MotoGP Riders Criticize the Safety of the Portimao Track

The GasGas Factory Racing racer experienced a severe highside when he entered Turn 10 with only 14 minutes left in practice. He bounced hard through the gravel before crashing into the barrier.

Espargaro was treated at the side of the track by medical staff before being put in an ambulance to be taken to the medical centre. After that, he was flown to a hospital in Faro.

The latest news from the MotoGP doctor, Angel Charte, reveals that Espargaro is fine neurologically, but has a pretty bad bruise on his lung.

Espargaro’s crash was the second major incident in two years in Portugal, after Pramac’s Jorge Martin sustained multiple injuries following the incident in 2021.

During pre-season testing, a crash suffered by Gresini’s Fabio Di Giannantonio concussed him and prevented him from racing on the final day – with the Italian aiming for the gravel surrounding the Algarve course.

The size of the gravel was a safety point raised by reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia last year, who said the Espargaro incident could have been avoided if the rider’s demands were met.

“The first (red flag) doesn’t matter, the second one may not exist,” said Bagnaia. “Because without this gravel it’s not a red flag. It was a hard crash, but it wasn’t that big because when Pol got to the gravel he started accelerating.

“I think there, the air fence is smaller or even non-existent. It’s been four years since we asked to change the safety of this track, because the first time we arrived here with my team, I sent a photo of the gravel to (former FIM head of safety) Franco Uncini because it’s too big.

“It’s not normal. Last year, when I brought gravel to the box (after the accident) everyone smiled and laughed at me for what I did.

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“And nothing changed, until the crash of Di Gia (Di Giannantonio), which was too late, because of the crash of Martin (in 2021) it was easy enough to understand there was a problem.”

Espargaro’s crash also revealed that there was no air fence in front of the tire barrier at Turn 10, provoking the ire of both factory Honda riders.

Marc Marquez said, “They have to put up an air fence (there). I think my bike crashed into it. So, this is the point where they have to put up an air fence tomorrow. Not next year, but tomorrow.”

His team-mate Joan Mir also repeated Marquez’s comments, while saying that he did not feel it was the rider’s job to make any necessary safety improvements.

“What happened today with Pol – I hope he’s all right – it’s hard to believe there wasn’t an air fence,” said Mir. “It’s not my job to think about the dangerous places on the track.

Pol Espargaro, Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing motorbike accident

Pol Espargaro, Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing motorbike accident

Foto oleh: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“The people in charge of these things should know that there are not enough run-off areas and put air fences there. It’s a dangerous place, we can’t wait for these things to happen (to make changes).

“I agree (with Marquez), and as a rider you think a lot and maybe you can say something (about safety) but in reality it’s not our job. Our job is to ride a MotoGP bike at 350 km/h and beat all these riders.

“It’s my job, I can’t think about safety either. In the safety commission, we make some opinions about what happened on Friday or in previous years. But we can’t be 100 per cent focused on that. When I saw Pol hit the wall and there is no air fence there, I was surprised.”

Aleix Espargaro, usually outspoken on safety matters in MotoGP, said he was not angry at the moment, adding: “We will have time to blame someone, but now I am a little worried (about my brother).”

Additional reporting by German Garcia Casanova and Oriol Puigdemont

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