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MotoGP Portugal GP

MotoGP riders critical of Portugal track safety after Espargaro incident

A number of MotoGP riders have voiced their concerns about the safety of the Algarve International Circuit following Pol Espargaro’s violent FP2 crash.

Joan Mir, Repsol Honda Team

Tech3 GASGAS rider Espargaro suffered a nasty highside going into Turn 10 late on in FP2 and violently bounced through the gravel before hitting the barrier.

Espargaro was treated trackside by medical staff before being loaded into an ambulance to be taken to the medical centre, after which he was airlifted to hospital in nearby Faro.

An update from MotoGP’s doctor Angel Charte revealed Espargaro was neurologically fine but had suffered bad bruising to his lungs.

Espargaro’s crash is the second big incident to have happened in the space of two years in Portugal, after Pramac’s Jorge Martin suffered multiple injuries in a big off in 2021.

During pre-season testing, a crash for Gresini’s Fabio Di Giannantonio left him with a concussion and unable to ride in the final day – with the Italian taking aim at the ‘wall-like’ gravel surrounding the Algarve track.

The size of the gravel rocks was a safety point raised by reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia last year, who said Espargaro’s incident on Friday was avoidable had this issue been resolved when the riders originally asked.

“The first one [red flag] was OK, the second one was possible to not have it,” Bagnaia began. “Because without this gravel it was not a red flag. It was a heavy crash, but it was not as big as [it was] because when Pol arrived to the gravel he started to accelerate.

“I think there the air fence is smaller or not even there. It’s four years that we are asking to change the safety of this track, because the first time we arrived here with my team I sent a picture of the gravel to [former FIM safety officer] Franco Uncini because it was too big.

“It wasn’t normal. Last year, when I took the gravel to the box [after a crash] everyone was smiling at me and laughing at me for what I did.

“And nothing changed, until the crash of Di Gia [Di Giannantonio], which was already too late, because the crash of Martin [in 2021] was quite easy to understand there was a problem.”

Pol Espargaro, Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing crashed bike

Pol Espargaro, Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing crashed bike

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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

Marc Marquez said: “They need to put an air fence [there]. I thought that the bike hit him. So, it’s a point that they need to put an air fence tomorrow. Not next year, tomorrow.”

Team-mate Joan Mir echoed Marquez’s comments, while noting that he doesn’t feel it is the job of the riders’ to be making every necessary safety improvement.

“What happened today with Pol - I hope he is fine - it’s unbelievable that there is no air fence,” said Mir.

“It’s not my job to think of the dangerous places on track. The guy responsible of these things has to know that there is not enough run-off area and to put the air fence there.

“It’s a dangerous place, we cannot wait for these things to happen [for changes to be made].

“I agree [with Marquez], and as a rider you think a lot and maybe you can say something [about safety] but the truth is it’s not our job.

“Our job is to ride a fucking MotoGP bike at 350km/h and to beat all these bastards.

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“This is my job, I cannot think about safety also. In safety commissions we make some opinions about what happened on Friday or in previous years.

“But we cannot stay 100% focused on that. When I saw Pol hit the wall and there wasn’t an air fence there, I was surprised.”

Aleix Espargaro, who is typically outspoken on the matter of safety in MotoGP, says he is not angry at this moment, adding: “We will have time to blame somebody, but now I’m a little bit worried [about my brother].”

Additional reporting German Garcia Casanova and Oriol Puigdemont

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