2013 Le Mans MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Just When Are Penalty Points Appropriate?

Where do you draw the line? That's the central question in the paddock at Le Mans. The last-corner incident at Jerez is still front and foremost in many riders' minds, though perhaps none more so than Jorge Lorenzo's. Jorge Lorenzo still believes that Marc Marquez should be penalized for the move he made at Jerez, while the rest of the world remains to be convinced.

The subject came up at a rider briefing held by Race Direction at Le Mans, after all of the riders had arrived at the track, but before the press conference was due to begin. The briefing had been convened to discuss other issues - what to do when races are red flagged, behavior on the grid, the procedure for restarts, and a host of other complicated but important details surrounding safety. The briefing was clearly needed, as Marc VDS rookie Livio Loi's post red flag crash at Jerez made clear, the youngster's lack of experience causing him problems.

It was inevitable that the subject of the clash between Marquez and Lorenzo would come up at a meeting such as this, and, depending on whose account you believe, it was inevitable that tempers would be frayed. Lorenzo was described on GPOne as being 'furious' with Race Direction over their refusal to penalize Marquez for his pass at Jerez, though in the press conference, Lorenzo played that report down. He stood by his assertion that Race Direction needed to penalize Marquez, and that he had left the meeting early because "I thought it was over, the briefing, and I leave. Someone has to leave first, so I was the first one to leave."

That's not the way that others saw it, however. GPOne reports that Lorenzo harangued Race Direction for not imposing a penalty on Marquez, and that by not doing so, the penalty point system became meaningless. He was particularly harsh on Loris Capirossi, according to GPOne, pointing to the many misdemeanors the Italian ex-rider, and now Safety Officer, has committed in the past. It is indeed odd that a man capable of a move as cynical and dangerous as the last-corner wiping out of Tetsuya Harada to take the 1998 250cc title in Argentina should be named as a 'Safety Officer'. But then again, Capirossi is just one man among four who make up Race Direction, the others being Race Director Mike Webb, Dorna representative Javier Alonzo, and FIM appointee Franco Uncini. The decision was taken collectively, so singling Capirossi out is not entirely fair.

Raising the issue of the penalty system is important, clearly, but the devil is in the detail of how to apply it. For Lorenzo, the issue is clear: "In my opinion, when you make a hit, you must be penalized somehow, one point, two points." Whereas for the remaining riders, and Race Director Mike Webb, it is a far more complex equation. What it boils down to for everyone who isn't Jorge Lorenzo is a combination of intent, danger, and context. Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi, Cal Crutchlow, Mike Webb, Randy de Puniet, their attitude was summed up by the words of Dani Pedrosa: "Last corner, last lap."

"It's difficult to understand where the limit is," Cal Crutchlow explained, "but I think we're racing motorcycles, there are 25 guys riding around, at some point in the year, the main guys are going to hit each other, or at least touch." Randy de Puniet concurred: "this is the race and these guys fight for the world championship." It was a lot easier for the riders than it was for Race Direction, Crutchlow said. "We just go for the gap that is there," the Englishman quipped. "Last year, I did the same to Nicky in the first lap, and together we said 'rubbin' is racin'." In the end, it is simple: "nobody crashed, nobody was hurt, it needs to be forgotten about and carry on racing."

Though there appears to be much disagreement between Jorge Lorenzo and the rest of the riders, in reality, the difference is small. The penalty point system is a big improvement, as it makes it much clearer where each rider stands. And it also provides a valuable lesson to young riders, as Jorge Lorenzo explained. It had changed his riding in the past. "When you are penalized, you change your mind and you become a more logical rider, as happened with me," Lorenzo explained. "In 2005, I made many mistakes, and the only time I changed is when I got penalized for one race [Lorenzo received a one-race ban for his clash with Alex De Angelis in the 250cc race at Motegi that year - DE]. If not, I probably stay riding the same, and make more races crashing."

A line has to be drawn in the sand, a boundary marking competitive riding from dangerous riding. Step over that mark, and points must be awarded by Race Direction, to avoid a repeat of the same situation. But this is where Jorge Lorenzo differs from the rest of the world: when Marc Marquez dives up the inside on the last corner of the race, into space left by Jorge Lorenzo, everyone except Lorenzo regards that as a racing incident. "Always there is some limit, but last lap, last corner, if I see some space, I will try," Marquez himself said of the incident.

One day points will be handed out, and given that he points system itself is widely believed to have been introduced to cope with the situations created by Marc Marquez in Moto2, the Repsol Honda man is still the red-hot favorite to be the first rider in MotoGP to be issued points under the system. But, as Mike Webb explained to MCN, the last-corner incident at Jerez was not an incident deserving of punishment.

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then there should definitely be a penalty.

The MM/JL incident - I would think that if the riders were swapped and Marquez left the door open for Lorenzo, and Lorenzo made contact with Marquez, there would be no complaints.

Sure, Lorenzo probably would not have made as aggressive of an attempt because he has 5 years of experience, but I doubt he would not have made an attempt to pass Marquez.

These guys are not wired to settle when they see an opportunity to make a pass, unless they are protecting a championship.

I think it's going to be hard for them to levy points unless there is some clear indication the rider was being reckless.

RE the Capirex/Harada incident - I would say that would be one where some points would be assessed on Capirex because it looks like he would not have made the turn without hammering Harada. The penalty at that point would mean little though as it was the last race of the year, and the contact decided the championship.

Yes, but not penalty points. Marquez should be awarded some championship points for doing a corner entry move on the Honda which nobody before could pull off with a Honda, Stoner Pedrosa or even Rossi. Granted, the Honda has improved but corner entry has never been it's strength.

No doubt MM is a huge talent, but i think all the riders mentioned were/are more than capable of holding their breath on the brakes, blowing past the turn in point and running wide risking a collision and crash.
The difference is that in recent history other riders have chosen not to attempt this, its a long championship, injuries suck etc. etc. MM just goes for it. and good on him

It's evident Lorenzo is definitely feeling the pressure.

He needs to worry only about what is within his control. All this complaining and whining can produce frustration and added pressure potentially costing him via a mistake of his own.

Race direction probably would have penalized Marquez if Lorenzo hadn't left enough room for an ocean-liner to pass. But if Lorenzo had closed that door, Marquez would have never attempted anyway and we wouldn't even be talking about this.

Lorenzo needs to man up, accept responsibility and just race his @ss off.....because regular podium finishes might not earn you a crown with this crop.

I can see Lorenzo's point, though. While Marquez' pass was acceptable, it certainly could have been done better; any time a rider hits another rider, something has gone wrong.

You can use your points system in such a way that you don't have to DQ or penalize a rider for a single incident, but you can identify a pattern of behavior that might warrant further action.

If Marquez hits Lorenzo in the next four races in the exact same manner, I think very few people would find that OK, even if no one crashes.

I thought that was the intention of the points system; to identify systemic behavior that was likely to cause problems in the future and correct them before someone wound up in a pine box or a wheelchair, not afterward.

Morbidelli, you make a superb point here. Most comments seem to be of the "it was a rough pass but still racing incident" variety. If people really believe this was just a racing incident warranting no penalty points, then MM (or any other rider) should be able to do this at every race....but we all know that's not right. The very reason for penalty points is to discourage this kind of overly aggressive racing. Had MM been given a point or two, the exact result everyone wants would have occurred (i.e., MM still takes 2nd at Jerez so no immediate penalty, but he's been warned so additional "bumps" discouraged). This would have been the PERFECT occasion to assess a point or two to MM. Opportunity wasted in my view.

UPDATE: I'd love hear David's response as to whether he feels a rider should be able to late-brake then bump another rider (in the same way MM did) at every race. I believe David had previously expressed his view that it was a racing incident that did not warrant any penalty points.

It's very easy for a rider to get ahead by simply missing his braking point. The problem is, you do that and you miss the apex and can't make the corner...which is precisely what MM did. JL actually did pull up immediately prior to contact. Did you see that video of Capirossi wiping out Harada linked in David's main article? Capirossi was "ahead" of Harada when they made contact. So you would say Harada left open the door and should have avoided the collision? Really? MM's move was not as harsh as Capirossi's, but following your rationale would lead to conclusion that Capirossi's move was fair...which I don't think anyone would agree with.

Even with all the 'well it was a last lap move' comments what race direction has done by not giving even one penalty point is saying that that type of move is completely acceptable at any point in the race. How could it be otherwise since there was no penalty? There are not rules for the first 26 laps and different rules for the last lap so telling a rider that move is OK at the end of a race but not the beginning is completely nonsensical.

If they had given Marquez one penalty point there would be no change in the finishing positions or championship standings but riders (and Marquez) would know that his move was a bit over the line. Not enough to warranty a penalty in finishing position but something to emphasize 'don't do this again'. Isn't that the whole point of a cumulative penalty system? Then again with all the feedback of how exciting the race was I think that Marquez will have free reign to do nearly whatever he wants to do, all heartily endorsed by Race Direction's non-action.

Going back to the 'intent' bit I feel that Marques went into that corner with every intent of bouncing off of Lorenzo. He as much as said it when he said he's watched the videos and saw what other riders have done in that turn. He is a superb talent and knew that he would not make the corner without outside assistance. Race direction should give him an extra penalty point or 3 for intent! As much as I like close racing we do not want to have riders out there with the intent of causing collisions and hoping that since they are on the inside they won't go down.


Lorenzo just needs to stop complaining, period. Race direction made their judgement and the rest of the MotoGp riders are in agreement. Quit whining about it, you are not going to reverse judgement. This is racing, and the history of this sport is littered with such contact. Be mad at yourself for leaving the door open and quit blaming everything else. If you don't like it then quit and go find another job. These bikes are electronic nightmares and corner entry is where you have to pass as corner exits, due to TC, ant-spin, anti-wheelie, etc, etc, ruin passing opportunities.

He is just being a sore loser. No points are going to be given, get over it.

Did Lorenzo actually bring up the Harada incident? If that is the case, he could always ask Joan Olive for advice on past sins.

Would we have known otherwise?
Lorenzo is just 'racing' IMO.
These guys have to go for every advantage - this is just mind-games on MM and the Dorna team. If Lorenzo can get MM points he may then get a race ban or other position penalty which gives JL an advantage in the championship.
He's waving a big "Do that again and I'll have you!" flag too.

Whether that can upset MM, who seems to have one of the most mature(ing) race heads we've seen for a long time, is another question.

He will be like Senna was on 4 wheels - controversial, and anyone who gets close (in front or behind) had better be prepared for a battle.

Great stuff! (pardon the pun).

Have to agree with the above, Jorge would have no problem returning the favour. The same as the spanish players always asking for a player on the opposite to be booked. Just trying make sure, next time, and there will probably be one, he comes out on top even if he doesn't in the clinch.. Not necessarily the kind of tactics I like to see myself but there are plenty of countries where it's considered all part of the sport..

I believe Dave wrote it here, that the racing at the front of the motogp grid between Casey, Pedrosa, and Jorge, had become very sterile.
Maybe fairing to fairing racing isnt something that they arent comfortable with anymore. This isnt the first complaint Jorge has had, remember he complained about Marco a lot before he passed.
I was was Cal, or Nicky, or Marquez and especially Rossi, I would use that to my advantage every moment I had the chance. Not saying "put him in the wall" but just get into their uncomfortable zone when you make a pass. Like Rossi hounding Stoner at Laguna a few years ago (albeit without running of the track).

As sure as it was that Marquez would be fairing-bashing in no time, then likewise it was that the 1st time he did it to Lorenzo there would be much consternation on the part of the imperious Jorge.

Considering his past form on the subject I was quite surprised how restrained Jorge was post race, but I’m sorry to see he’s still seething. I think the finger waving should have sufficed.

I can still remember the huge tyre mark he put up the back of Simoncelli’s leathers when he went for an overtake up the inside which didn’t exist. That was the incident Simo was referring to at the famous ‘so I will be arrested’ press conference. So even recently, Jorge isn’t averse to giving some back. Didn’t he launch Rossi off track near a start last year as well, and then blame Rossi for it?

So come on Jorge, don’t get mad, get even. Put it behind you and ride even better than Marquez and beat him if you can.

Marquez will do this again (I always critisise others for forecasting ‘certainties’ but I reckon this is a sure-fire bet) and it could be any rider, then Race Direction will just have to take it from there.

I agree, the last-corner incident at Jerez was not an incident deserving of punishment. Lorenzo should get off with just a warning.

Clearly, after last season, he needs more practice in how to be passed gracefully. Hopefully, for the entertainment of spectators, he'll get a lot of practice this year.

I could give him lessons. I have awesome 'getting overtaken' skills.

He could use some finger waggling practice too. I believe he selected the wrong finger. The finger waggle he used would only be appropriate if he were dating, married to, or had given birth to Marc.

Jorge's consistency affords him the luxury of always being in front of riders comparable to or slower than him, so his true colors have been "muted" the last few years and he hasn't had to be in many dogfights.

Simoncelli was on a fast bike and was a fast & aggressive but inconsistent rider...he was always going to be mixing it up with various riders...and I suspect we will see the same from Marquez this year, albeit closer to the pointy end.

It will be interesting to see how this year unfolds...it is possible Jorge will find himself behind several different riders from race to race, including Rossi and Cal, and more likely Dani and Marc. This is a position he has not faced in a long time...let's see how he handles it!!!! THIS is why we watch :)

... it seems. Perhaps it is just his style of metronomic riding that precludes any desire to battle. Doubtless the experience of winning each championship on consisistency has reinforced his belief.
I prefer the 'let's get the best possible result (even if second going into the last corner then falling off) every time on bike and let the championship take care of itself' style. In part it is simply more exciting but, subjectively, it 'sits' right as to what's racing.

He spent a lot of time in the 250s being criticized for his harsh riding and received penalties for it. He is one rider who was a bit too agressive and was forced/taught to ride more safely though the application of penalties which included sitting out a race.

Marquez on the other hand has been just as harsh a rider and provoked multiple accidents and injuries yet his only penalty has been a 1 min Q lap penalty. And this after running into the back of another rider doing a practice start in a practice session after the checkered flag had come out! Race direction even called an incident of him knocking down a rider in a practice session 'a racing incident'. While in a practice session!!!!!!! This is one rider who needs to learn a lesson and the powers that be are failing miserably in that task.


Jack Miller was taken out at Jerez while having one of his best weekends in Moto2. He didn't just lose a position, he was out of the race. It wasn't on the last lap in the last corner for a podium position ... and it was far from a unique incident at Jerez, or anywhere else.

Every race weekend there are a number of incidents that make discussions about penalties for the Lorenzo/Marquez incident laughable.

>>>"It is indeed odd that a man capable of a move as cynical and dangerous as the last-corner wiping out of Tetsuya Harada to take the 1998 250cc title in Argentina should be named as a 'Safety Officer'."<<<

I dunno, if that single event summarized his entire racing experience, it might be odd. But didn't he race GP bikes for 21 years and over 300 starts? Isn't that more starts than anyone else? Does that not sound like a guy who might have some seriously valuable experience?

Does your characterization really contribute anything useful to the conversation? Is this merely your own value judgement, or do the current riders (besides Jorge) feel that their safety interests are poorly represented by Mr. Capirossi?