FIM safety officer: No way to avoid Millan death

The late Hugo Millan. Picture: CEV Motorcycle Facebook

FIM Grand Prix Safety Officer Franco Uncini admits there is currently no way to avoid deaths caused by a bike hitting a fallen rider, after two such tragedies within months.

Hugo Millan lost his life last weekend at Aragon when he went down during a European Talent Cup race and was struck at speed by one of the several trailing bikes.

It was only back at the Italian Grand Prix at the end of May when Jason Dupasquier crashed during a Moto3 qualifying session, and was fatally impacted by another rider on exit of Mugello’s Arrabbiata 2 corner.

Dupasquier’s death, along with those of Marco Simoncelli in 2011 and Shoya Tomizawa in 2010, mean that three of the last four fatalities in grand prix competition have been cases of a falling/fallen rider being hit by a following bike.

Uncini himself was very nearly another to have suffered such a fate.

The Italian was struck in sickening fashion when he highsided at Assen in 1983 and, while attempting to regain his feet and run off the track, could not be avoided by Wayne Gardner.

Uncini spent a number of days in a coma but eventually returned to the 500cc world championship and raced for another two years.

Sadly, others have not been so fortunate.

The 1982 500cc world champion says there is currently no way of solving the problem, but research is ongoing.

“It is the same accident as always, which at the present time we are unable to avoid,” Uncini told Italian outlet

“To the question you asked me: is it the fault of age or inexperience? I give this answer: for me, it is a matter of bad luck.

“A fall like this happens to everyone.

“It is true that in my case, Gardner could have avoided the trajectory. I have no evidence of this latest incident yet, but I will study it.

“However, honestly, you see, even in the case of Marco [Simoncelli], with Valentino [Rossi] and Colin [Edwards, both of whom hit the Italian], the accident was not avoidable. And we are talking about highly experienced riders.

“Today, we don’t have the tools to avoid it, but let’s not let our guard down. We will study, research goes on, and we hope that something is found.

“But at the moment there is no airbag that can withstand an accident like that.

“Just think of the energy released by the bike that hit Simoncelli: tons. 160kg of motorcycle plus 70kg of rider, even at 50 per hour it is incredibly high.

“We can only hope that it doesn’t happen.”

Uncini was also questioned about whether there is an optimal way to fall, to which he responded, “Everyone has his own way of behaving in falls.

“There are those who close up and roll and those who fall with open arms. It is difficult to command.

“In a plane, they tell you to close yourself up and protect your head with your arms, but because you are sitting, there is nothing else you can do.”

Dupasquier’s life ended at the ago of 19, while Millan was only 14 when he died.

Uncini, however, believes that the circumstances are “more to do with chance than experience,” and noted that young riders are nowadays more experienced than in decades past anyway, such are the structured talent pathways which have been developed.

It should be stressed that his comments are about the specifics of the incidents to which he refers, and that Dupasquier’s occurred in qualifying.

However, the safety of Moto3 races more broadly has been a hot topic in recent months.

It was just a week after the tragedy at Mugello that the lightweight class race at Barcelona saw a late red flag due to a multi-rider incident.

That has fuelled a line of argument that stewards are not strict enough on dangerous riding in Moto3 in particular, something which Rossi was quizzed about at the Barcelona post-race test.

The seven-time premier class champion described the lightweight class as “frightening” to watch at times, and suggested that the rules of engagement need to be clearer.

“In my opinion, there’s always too much confusion,” he said.

“In these difficult situations, it’s never clear what will happen. Everything can change an hour or two after the race.

“The rules are not precise and, for many, in the end, it’s the stewards who have to decide. So, everything can change every time, depending on the riders involved and the category.”

As to whether riders are going ‘over the limit’ in Moto3, Rossi responded, “Watching the Moto3 races is frightening. It’s getting too dangerous.

“I don’t enjoy it because I’m always with bated breath.”

The MotoGP season resumes at the Red Bull Ring on August 6-8, when the Michelin Grand Prix of Styria will be held.

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