The death of Dean Berta Viñales leads the Federation to study an increase in the minimum age of competition thumbnail

The death of Dean Berta Viñales leads the Federation to study an increase in the minimum age of competition

Andreas Pérez was from Mollet del Vallés (Barcelona). Rider of the Reale Avintia team of the Moto3 Junior World Championship in 2018, he dreamed of being world champion. He passed away on a Monday after a tragic race at the Montmeló circuit. Was 14 years old.

Marcos Garrido was a boy from Rota (Cádiz), he competed in the SSP 300 category of the Inter-Autonomous Speed ​​Championship (CIV). He played soccer, but he loved riding a motorcycle. He was a fan of Valentino Rossi. He died in an accident at the Jerez circuit on a racing Sunday in 2019. He was 14 years old.

Last May it was another young rider, the Swiss Jason Dupasquier, who saw his dreams cut short. Rider in the Moto3 category of the Motorcycle World Championship, suffered an accident in the qualifying session of the Italian GP, ​​in Mugello. He died at the age of 19.

In July, two months later, Hugo Millán, 14, passed away. He was from Huelva and he admired Marc Márquez. He was contesting the European Talent Cup at the Alcañiz circuit when he was involved in a multiple accident.

History repeated itself last Saturday in Jerez, during the first race of the SSP 300 category of the World Superbike. Dean Berta Viñales, from Palau-Saverdera (Girona), was the nephew of MotoGP rider Maverick Viñales. His grandfather, who was also a pilot, took him to all races. He died at the age of 15 in the same conditions as Andreas, Marcos, Jason or Hugo. They all fell, were lying in the middle of the track and were hit by other pilots coming from behind.

“We are worried. And we’ve been trying to avoid fatal accidents for a long time. We all know that motorcycling is a high risk sport. But, despite assuming that premise, we want to put all the measures to avoid this type of accident. It is a priority for the organizers and the federations ”, points out Manuel Casado, president of the Royal Motorcyclist Federation of Spain (RFME), in conversation with EL PAÍS. Today he is looking for solutions to stop so much bad news: increasing the minimum age of competition (drivers arrive at the big circuits at 12 years old) and reducing the number of participants in the race are the most convincing options.

Because the circumstances in which all those recent accidents occurred, sheer fatality, have common elements. Beyond the youth of the drivers, they all competed on large asphalt circuits and in the so-called small categories. They did it with motorcycles weighing about 140 kilos and 250cc or 300cc. The speeds of these machines range from the 190 km / h reached by the Yamaha YZF-R3 piloted by Marcos or Dean, the 225 km / h top speed in the case of Hugo’s Honda NSF250R, or the 247 km / h peak that he reached the Dupasquier Moto3 at the Mugello circuit.

In recent years, the categories have been equalized to the point of having in most cases the same engine supplier; The displacement has increased and the motorcycles are four-stroke, to facilitate the category jump. The small categories are no longer understood as a championship with its own entity, as in the times of Ángel Nieto, Jorge Martínez Aspar or Sito Pons. Today all these categories are understood as training platforms.

Precisely for this reason, new categories have proliferated outside the World Championship, with countless promotional cups promoted by the same company that exploits MotoGP rights, the Spanish Dorna. All these competitions, together with the recent modifications in the regulations to favor equality in all categories, especially in the lower ones, where many championships – such as the European or the popular Red Bull Rookies Cup – are single-brand, have caused the competition to be extreme, the times between the pilots are practically identical and the physical distance in the race, minimum. A magnificent cocktail for the show that, on the other hand, has influenced the reduction of the reaction capacity of a third party when an accident occurs in front of him. It can be seen every racing Sunday: the safety distance does not exist.

For this reason, and since the safety of the circuits is little questioned after the work carried out in recent years to improve and expand the loopholes and protections ―they are also reviewed every year and improvements are required if considered―, the same happens with overalls, gloves or helmets – the exception would be the airbag In the overalls, compulsory use only in the Motorcycle World Championship, one of the aspects that most attracts attention is the age of the victims. “That cannot be worked from the point of view of the circuit,” warns Casado. But it can be tackled from other fronts.

Start of the Supersport 300 category of the Catalunya Grand Prix at the Montmelo circuit.
Start of the Supersport 300 category of the Catalunya Grand Prix at the Montmelo circuit. Alejandro García / EFE

The history of some of the recent talents makes everyone, children, parents and team managers, believe that you have to start racing a motorcycle very young to be able to emulate, for example, Marc Márquez, the earliest MotoGP champion, or the current leader of the championship, Fabio Quartararo, champion of Spain at 14 and 15 years old. Such success led to his World Cup debut at the age of 15, despite the fact that the minimum age had already been raised, in that case, to 16.

The question that both the public opinion and the organizers or federative bodies are now asking is whether it is necessary to start competing on asphalt circuits with large motorcycles at the age of 12. Would the evolution, progression and learning of these children change a lot if the minimum age to compete is raised? “We are thinking about alternatives. The Federation, in contact with Dorna and with the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM), is studying the possibility of acting in this regard and increasing the minimum age to compete, although we value that the experience of the pilots is almost more important, “he says. the federative leader. And he adds: “Another aspect that we are considering is that there are fewer drivers on the grid. Usually the number of participants is determined according to the capacity of the circuit, its length and the width of the track. But if there are 30 riders in a race there will always be more chance of an impact than in one with 20 ”. In the SSP300 race in which Dean Berta died, up to 42 riders formed on the grid. An atrocity.

Casado admits, on the other hand, that solutions could be sought from the technical regulations, but it is not something that is on the table. “It certainly affects the type of races we are seeing, but it would go against the spirit of equality that is required in all sport. We really want the most prepared driver to win, the one with the most skill. And that is achieved with an even competition. What, on the one hand, is good for competition and for sport, generates, on the other hand, a certain complexity from the point of view of safety as the pilots are closest to each other. I wonder if it is better if the pilots are more widely spaced and not fight so much. From the point of view of the spectacle, equality is always good ”.

The solutions proposed, in this case, raise a question: will the number of fatal accidents decrease again or will the age of the victims simply increase?

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