We’ve seen track limits make some big talking points recently and it makes sense – sometimes they can make or break a rider’s results. But there’s a system for deciding and enforcing track limits in MotoGP™, so let’s take a closer look at how it works.
If a rider goes outside track limits during a Free Practice, Practice or qualifying session – onto those areas outside the track surface that are painted green – it’s an easy one: the lap is cancelled.
During races, riders are classified by finishing order, not by laptimes. Although laps are cancelled, penalties must be imposed to affect that finishing order. The runoff areas are there for safety so an allowance is made for a small number of genuine errors where no clear advantage is gained. In addition, a warning is always sent before penalties are issued too.
In the Tissot Sprint for the MotoGP™ class, if a rider goes onto the green area three times, they’ll get a Long Lap penalty. That’s what happened to Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) at the TT Circuit Assen in the Sprint. The last lap was his third time outside track limits, so it was an automatic Long Lap penalty. It wasn’t because it was the last lap.
In Grand Prix races for MotoGP™, Moto2™ and Moto3™, it’s FIVE times that a rider needs to touch the green to get a Long Lap penalty. Sometimes that fifth time outside track limits might be on Lap 8, sometimes it could be late in the race… but if it’s the fifth time a rider has gone outside track limits, it’s a Long Lap penalty.
THE LAST LAP
The last lap is also a special case, because it’s often truly race-deciding – right there and then. But it depends on the context.
If a rider goes outside track limits but is well ahead of the next rider on track and it’s not very close, that won’t trigger an automatic loss of one position.
If a rider goes outside track limits in a close fight and the rider behind is within “striking” distance – in the opinion of the FIM MotoGP™ Stewards – then the rider who went on the green will be demoted one position.
Unfortunately for the South African, Brad Binder is again a recent example. On Sunday at the TT Circuit Assen, he was demoted one position in the Grand Prix race for going outside track limits on the last lap when Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) was, in the opinion of the FIM MotoGP™ Stewards, within striking distance. So Binder was demoted a position.
HOW ARE INFRACTIONS DECIDED?
In most “hot spots” for track limit infractions, there are sensors. And yes, most does not mean all. In some places it’s difficult to install the full sensor system due to access, rounded areas, a Long Lap penalty area in that part of the track… but at the majority of track limits hotspots, there are sensors. Where there are no sensors, specific cameras are installed.
So that’s brings us onto Francesco Bagnaia’s (Ducati Lenovo Team) last lap at the British Grand Prix. Images of that have caused some debate! But there are sensors on that part of the Silverstone track, so we have the answer: no, it was not a track limit infraction. The sensors weren’t triggered. When a sensor is not triggered, that’s the end of it – the Stewards don't override what is recorded by the sensors. There’s no human judgement involved.
If there are no sensors – like the Long Lap at the TT Circuit Assen made famous by Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) earlier this season – then the evidence comes from the dedicated cameras installed at every track limit point. In these cases, a decision must be made by human judgement and the FIM MotoGP™ Stewards.
For that decision to go against the rider, there must be watertight, clear evidence that the rider went outside track limits. There wasn’t in the Acosta case, so the rider always gets that benefit of the doubt. Much like many legal systems, it’s a case of innocent until PROVEN guilty!