What does the MotoGP paddock do the day after a rider dies? Carry on as normal. Or nearly normal: bikes circulate, riders compete, but conversations are more hushed, the mood muted. The whole paddock is a quieter place, bar the bellowing of racing four-stroke engines.
Heartless? That is putting it a little strongly. It is in part a coping mechanism, immersing yourself in your work to avoid dwelling on tragedy, and thinking too much about danger.
But it is also a response to the request of Luis Salom’s family and team. When Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta asked them what they wanted to do, they said they wanted the race to go ahead.
Their wishes would be respected, but it was not the first choice of everyone in the paddock. Danilo Petrucci told the Italian press he would have preferred to have packed up and gone home, and he was not alone.
“Yesterday I was crying together with my brother because [Luis Salom] was really young,” Aleix Espargaro told us. “This is a disaster. With Pol we were thinking that the best thing was to not race because actually now I feel empty inside.” We all felt empty inside, and still do.
“MOTORSPORTS CAN BE DANGEROUS” it says on the back of my media pass, the hard card I wear around my neck and which gives me access to the paddock and the media center.
It says the same thing everywhere around the circuit: on rider passes, on the back of tickets, on signs which hang on fences around the circuit.
You see it so much that it becomes a cliché, and like all clichés it quickly loses its meaning. Until reality intervenes, and reminds us that behind every cliché lies a deep truth.
Friday brought a stark reminder. During the afternoon session of free practice for the Moto2 class, Luis Salom exited Turn 11 and got on the gas towards Turn 12.
Just before the turn, traveling at around 170 km/h, the rider caress the front brake to help the bike turn through the fast right hander of Turn 12, an engineer told me.
At that point, Salom lost control of his bike, fell off, and he and his bike headed towards the air fence which protects the wall there.
They slid across a patch of tarmac put in to help the cars if they run straight on at that corner, and Salom’s bike hit the air fence and wall, careened off the wall and into Salom, fatally injuring him.
Salom received treatment in the corner, and was then taken to a local hospital where doctors did all they could to save his life. Sadly, they could not. Luis Salom died at 4:55pm on 3rd June 2016, at the age of 24.
After the tragic death of Luis Salom, as a result of injuries sustained in a crash during Moto2 FP2, the track layout is to be modified for the remainder of the MotoGP weekend. The event is to continue, in accordance with the wishes of the family of Luis Salom, as well as the riders and teams.
The track configuration is to be changed, and the riders in all three classes will use the layout used by Formula One, which has a much sharper corner at Turn 10, the rounded corner being replaced with something approaching a hairpin.
Now instead of the flowing into Turn 12, riders will also use the chicane that replaces it for F1, adding a tighter right-hander followed by a sharp left-right combination. The new layout is shown in a graphic above.
To allow the riders to get accustomed to the new layout, all three classes will be given 15 minutes extra track time in FP3. This means that FP3 will start at 8:40am for the Moto3 class, and last until 9:35am. MotoGP FP3 will run between 9:50a, and 10:50am, while Moto2 FP3 will take place between 11:05am and 12:05pm.
It is with a heavy heart that we have to report that passing of Luis Salom, who crashed tragically today during the Moto2 FP2 session at Catalunya.
The incident occurred at Turn 12, a fast corner that is the second-to-last turn for motorcycles on the Catalan circuit. The crash is still being investigated, and a great deal of speculation is still coming from the MotoGP paddock, but security camera footage of the incident shows Salom sliding after his bike sliding, at great velocity, over the F1 runoff and into the air fence at the turn.
Salom was treated by medical personnel trackside for a lengthy duration of time before being transported by ambulance to the Hospital General de Catalunya in Sant Cugat del Valles, where he later succumbed to his injuries at 4:55pm, local time. He was 24 years of age. Ride in peace, Luis.
If there is an axis around which every MotoGP season revolves, it has to be the sparkling jewels in the crown at Mugello and Barcelona.
From the glory of the Tuscan circuit, all high-speed and rolling hills set just an hour down the road from the heart of Italian sports motorcycles, the circuits heads to the magnificent track at Montmeló, just outside Barcelona.
A stone’s throw away from the cradle of Spanish motorcycling, and with a third or so of the grid (and the paddock regulars) having been born within an hour’s drive, Barcelona is MotoGP’s true home race.
Like Mugello, it is a track worthy of MotoGP, where the big bikes can properly stretch their legs. A massive front straight, exhaust noise booming between the great wall of a grandstand, with a tricky right-left chicane at the end of it.
Lots of long fast corners, allowing differing lines and offering up chances to try to pass. A couple of hard braking sections with more opportunities to pass.
After the chicane at Turn 1 and 2, the next favorite passing spot is into Turn 5, a tight left hander. If you’re feeling cheeky, you can have a sniff at Turn 7, though that can leave you open at Turn 9.
Turn 10 is prime passing territory, a fast approach with a long downhill braking section, before you flick it left round a long, wide corner. Care is needed, though, as it is easy to lose the front on the greasy off-camber corner, or run wide when passing.
That allows the rider you just passed to come back underneath. If the pass does not stick there, all is not quite lost, but it will require every gram of skill and bravery you can muster. Passes are possible at the final corner, as Valentino Rossi so stunningly demonstrated in 2009, but they are far from easy.
Marc Marquez has finally agreed terms with HRC to continue in the Repsol Honda team for two more years. Though the fact that Marquez will remain in Honda is not a surprise, there were a number of important details to finalize before Marquez could agree to the deal.
In the press conference on Thursday, ahead of the Barcelona race, the Spaniard said there were three main points which needed agreement: the technical package, the financial aspect, and ensuring that he kept his current team around him.
Marquez’s deal, and the announcement by KTM that they have signed Pol Espargaro, leaves only a seat at Aprilia and a seat at Suzuki unfilled.
As expected, we didn’t have long to wait to find where Pol Espargaro would be working next season, as KTM has announced that it has signed a two-year contract with the Spanish rider, for the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP seasons.
Espargaro’s departure from the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 was announced earlier this morning, along with the news that his direct contract with Yamaha Racing would not be renewed.
The change from Yamaha to KTM won’t be a dramatic shift though, as Pol Espargaro will be joined by his current teammate, Bradley Smith, at the Austrian brand’s factory team as well.
KTM hopes to capitalize on both riders’ feedback on developing the KTM RC16 race bike, as well as their promising pace for strong results.