Starting this season, it will be mandatory for GP riders (Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP) to wear an approved airbag system within their leather racing suits.
The move has been a long one coming, and aims to bring increased safety to the Grand Prix classes.
The rule applies to all permanent racers in the GP paddock, as well as replacement riders who participate for more than two rounds, but it does not apply to wildcard riders.
Along with the mandate, the new rule sets a number of conditions that the airbag systems must conform to, and their specificities are eyebrow-raising to say the least.
American riders will be pleased to hear that the Alpinestars Tech-Air Race airbag technology, which is a self-contained and self-actuated system, will finally be available in the USA, starting later this summer. This means that the same technology that protects MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, and Dani Pedrosa will now available to the common two-wheeled enthusiast – thus a huge step forward for motorcycle safety. Alpinestars says that when the Tech-Air Race is fully inflated, it protects that back (with an integrated back protector), kidneys, chest and shoulders. Additionally, with a firmware upgrade, the Race system can be configured to run the Tech-Air Street settings, for non-race use in both on-road and off-road situations.
Roughly two weeks ago, we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over the alleged patent infringement that was occurring between the two brands’ airbag technologies. That report has since spurred a pair of press releases from the two brands on the subject. First to respond was Alpinestars, which released a statement that clarified that the lawsuit in Italy centered around the material of the airbag. Alpinestars also offered correction to our report, saying instead that that no legal action had occurred in the German market. Dainese has now released its own statement on the matter, which insists that legal action was indeed taken in the German market.
Last week we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over their respective airbag suit systems. In response to that story, and the subsequent retellings of that story on other sites, Alpinestars has issued a press release that further clarifies, corrects, and explains the situation between the two companies. The first big takeaway from Alpinestars’ statement is that at issue in the patent infringement suit is actually the material of the airbag itself, i.e. the actual physical material used in the bladder that holds the air. The second big takeaway from the Alpinestars press release is that German retailers were directly contacted by Dainese, and told to cease and desist from offering the Alpinestars Tech-Air Street system.
Airbag technology is the future of safety in the motorcycle industry, of this much I am certain. Intelligent airbag suits allow for a level of impact protection previously unheard of in the motorcycle industry, or any industry for that matter, and the effects are already obvious both at the pinnacles of our sport and at the consumer level. The business side of all this is incredibly lucrative, especially for companies who are inventing in this space and patenting their work. As such, it should probably not surprise us to learn that Alpinestars and Dainese have headed to court over their two respective airbag brands: Tech Air and D-Air.
Any MotoGP can tell you that Alpinestars is one of the few brands making integrated airbag suits available to racers — perhaps one of the best safety features to come out thus far in the 21st century for motorcyclists.
How to take that technology off the track and onto the street though is a a tough proposition though, as there are infinitely more variable at play on public roads, when compared to a race course. Hence, we’ve had to wait a long time for this tech to trickle down to the masses.
The current trend of thinking seems for apparel manufacturer to partner with motorcycle manufacturers, as a way to popularize the expensive safety feature.
As such, rival apparel-maker Dainese has already made a very public deal with Ducati, which lead to the Ducati Multistrada 1200 D-Air, and the Vicenza-based company has (had?) other less-public deals in place, with companies like BMW.
It seems Alpinestars wants in on that action too, and has now signed an exclusive partnership deal with BMW Motorrad, which will see the German manufacturer and Italian maker enter into cooperation on designing and making jackets with the Alpinestars Tech-Air technology.
Similar to how Alpinestars released the telemetry from Marc Marquez’s 209 mph crash at Mugello, the Italian motorcycle apparel company has downloaded the 0’s and 1’s from Jorge Lorenzo’s Air-Tech race suit, to show us the physics involved from his collarbone-breaking crash.
Losing control of his Repsol Honda RC213V at 209.9 mph as he approached the San Donato corner during the race, Marquez had to jump away from his race bike, at roughly 170 mph, in order to avoid the rapidly approaching wall barrier. Now that Marquez has gotten a clean bill of health from doctors in Barcelona, Repsol and others in the paddock can breathe a sigh of relief, and begin to analyze the crash in more detail. Helping add insight to the crash, Alpinestars has released the telemetry from Marquez’s Tech Air race suit, which shows the g-forces involved during the crash, as well as the deployment time of the suit’s airbag.