There was not a single MotoGP grand prix with all 22 full-time riders racing at the same time in the entirety of last season.
The addition of a sprint race at every round was cited as a key reason for the injury toll.
Fifteen out of 22 riders had an injury at some stage of last year, and nine riders missed at least one race as a result.
This year already, Franco Morbidelli crashed in a Portimao test and was knocked unconscious and hospitalised so missed the Sepang test, and will miss the Qatar test. Raul Fernandez’s crash on the first day of the Sepang test ruled him out of the second and third.
While the power and aerodynamics of the bikes is an obvious factor, riders themselves blame the increased pressure and intensity of the additional sprint race.
But, sprint races are here to stay in 2024.
“Obviously, more races means more chance of injury,” Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta told Marca.
“But the sport has to have an evolution.
“We fight not only with other sports, we fight with other forms of entertainment and we have to look to have the necessary audience to be able to do that.”
KTM have notably named Pol Espargaro as a reserve rider this season, demoting him from last season’s role as a full-time rider to make room for Pedro Acosta at Tech3 GASGAS.
That means KTM have Espargaro and test rider Dani Pedrosa within their ranks, on top of their four full-time riders.
Ezpeleta was asked if teams will begin widely employing experienced reserve riders to combat possible injury absences.
“I don't know if they have understood it or not, but that is not a choice that I can give them,” he said.
“They have to decide it.
“If I were a factory, I would have a reserve rider.
“Now the only one that is good at that, at one level, is KTM, which has Pol and Dani.”
Talk about the riders forming their own union, separate to the Safety Commission, is yet to become formalised.
“It seems very good to me, I don't have any problems,” Ezpeleta said.
“What I understood was to name a person when they had something to say in general.
“They, during the weekend, are racing and that's what they have to worry about.
“So someone comes and tells us: 'Hey, we think this is this or we think something else.'
“But I believe that there is no sport that has the relationship with athletes like we do.
“There is no other sport that, in the middle of events, meets with all the riders who want to tell us what they think.
“At first it was about security and now it is about many things.”