There has been a lot of death this year in motorcycle racing. At Mugello, Jason Dupasquier crashed and was hit by another rider during qualifying for the Moto3 race, and died in the early hours of the following morning. At Aragon, during the European Talent Cup race held at a round of the FIM CEV championship, Hugo Millán crashed during the race and was hit by another bike, dying as a result of his injuries. And yesterday, during the WorldSSP300 race at Jerez, Dean Berta Viñales crashed at Turn 2 and was hit by another rider, dying in hospital a few hours later. Dupasquier was 19, Millán was 14, Viñales 15.
The deaths – three teenagers in the space of less than four months – led to a great deal of introspection in the racing world, and concerns over what should be done to prevent this from happening again. A lot of people had a lot of ideas, but the thing that strikes me about these deaths is that, as good as some ideas might be, there are no easy answers.
Motorcycle racing is dangerous. This is a truism, but it is not often we get a reminder of just how dangerous it is. Sometimes, reality likes to rub our noses in it.
The one thing that all three fatalities have in common is that the riders who crashed were hit by bikes that were following them. Though an enormous amount of work has been done to make circuits safer, this is the one type of accident for which there are no simple solutions. A motorcycle traveling at speed contains an enormous amount of energy, more than a human body can absorb and survive.
This is true even at relatively low speeds. Dean Berta Viñales crashed on the exit of Turn 2 at Jerez, one of the slowest corners on the circuit. According to data from Brembo published before the weekend, WorldSBK riders brake to 65 km/h for Turn 2, meaning that Berta was hit by another bike probably traveling at less than 80 km/h.