MotoGP: Track limits – Are they fair?

Published on August 25, 2020
By Short Shift News

In recent years, track-limits have caused an upset across all three MotoGP classes, more so at this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix.

In Moto2, race-winner on the road Jorge Martin had his result stripped after being demoted one position for touching the green paint at the end of the kerb on the run into turn nine. The Spaniard controlled the majority of the 25 lap Moto2 race in the Styrian hills and held off a late-charging Marco Bezzecchi to take his second win in a row. However, a late change meant that Martin’s race victory was removed as he was demoted one position as per the rulebook. But is the rulebook fair?

The rules for track limits are simple. If you touch the green paint on the outside of the red and white rumble strips in either practice or qualifying, you will lose your lap, in race conditions, it’s a bit like strikes in baseball. Three excursions onto the green tarmac and you will be awarded a long lap penalty, but these rules aren’t overly consistent. But if you run onto the green on the final lap, it’s an automatic demotion of one position. This caused carnage in the Austrian Grand Prix when Jonn McPhee, who crossed the line in sixth, found himself standing on the Moto3 podium.

However, on the final lap of the AndalucianGP, Maverick Viñales ran over the end of the blue and white kerb and onto the green. Because the Spaniard did this on the final lap of the race, he should’ve been awarded a penalty of one position, thus promoting Valentino Rossi to second – however, he didn’t, and the result stood. But why are there different rules for one and others for another?

Firstly, let’s look at how race direction deems someone to have exceeded track limits. On every corner, there’s a camera that looks down the kerb. It is fitted with a sensor that will alert Mike Webb/Freddie Spencer and his team that a rider has run wide. They will then review the footage and award a penalty if needed.

The issues in recent rounds have been mainly down to a small triangle at the end of the exit kerbs. This same issue meant Valentino Rossi and Fabio Quartararo lost their best efforts at the 2019 British Grand Prix – although they were later reinstated once Race Direction deemed it as ‘unavoidable’. They adjusted the circuit for the following day’s action.

So why was this not the case for Jorge Martin in Austria and Takaaki Nakagami in the Czech Republic, who lost his lap in Q1?

In short, we don’t know. Race Direction has become under a lot of fire in recent rounds due to decisions made following recent accidents, with many claiming that race direction is not consistent enough.

Johann Zarco was penalised for two racing incidents in the Czech and Austrian Grands Prix which cost him of a good result in Styria and possibly a second-place finish in Brno – yet on the first lap of a race riders can run as wide as they wanted at the tight Red Bull Ring’s opening right-hander.

Track limits can cause issues on track as well. In last year’s San Marino Grand Prix, Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi came together in Q2 after Marquez touched the green on the run into turn 14. However, Rossi had earlier touched the green on the exit of turn five meaning Marquez assumed Rossi would have his lap cancelled and continued to push on his lap. The Spaniard made a bold move on Rossi into the fastest corner on the calendar but exceeded track limits – which Rossi saw and dived back up the inside, causing a bit of drama between the two.

We saw a long lap penalty awarded to Ayumu Sasaki in the first Austrian Grand Prix which dropped him from the podium battle down to the outside of the top 20. Sasaki said that upon reviewing the race he felt like he did nothing different compared to the other riders, thus meaning the rules are not consistently dished out.

So how do we fix this? It’s simple. Replace the green tarmac with grass and gravel. There are too many race circuits that now have painted area’s, inviting riders to use the green to gain an advantage – which as long as they don’t do it more than three times, is deemed okay. But, if there was grass to greet the riders on the other side of the kerb, a bit like the majority of circuits in Britain, it would easily solve the problem.

So, in short, if you replace the green run-off on the side of the exit kerbs with grass or gravel, the ultimate penalty for running off the track will be enough without some riders being awarded a long lap and others getting away with it.

Featured image credit: YamahaMotoGP


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