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Dustin Wheelen

[UPDATE] MotoAmerica VIR Round Safety Protocols Draws Praise And Criticism

UPDATE May 25, 2022: MotoAmerica formally acknowledged the Danilo Petrucci's VIR crash on May 24, 2022, two days following the event. In the released statement, the series delivers an account of the event that directly conflicts with the details provided by the Ducati rider. 

"Race Direction witnessed the end of the crash and immediately acted. As appropriate, a yellow caution flag was deployed. By this time, eighth-place finisher Ashton Yates had crossed the finish line, 27 seconds behind Petrucci. Roughly 17 seconds later, race direction could see that Petrucci was on his feet and appeared to be not seriously injured. Although Petrucci’s crash occurred in a fast section of the racetrack, it’s also an area with the most run-off of any track at which MotoAmerica rounds are held. A sliding Petrucci also struck a single lightweight sponsor sign that consequently gave way as it is designed to do. Petrucci was up and continued walking and stood trackside until he deemed it was safe to walk across the track. He was then met by MotoAmerica staff and escorted in a vehicle to the trackside Medical Center, which was some 200 yards from the site of the incident. At that point, roughly three minutes had passed, and Petrucci was treated for his injuries."

Petrucci's Instagram post detailing the incident stated that he "hit three sponsors signs" and was "lying down for over two minutes with no assistance". Unfortunately, MotoAmerica doesn't have footage of the crash to corroborate either side of the story, but both parties certainly see MotoAmerica's safety measures and crash response time differently. 

Even if Petrucci didn't go unassisted for two minutes, 17 seconds can feel like a lifetime to a downed rider, especially if they're injured. Additionally, waiting that long to deploy assistance and medical attention seems like an eternity when compared to the response from marshals on MotoGP circuits (Petrucci's former race series). Despite the conflicting perspectives, MotoAmerica President Wayne Rainey acknowledged that the series can learn from the incident and improve safety protocols as a result.

"We will never minimize a rider’s injury nor their views of the incident that took place," noted Rainey. "We needed to get to Danilo more quickly and we will study the incident and will make changes where necessary."

Original piece follows.

The 2022 MotoAmerica season is heating up, with riders just beginning to assert themselves in several classes. Danilo Petrucci took a commanding lead in the Superbike category with three consecutive wins at Texas’ Circuit of the Americas and Georgia’s Road Atlanta. Corey Alexander had similar fortunes, taking the first round of the Stock 1000 series at the Atlanta circuit as well.

The narrative changed for both riders at the Virginia International Raceway this past weekend, however. Alexander held the lead in the Stock 1000 standings when he lost control of his BMW M 1000 RR exiting turn 5 during Saturday morning’s Q2 qualifying session. The resulting crash sent number 23 flying over the bars, landing on the crown of his head, and careening into the short run-off section. Luckily, a new non-inflatable Airfence Bike module recently installed at the Virginia track buffered Alexander from a much harsher impact.

“I remember thinking I had it saved and holding on to it, and that’s really the last thing I remember until waking up at the hospital,” Alexander recollected. “If the Airfence wasn’t there I don’t think I would be alive. I couldn’t imagine hitting a steel wall at that speed.”

Throughout 2021 and into the 2022 season, the Roadracing World Action Fund continues to raise funds to help implement more Airfence and Alpina inflatable soft barriers at MotoAmerica courses. Last year, the non-profit collected $150,000 from donors and the organization hopes to build on that success at the Laguna Seca round this year. While Alexander’s fall proves that the fund has made substantial progress in recent years, a crash by Petrucci shortly following the weekend’s second Superbike proves that MotoAmerica still has a long way to go.

“I crashed at 280 km/h under the finish line that’s on a sixth gear corner for avoid touching another rider. I hit three sponsors signs with my body, multiple burns, multiple hematomas and a deep cut on the ankle with five stitches,” revealed Petrucci via Instagram. “I rolled for over 100 meters, maybe one of the worst crash of my entire career. And I lying down for over two minutes with no assistance, hearing the bikes passes next to me, till I stand up by myself and went alone to the medical center.”

Of course, Petrucci has grown accustomed to trackside marshals aiding crashed riders after 10 years in MotoGP. There’s no telling if MotoAmerica organizers would have installed soft barriers in the area where number 9 went down, as it may not be a high crash area, but the lack of surveillance and response to the rider is disconcerting.

Petrucci’s wounds certainly warranted medical attention, but we would hate to imagine if he were in worse condition following the fall. Hopefully, MotoAmerica recognizes the good it's done with Alexander’s spill but also acts on the oversights that led to Petrucci’s post-crash situation.

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