Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you from the Grand Prix of the Americas this week, and things are already off to an interesting start. With a fire breaking out in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 garage during the night, the gear for the satellite Yamaha squad was flooded by the Circuit of the America’s fire suppression system, which also affected the garages for Yamaha Racing, LCR Honda, and Cardion AB.
Yamaha Racing Boss Lin Jarvis explained that while the small fire was quickly put out by COTA’s sprinklers, the team lost one of two servers and several computers to the blaze before it was extinguished. It is not anticipated that the fire will have any affect on Sunday’s race, though it could pose a problem for the teams, since they have a quick turnaround for the Jerez round.
Currently, the cause of the fire is presumed to be the lithium battery to Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s electric starter for the GP motorcycles, making this incident another eyebrow raising episode in the handling of high-tech battery packs, which have different tolerances and operating procedures than conventional battery pack types.
While certainly a setback to the start of the race weekend, the teams involved dodged a serious bullet by having the fire occur while MotoGP is at COTA, since the Texan track has a sophisticated fire prevention system in place.
“Unfortunately there was a small incident inside the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 garage overnight. The process of starting a MotoGP machine requires an electric starter and overnight they are left on charge. This is standard procedure and something we have been doing ever since the introduction of the four-stroke era,” explained Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team Manager Herve Poncharal.
“Unfortunately in the night one of the batteries caught fire. We have suffered quite a lot of damage and of course it is not ideal preparations but thankfully the fire prevention measures undertaken by the Circuit of the Americas and the assistance of the local Fire Department were invaluable in limiting the damage. The sprinkler system was immediately activated and fire crews on scene promptly and I am grateful for that.”
“We will be conducting a thorough investigation to find out why this issue occurred and take the necessary steps to ensure it is not repeated in the future. I would like to apologise to the Yamaha Factory Team, LCR Honda and Cardion AB too, as the sprinkler system was also activated inside their pit area as well. But it could have been much worse and with the fantastic support of Yamaha and others in the close-knit MotoGP community, I am confident we can participate in this weekend’s race without any additional problems.”
As it was explained to A&R, had this fire taken place at many of the other circuits on the MotoGP Championship calendar, the fire would have likely spread through the garage(s) of the teams involved, and likely would have resulted in several races bikes being consumed by the flames.
While Monster Yamaha Tech 3 got away relatively unscathed today, the fire highlights the growing need for teams and logistical crews to better-understand the issues and limits of lithium-based battery packs and their many variations — including how to safely build, store, manage, and operate the battery packs in the highly variable MotoGP paddock.
It will be interesting to see if after this incident Dorna puts any restrictions or measures in place to deal with lithium battery packs in the paddock.
Source: Monster Yamaha Tech 3; Photo: Jose G. Maroto (Twitter)