Franco Uncini, MotoGP™ Legend and FIM Safety Officer, spoke exclusively to motogp.com about the brand-new Turn 10 layout at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and how both the FIM and FIA agreed on the changes that needed to be made.
Uncini and Stuart Robertson, Head of Circuit Safety and Rally at the International Motorsport Federation (FIA), visited a rain-soaked Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Monday the 8th of February to have a close inspection of the work done by the circuit to improve the safety of Barcelona’s famous Turn 10. And it’s safe to say, both were mightily impressed.
“Unfortunately it was raining so we did not see the layout properly but I can say that it looks very, very nice. Safe and nice,” began Uncini. “I spoke to some of the Lamborghini drivers and they said that the new turn is simple and excellent. They liked it a lot. They said it was finally a real turn. Especially for the FIA, from the beginning they were complaining about Turn 10, so they created the new turn towards a kind of chicane, it was a new double left-hand turn but very, very tight. Nobody liked it.
“Finally we [FIM] decided to use it for safety reasons because there wasn’t enough space at the old Turn 10, so we decided to use the Formula 1 layout. But we complained a lot because this turn wasn’t a real turn. And also, let me say, the brake point was quite dangerous. So finally, in 2017, I proposed to the Safety Commission the same turn at 10, but move it to where the chicane is.”
The pile-up at the beginning of the 2019 Catalan Grand Prix that saw Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales and Andrea Dovizioso crash out proved how sketchy the braking zone and general layout of that part of the circuit could prove to be. Especially when 220mph capable MotoGP™ bikes hurl into there, separated by mere inches.
“So we just make a copy of the old Turn 10 and move it to where the Formula 1 layout is,” continued Uncini, who was inducted into the MotoGP™ World Championship Hall of Fame in 2016. “Finally, the decision was good and well accepted by the circuit management and also by the FIA. They accepted the modification and we did it, and I can say it looks very, very nice. I am very happy.
“It’s safer, better and also more exciting as a turn. It’s a real turn. When it’s a very, very tight turn, everybody can go fast in a tight turn let’s say. But to make the difference you need something more difficult, and more exciting. That’s the way.”
Safer, better, and more exciting. The perfect combination. In the past couple of decades especially, efforts to improve safety – while also keeping the excitement and thrill of the sport intact – have gone through the roof. Rightly so. Uncini and the FIM, working together with the circuits, continue to do an outstanding job to make racing as safe as it possibly can be. The rebranded Turn 10 in Barcelona is exactly that – making the circuit safer, but also creating a corner that makes for a more exhilarating spectacle. The old Turn 10 was magnificent, but as MotoGP™ became quicker, the run-off wasn’t substantial enough. Thus, a switch to Formula 1’s much tighter Turn 10 was the only solution at the time.
However, as Uncini explains, it quickly became apparent that the incredibly tight left-hander was unsustainable, especially for motorcycle racing. It created an opportunity for Formula 1 cars to pass each other into the braking zone, but it didn’t suit motorcycle racing. In the past, a tug of war between the FIM and FIA may have broken out about how to improve the corner, but that doesn’t happen as often nowadays. Both federations agreed that Turn 10 needed to be re-modified, a great example of how closely the FIM and FIA now work.
“It was very strange first of all. Normally they don’t accept many modification requests from the FIM,” commented Uncini, chatting about how the FIM and FIA worked together on this project. “But in this case they accepted and yesterday I was speaking to some people from the FIA and they were very, very enthusiastic. It was really something that I appreciated a lot, to have the support from the FIA. We are doing a great job together. Since the time I took the place of the FIM Safety Officer, from the beginning I was thinking the only way to not create problems with the circuit is to have the inspections with both the FIM and FIA.
“More and more, we’re doing inspections together, especially when we are the top level of the categories. And the circuits that we share, we always do the inspections together. This is something that is working good because we make the life of the circuit much more simple, in the past there was a fight between the two federations and it was difficult. The FIM would propose one thing and the FIA would request the opposite, and the circuit in the middle had the tough choice to decide which way was correct. That time was very difficult for all the circuits, but also both federations.
“Now we are working together. For example, yesterday when the circuit – in front of me and Stuart Robertson from the FIA – said from 2022, we will have to use the light panels. They asked, “which positions for the FIM?” And I said, “exactly the same as the FIA.” Because I don’t want to change the position of the light panels. First of all, we don’t have the same experience as the FIA, so I want to start with the light panels in the same position as the FIA. Then, in the future, if we see that one, two or three might need to change, then we can discuss with the FIA and we can try and find a compromise or solution. This will make the life of every circuit easier.
“There was a huge contrast in the past. Everybody was thinking just to do their own job against the other federation and this makes no sense. I’m not saying we need to be the same body, the same federation, but we must work together. And I’m very happy about the actual situation because I have a very good relationship with many people from the FIA, we work very well together.”
A huge thumbs up from Uncini – as well as the FIA – is great news. The MotoGP™ paddock descends to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the 2021 Catalan Grand Prix at the beginning of June, where fans will get to see the riders sling their incredible machines into the new, sweeping left-hander, before heading into the famous stadium section.