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MotoGP debut in India: riders worry about track safety

Work has been done on the run-off zones of the old Formula 1 track in India – question marks remain – riders only want to ride when safety is assured

This coming weekend, the Motorcycle World Championship will make its first guest appearance in India. The venue is the Buddh International Circuit, where Formula 1 raced from 2011 to 2013. The big question mark concerns the safety of the circuit, as it had to be adapted for motorbikes.

FIM safety chief Tome Alfonso has ordered several modernisation measures, mainly affecting the run-off zones. Some changes were also said to have been made, but question marks remained. The FIM homologation of the track will not take place until Thursday before the first day of practice.

In the past weeks, the riders regularly asked what progress had been made with the run-off zones. In Misano on Friday, they were shown updated video footage in the safety committee, but doubts still remained.

“We are not relaxed at all,” says Aleix Espargaro. “I am looking forward to India, the track looks good and fast. Dorna is telling us to stay calm. Work is being done there and everything is on track. We have to trust that and hope the track is safe.”

In some sections, walls are quite close to the track. This is particularly true of turns 2 and 3, where there is a wall behind the kerb after three metres of tarmac. No airfences have yet been placed there based on pictures.

In another bend, the kerbstone is said to have been pulled slightly inwards, as it was in Spielberg in the finishing bend, in order to increase the run-off zone somewhat. “But I don’t think that’s the best solution,” says Alex Marquez. “We will see how it looks on the ground.”

Fabio Quartararo thinks so too, because the videos shown in the safety committee might not have shown all the details: “On the video it looked quite okay. But the track was very dirty and the kerbs looked 15 years old. “

“In terms of safety, we have to look at it on the ground because the camera angle can’t be ideal. But I expected it to be worse.” As it is a new track for everyone, Thursday’s walk-through will be very important.

It is even expected that the riders will visit the track together. This is because it has recently become apparent that the riders are communicating more among themselves so that they can then address important issues with one voice.

Drivers want to speak with one voice on safety issues

Though there is not (yet) a drivers’ association like in Formula 1, a few weeks ago all drivers met in Barcelona to discuss things. Personal interests are to be put aside in order to bring common interests to the fore.

“This unit has become very important for us,” Aleix Espargaro emphasises. “I don’t know why, but when we sit and talk together now, we think much more along the same lines than we would have thought. “

“Before we used to go to the safety commission and it was a big mess because everyone was going in different directions. Now we are more in agreement. This is very positive because it means we can improve many things.”

And in India, that unity could play a big role. “In India, all the riders will look at a lap together before we get on the bike to understand the situation,” confirms Aleix Espargaro.

Because if the FIM clears the track but the riders think the run-off zones are too dangerous, there could possibly also be a boycott. “A lot of work has been done, but we will see if it is enough,” says Alex Marquez. “If it is safe, then we will ride. But it has to be very clear if it is safe or not. “



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