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.
A verdict has finally been reach in the German patent law dispute between Alpinestars and Dainese, concerning their respective airbag suit technologies. In the ruling, the “Landgericht” court in Munich found that Alpinestars violated two Dainese patents concerning its D-Air technology, and thus issued a verdict that sees Alpinestars forbidden from selling its Tech-Air products in Germany. Alpinestars will also have to pay Dainese restitution for damages incurred from Alpinestars selling Tech-Air products in Germany. The monetary amount of the damages will depend on how much Tech-Air product the Italian firm sold in Germany, which has yet to be determined. After the verdict, both companies issued press releases touting their side of the patent dispute story, with clearly no love lost between the two parties.
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.
The Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s rule-making body, met last week to make a few minor updates to the rules for MotoGP in 2016. The two biggest changes to the rules relate to the two biggest changes to the series for next year: the change of tire suppliers and the switch to spec-electronics.
The change that will most please the fans will be the official end of the Open class. All references to both the Open and Factory classes are to be removed from the regulations, as the switch to spec electronics, all teams running both the standard Magneti Marelli hardware and official Dorna unified software, mean there is only one class in MotoGP again.
This does not mean that all factories are equal, however. Special concessions remain for factories that have not won a race and have not yet accrued six concession points (based on podium positions).
Manufacturers with concessions will be allowed to use twelve engines for a season instead of seven engines, they will be allowed unlimited testing with factory riders instead of test riders, and engine development will not be frozen.
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.
I was reading DealerNews last week when I stumbled across a brief story about how Harley-Davidson was being sued by a couple, because the Bar & Shield brand did not offer the 2012 Electra Glide Classic with an anti-locking brake option. The lawsuit comes about as a couple was riding two-up on their motorcycle in Texas, when a car suddenly cut in front of them. Locking up the wheels of the Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle fishtailed out of control, and flung the couple quite some distance. They are subsequently suing Harley-Davidson for $75,000 in damages.
Motorcycle safety technology has clearly entered a new phase of development with airbag systems being pursued by a variety of apparel manufacturers. The latest company to enhance it’s riding suits with the technology is Alpinestars, purveyor of fine jackets, gloves, boots, etc. Alpinestars’ airbag system, dubbed the Tech Air Race, the system easily integrates into what the company calls the Electronic Airbag Protection Suit. The two components combined create a leather racing suit that can calculate in eight milliseconds whether a rider is crashing, and if so, deploy a pair of airbags that protects the rider’s body.