Several top motorcycle racers have called for safety modifications to the Red Bull Ring after massive crashes during the Moto2 and MotoGP races at this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix. Some believe that the walls are too close and that certain corners are simply too dangerous for motorcycles in their current format.
In the Moto2 race, Hafizh Syahrin was thrown into the air after hitting Enea Bastianini's downed motorcycle in the middle of the track, causing him to suffer a pelvic contusion. Bastianini lost control over a crest outside Turn 1 that even the announcers on the race itself called out as a dangerous spot where it's hard for riders to see what's ahead.
The following MotoGP race was red-flagged after Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli had a collision at nearly 200 mph heading into Turn 3. Their bikes were thrown across the track at the corner, almost hitting Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi.
Rossi didn't mince words when he discussed Turn 3 after the crash.
“I think that the Red Bull Ring is dangerous in some places, especially where you have hard braking from 300 kph to 50 kph," Rossi told The Race. “In the hairpin, you have to come in completely the opposite direction, and it is potentially a very dangerous place.”
MotoGP riders have been unhappy with the safety of the Red Bull Ring for a while, as some voiced their concerns before the race even began. The Red Bull Ring sits in an alpine valley where thunderstorms are common. During media sessions prior to the race, Crutchlow also called out the track's tendency to accumulate puddles in dangerous places.
"I was here on Tuesday afternoon and it rained for a couple of hours, and the water on the track was just ankle deep," Crutchlow told The Race last Thursday. "There’s a lot of undulations and the water sits in them, like the kink between Turn 1 and Turn 3 right where we start to get on the throttle."
After the race, Crutchlow once again called for changes to the layout of Turn 3, telling The Race:
Imagine that happened in the rain. I don’t like the safety of this place. They run a good grand prix, but I don’t like it here. I don’t know what they can do about it, but there’ll be a lot of unhappy riders this afternoon.
But what can they do unless they completely change that part of the circuit? Of course, like I said the other day it’s not like they’re struggling to do that – they could if they wanted to, but I don’t think it will.
Crutchlow then went on to give The Race a full-on to-do list for Red Bull to take on to fix the track: push back all the walls, and take a good, hard look at the safety of turns 1, 3, 4, 9 and 10. He added, "It’s not as if Red Bull are struggling for money."
Another MotoGP rider, Jack Miller, also called out the track's conditions prior to the race, comparing it to those at Suzuka, where the series quit racing after the death of a rider in 2003.
"It’s downhill so it’s an easy run for the water, but it becomes deep and we have to try and ride in it at 300 kph while the bike is aquaplaning under us on a tire with a surface area the size of your hand at the best of times," Miller told The Race.
"The braking at Turn 3 is very similar to the last corner at Suzuka and we all know what happened there and why we stopped going there," he continued.
The entire MotoGP podium from the race—Andrea Dovizioso, Jack Miller and Joan Mir—all called for the left-side wall at Turn 3 to be moved back before the series returns there in 2021, according to Crash.net.
“The bike is moving already, the wind makes so much difference but the biggest thing for sure is if I have a lock, you got into the wall on the left and it wouldn’t be pretty, like what I did at Le Mans. They have moved it once but it needs to be further," Miller told Crash.net.
The safety of the Red Bull Ring has been called out by riders since MotoGP started racing there in 2016, notes The Race. In their very first practice at the circuit, rider Casey Stoner called out the fact that the circuit's safety features for cars, including its heavy use of asphalt in runoff areas, didn't work as well for motorcycle racing.
“The circuit has some nice parts but it’s a bit strange for bikes because some of the corners don’t flow well together, which makes it somewhat difficult," Stoner said then, as quoted by The Race.
Red Bull made some changes to the track in 2017 to improve its safety for MotoGP races, notes Crash.net, but riders still say it isn't enough.
There's no doubt that energy drink behemoth Red Bull can afford to make the changes they need to be safer racing there, however, it's also worth noting that Red Bull is a major sponsor of MotoGP.
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