The FIM have published a report into the crash in Barcelona, in which Moto2 rider Luis Salom lost his life. The report, which can downloaded from the MotoGP.com website, was drawn up based on information from Technical Director Danny Aldridge and Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli, as well as analysis of the data by an independent telemetry expert, Lluis Lleonart Gomez, who was appointed by Luis Salom's family.
The report reaches a number of conclusions. The first is that there is no evidence of mechanical failure on the part of the bike. The right clipon, holding the throttle and brake assembly, was found to be loose when the bike was examined after the crash. However, this could be put down to crash damage, as clipons often come loose when the bike hits the ground. Salom's bike slid on its right side before impacting the wall, and this is the most likely cause of that damage.
The rear wheel was also damaged, but data from the (compulsory) pressure sensors showed that rear tire pressure was at the recommended pressure of 1.5 bar when the bike crashed. The most likely cause of the rear wheel damage was when the bike hit the wall, the air fence not being sufficient to absorb the impact of the bike. On the CCTV footage, it appeared that the rear wheel hit the wall first, catapulting the bike back onto the tarmac runoff and hitting Luis Salom in the chest.
The data from Luis Salom's Kalex was analyzed by an independent data engineer, Lluis Lleonart Gomez. Gomez was appointed by Salom's family, and is an experienced data engineer, currently working in the FIM CEV Moto2 championship with the MR Griful team for Ana Carrasco.
Gomez compared the data from the lap Salom crashed with his data from the fastest lap he had set so far. The comparison showed that on the lap he crashed, Salom appeared to back off the throttle in the space between Turn 11 and Turn 12, before reopening it to 100%, then backing it off to 45% for around 0.3 seconds, before then closing it completely. He then applied the brake later, harder and longer than on his fastest lap. That caused the suspension to move much more violently than normal, indicating the bike was not stable. Shortly after that, Salom crashed.
Gomez postulated that Luis Salom may have looked back in between Turns 11 and 12, found himself off line and closer to the corner, and then braked harder than usual. This would have caused him to lose the front wheel as the bike was still leaned over, resulting in a crash. According to Gomez, there was no evidence that bumps on the track had caused Salom to crash.
That Salom was off line when he crashed was confirmed both by a rider inspection of the track, and by Miguel Oliveira, who was behind Salom when it happened. It was an extremely unusual place for a rider to crash. The most likely cause of a rider crashing there is simple rider error, the kind of error that many riders make during practice throughout the weekend.
The report contains screen captures from the data used by Gomez to compare Luis Salom's crash lap with his fastest lap. The data has been published to allow others to verify the conclusion drawn by Gomez. You can download the FIM report from the MotoGP.com website.
The report may explain Salom's crash, but it does not explain the cause of Salom's death. Salom was killed due to the force of the impact of his bike rebounding off the airfence and into his chest. The reason both Salom and his bike were on the same trajectory was because there was asphalt run off instead of gravel on the exit of Turn 12.
Gravel had not been thought to be needed in that corner, as nobody was expected to crash there. Salom's crash proved that estimation to be wrong, of course, with fatal consequences. At other corners and in other circuits, it is common for gravel to be laid over tarmac run off, to cope with the differing needs of motorcycle and car racing. Cars need asphalt to help them brake when they go off line, bikes need gravel to slow them down when they hit the deck. Finding an accommodation between the two is an ongoing process between the FIM and FIA, with the leading role being taken by FIM Safety Officer Franco Uncini.
Whether Turn 12 returns in the form used in previous years is doubtful. The corner has been discussed several times since Salom's crash in the MotoGP Safety Commission, where riders meet with Dorna and the FIM to talk about safety concerns at each track. The current consensus is that MotoGP will continue to use something resembling Barcelona's F1 layout, which the Safety Commission decided to use for the rest of the weekend after Salom's death. That layout will be mildly altered to make it safer for bikes, putting more room between the tarmac and the inside wall, and altering the kerbs.
One possible alternative would be for the Barcelona circuit to build a floating grandstand at Turn 12, much as the Assen TT Circuit did at the GT chicane. This would create more run off under the grandstand, while keeping the grandstand in place at a spectacular viewing point. That option, however, would be expensive, and the Montmelo circuit will not receive any subsidy from the Barcelona City Council for such upgrades. Barcelona's current mayor is not minded to subsidize a profit-making facility with public funds.
There is no doubt that Luis Salom's crash had a profound effect on MotoGP. His legacy looks set to be an even stronger focus on safety. The Safety Commission, and Dorna and the FIM's willingness to listen to the riders, has already helped make the sport much safer than it was in the past. But Salom's crash shows that this is an ongoing struggle, as the unexpected can create dangerous situations where none were expected. The riders, Dorna and the FIM cannot afford to let their guard slip.