Scott Redding was one of several riders to express his concerns at the safety of the Red Bull Ring in Austria, after the two-day MotoGP test in July underlined the potential dangers of turns one and three in particular.
The Englishman feels the proximity of trackside barriers on the entry to the fast, uphill turn three could be problematic, especially in wet conditions, as braking is carried out while leaning to the left.
While the test threw up few real problems, Redding feels that riding alone is a different proposition to racing in groups. In his eyes, the frenetic nature of the smaller grand prix classes could lead to a few heart-in-the-mouth moments.
“It's a nice circuit,” began Redding, who scored a third and fourth place in his past two outings for the Pramac Ducati squad.
“It's one of my types of circuit. It's up, down, and a ballsy circuit. It's just a little unsafe in my opinion. The barriers are quite safe in some areas. It's the first thing I said after just going around the track. The barriers are too close in some areas. The layout is nice. It's very different.
“Then from three, four and down to five you have the barriers either side which is quite close. I think on the exit of five when you're spinning there you have the grass and then the barrier. If you're spinning this way, you could have a small moment and drift off [track].
“There are a few places and I don't think they had enough time to do anything about it. For me it's not so dangerous when you're on your own, but when you're racing and you see four or five guys abreast it could lead to something quite bad.
“Or with the wet conditions. In MotoGP we had some issues with closing the front on the brakes. You don't want that going up to turn three. We'll have to see what pans out from that.”
Redding's team-mate Danilo Petrucci was another to voice concerns over certain parts of the track. The Italian admitted to experiencing one frightening moment on the entry to turn three during the test.
“We brake on the left side and the wall is quite close. We have to brake, pick up the bike and then go right for, I think, the tightest corner of the championship. If you lose the front you can maybe hit another rider that is making the corner.
“As we saw in testing, one of our problems is front locking under braking, especially if it's wet. Anyway, we are not here for dancing. We are riders. It's not like we are playing piano.
“One scary moment was in corner three. At the beginning I tried to brake later and later. I locked the front with the bike straight. It was quite risky. When the bike is up you can brake as strong as possible and if the front is locking it's not a good feeling.”
While turn three was a slight worry, the lack of gravel in the run off area on the outside of turn one was another danger point for Redding, who felt the influence of car racing was having a detrimental effect on their two-wheeled brethren.
“Up into turn one [is dangerous] because there is not much run off. Gravel is the problem. When we don't have gravel it doesn't slow us down. When we slide on asphalt we take the same speed more or less.
“That's the problem with all the tracks now. Everything's designed for f**king cars that don't want to go in the gravel. They put walls everywhere. Not having gravel is OK but you need a long run off.
“Unfortunately in the Salom situation, for me that's what cost him his life. There was no gravel there. I didn't even notice it. I never looked there to see if there was gravel but it was one of the fastest corners of the track. Like I said, if there was gravel there maybe he wouldn't have followed the bike in. The gravel would have slowed him down there.
“For me, what's dangerous about the car circuits is they're putting armco everywhere but not putting a lot of run off. When you look at Niklas Ajo at Assen last year, he nearly crashed and was off the side of the bike. If that wall was two metres closer he could have got badly injured. That's one of those places you don't expect to have a moment.”
Aspar Ducati's Eugene Laverty confirmed to Crash.net
on Thursday evening that he intended to raise the issue at the Safety Commission on Friday.
In his eyes, should a rider fall when braking for the uphill turn, the bike could potentially lift the air-fence, leaving the rider unprotected as he approached the barrier.
Despite the concerns, Bradley Smith feels the track is at an “acceptable” level but can still be improved.
“Already what I've seen is acceptable, but can be improved. I think it's a B+. In terms of the trajectory and lines and let's say danger areas, we have other tracks that are worse. So I still would give it a B+.
“If we're talking about barriers close to braking points, Motegi. That's probably one of the places which is worse. And that's to be honest the only thing that I can see is super dangerous here.
“The only thing I would like to see here is maybe a few more gravel traps or longer gravel traps closer to the race track, just to slow down the riders. Because it's a long time of sliding on tarmac before you get to the gravel. But that's something that can be sorted tonight, tomorrow, whenever we need to do.”