Riders in Dilemma: Safety Concerns Cast Shadow Over India GP
Ahead of the first-ever Indian Grand Prix, riders raise concerns over the Buddh Circuit’s safety measures as homologation is yet to come.
This upcoming weekend marks the inaugural appearance of the Motorcycle World Championship in India, with the Buddh International Circuit as the chosen venue, a track that previously hosted Formula 1 races from 2011 to 2013.
However, concerns about the track’s safety have arisen due to its adaptation for motorcycle racing. Tome Alfonso, FIM Safety Chief, has initiated several safety improvements, primarily focusing on the runoff areas.
While some modifications have been made, uncertainties persist, and the official FIM approval of the track is scheduled for the Thursday before the first practice session.
In recent weeks, riders have been regularly seeking updates on the progress of the runoff areas. In a safety commission meeting in Misano, current video footage was presented, but doubts lingered among the riders.
“We are not relaxed at all,” says Aleix Espargaro. “I’m looking forward to India; the track looks good and fast. Dorna tells us to stay calm. They are working there, and everything is on schedule. We have to trust and hope that the track is safe.”
Notably, some track sections have walls positioned dangerously close to the racing surface, particularly in turns 2 and 3, where there is only a three-meter gap from the curbing to a wall. Air fences have not yet been installed based on available images.
In another corner, it’s been reported that the curbing has been adjusted slightly inward, akin to the changes at Spielberg’s final corner, to expand the runoff area.
Fabio Quartararo shares the same sentiment because the videos shown in the safety commission may not have revealed all the details: “On the video, it looked okay. However, the track was very dirty, and the curbs looked 15 years old.”
“Regarding safety, we need to see it on-site because the camera perspective may not be ideal. But I expected it to be worse.”
Since it’s a new track for everyone, the track walk on Thursday will be very important. Given that this is a new track for all riders, the on-site track inspection on Thursday is deemed highly significant.
Riders unite as safety concerns get more common
There’s even an expectation that the riders will collectively undertake this inspection. Recent developments indicate that riders are enhancing their communication with each other to address important issues with a unified voice, though they do not have a formal riders’ association like in Formula 1.
A few weeks ago, all riders convened in Barcelona for discussions, and there’s a consensus to prioritize common interests over personal ones.
“This unity has become very important for us,” emphasizes Aleix Espargaro. “I don’t know why, but when we sit down and talk now, we think much more along the same lines than we thought we would.”
“In the past, we went to the safety commission, and it was a mess because everyone went in different directions. Now, we agree more. This is very positive because it allows us to improve many things.“
In preparation for the Indian race, riders plan to inspect the track together to understand the situation firsthand.
However, if the FIM grants clearance for the track but riders perceive the runoff areas as too perilous, a potential boycott of the event remains a possibility.
Alex Marquez emphasized the need for absolute clarity on the track’s safety before they commit to racing, despite acknowledging the substantial efforts made in its preparation.