specific rules that direct team members and riders in order to ensure their safety - and the safety of their fellow competitors:
- - Riders must ride in a responsible manner, which does not cause danger to other competitors or participants, either on the track or in the pit-lane.
- - If the rider encounters a problem with his bike, which will result in his retirement from the practice or the race, then he should not attempt to tour at reduced speed to the pits but should pull off the track and park his machine in a safe place as indicated by the marshals. Stopping on the track during practices and races is forbidden.
- - Riders must not ride or push their motorcycles in the opposite direction of the race on the circuit - whether on the track or in the pit lane - unless doing so under the direction of an official.
- - A speed limit of 60 km/h is enforced in the pit lane at all times and any rider who exceeds the pit lane speed limit during a race will be penalised with a ride through (see Key Rules section).
- - The maximum number of team personnel per rider in the working area in front of the pits is limited to eight for MotoGP™ and six for Moto2™ and Moto3.