FIM Introduces New Punishments For Exceeding Track Limits On Last Lap

The last lap of last weekend's Moto2 race remains controversial. Augusto Fernandez ran wide at Turn 11 in Misano, and used that space to get a run on Fabio Di Giannantonio into Turn 14, passing the Italian to take victory. The Speed Up team appealed the decision, but eventually it was upheld.

That decision did not sit well inside the paddock, however. At the pre-event press conference for the Aragon round on Thursday, Marc Marquez said the riders intended to raise the issue in the Safety Commission. "In the end the green part is something that is out of the limits of the track. The way that this time Fernandez, but it doesn’t matter which rider, uses the track is not fair. It is not fair because he used a lot on the exit of Turn 6 and you gain a little bit and it is the last two laps when the front guy is pushing. If you keep these ‘jokers’ for the end of the race it is not fair to use them at the end of the race. The overtake at Turn 14 started at the fast corner Turn 11 and this is when you are riding in Misano it is very easy to understand."

The discussions in the Safety Commission on Friday night between the riders and the FIM have already borne fruit. Today, the FIM announced new rules for the last lap of the race, which will see any rider exceeding track limits and appearing to affect the outcome of the race as a result subject to punishment.

What that punishment will be is up to the FIM Stewards. They will be able to hand out a time penalty, a change of position, or a long lap penalty. The long lap penalty is likely to be unused, given that riders will only be punished for infractions on the last lap. 

Importantly, there is no right of appeal against the penalty. Once adjudicated and awarded, the penalty will stand.

Below is the press release announcing the rule change.

FIM MotoGP™ Stewards update track limits protocol
New guidelines come into force for infractions on the last lap

Saturday, 21 September 2019

In previous eras of the Championship, the limits of the track were defined by a wall/barrier, which meant riders had no margin for error. As circuits got safer and run-off areas were created, kerbs were installed to signal the limit of the track. They were also intended to be detrimental for riding on as they were not flat. However, in time, the machines developed and improved, meaning they no longer lost any traction on kerbs.

Therefore, with the aim of improving upon natural grass but without providing good traction, artificial grass was installed on the outside of the kerbs. However, this was found to be dangerous after rain as it wouldn’t dry as fast as the track, causing crashes.

Now, artificial grass has been replaced by a concrete edge, giving the riders a safe margin to be able to push for the limit, make mistakes and fight for positions. However, there are clear advantages to exceeding the limits of the track, and therefore it must be discouraged.

Exceeding track limits means a rider has both tyres outside the track at the same time. If an infraction occurs at any time other than during a race, it results in the cancellation of the sector time and therefore cancellation of the lap. If an infraction occurs during a race, there can be a number of different outcomes.

If the rider loses time and is clearly disadvantaged, no action is taken and it’s not recorded.

Some mistakes are allowed if a loss or gain is indeterminable, but too many incidents are deemed an advantage because the rider is not using the same track as their competitors. If a rider makes three infractions, a warning message is sent to their dash. Once there are five track limit infractions, a Long Lap Penalty is issued via a signal board, with a message sent to the rider’s dashboard as well.

In MotoE™, races are much shorter. Therefore the number of permitted track limit incidents has now been reduced from five to three, with a warning after one.

If the FIM MotoGP™ Stewards deem a rider to have gained a clear advantage in one single track limit infraction, a penalty can be issued. This can vary from a Change of Position, a Time Penalty or a Long Lap Penalty. These instances are recorded but not included in the undetermined count, as a rider will already have been penalised for them.

At the Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon and following consultation with the Safety Commission, it has been decided to update the protocol for track limit infractions that occur on the last lap of a race.

From now on, an infraction on the last lap that has affected a race result must indicate that the rider in question was disadvantaged by exceeding track limits. If the Stewards deem there is no clear disadvantage, the rider will be penalised with a change of position or a time penalty. This is to ensure that any rider exceeding track limits on the final lap must be in a worse position than the rider or riders with whom they are directly competing for a finish position.

Decisions regarding track limits are the sole responsibility of the FIM MotoGP™ Stewards Panel and are final, with infractions confirmed by video. There is no possibility of protest or appeal.


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So now there are yet more rules for problems that previously did not even exist. First of all, I don't understand why Fernandez was allowed to keep his victory even within the current rules. It could not have been more obvious that he broke the track limit rules several times and especially by a big margin in those last corners, which he used to set up his last and overly ambitious attack on Di Giannantonio, even hitting him twice in the process. How on earth was all that okay for race direction? 

But this whole situation with exceeding track limits has grown to ridiculous proportions. Why on earth have they made kerbstones so flat and grippy that they have essentially become (a coloured) part of the track? The problem starts with the fact that riding to the very outer edge of the kerbstones is the fastest line through a corner. So we can not have grass outside the kerbstones anymore, because that is slippery and riders get outside the kerbstones all the time, so o dear they may crash. So for safety they just put more track outside the kerbs, but you are not supposed to ride there. Yeah right. Of course riders will say thank you very much and ride there all the time, looking for that last couple of millimeters of the fastest line, knowing there is no risk if you go over it, because there's tarmac everywhere anyway.

So now all corners have to be monitored constantly and laps have to be cancelled (still it is worth trying for riders in qualifying, for that one lap they stay just on the last bit of kerbstone), which makes practices a confusing mess. And in the race apparently it is perfectly okay to use all that extra track surface, not just in this case with Fernandez, but so often with silly overtaking attempts that just rely on having an almost endless track in case you don't make it. Also, the rule that says 'if you don't gain a time or position advantage, it's okay' is naive. Alone the fact that a rider does not, or hardly, lose any time with running off track is already a big advantage. This means that you can just give it a go, you can only gain from it. That is a nice sort of investment.

Part of what makes motorcycle racing so fascinating is that riding on the edge, going as fast as you can by using all of the road, knowing that messing it up will cause you to lose at least a whole lot of time trying to stay upright on the grass or in the gravel. It is good that we don't have trees, buildings or deep ditches next to the tracks anymore, but the chance of losing lots of time or even crashing when you run off track is part of the challenge. You can not make motorcycle racing 100% safe anyway, and what we see now is that we simply have introduced new, different risks. People riding more dangerously, re-entering the track at all kinds of speeds, and more risky overtakes as well. Casey Stoner said the same thing, by the way.

So the tracks have become really ugly, the fascination of racing suffers, and we just got different risks and accidents. And endless discussions, time penalties and grid penalties. I'd like to see some thorough investigation and statistics on the accidents on tracks that still have mainly grass and gravel outside the kerbs. I have the strong impression that there are a lot less incidents there and even less crashes.

Anyway, I think the obvious thing to do is make kerbstones less attractive to ride on. With rain conditions in mind, I would not make them more slippery with paint, I'd make them bumpier. Or make bigger holes in them, if you can prevent grass to grow there. If kerbstones become a 'natural' track limit again, then most of the above problems are solved.