Aleix Espargaro apologised to Andrea Iannone and called for a rethink of the bike-swap rules, following a pit-lane incident in Sunday's Czech Republic MotoGP.

Espargaro had completed his Aprilia bike switch but pulled away just as Iannone, arriving from behind, was turning across in front of him into the Suzuki pits. The Italian fell after hitting the brakes to avoid a collision.

It is the responsibility of the team re-joining to ensure a safe 'release' of their rider from the pit and Espargaro was punished with a drop of three-places during the race, crossing the line in eighth. Iannone escaped injury, but could only finish 19th.

"I'm happy that Andrea has no injury because it was a scary crash," Espargaro said. "Nothing I could do really, I have no mirrors… Sorry from me and Aprilia to Suzuki and Andrea."

The Spaniard added: "He didn't make any contact with me. I think he understood that we were not waiting for him to pass, so he locked the front and crashed. Obviously it is our mistake, because my team had to stop me and let him pass."

Espargaro said it was only a matter of time before some sort of clash between riders occurred in pit lane.

"One day or the other I was waiting for this to happen, because nobody looks in the pit lane and nobody stops. When you jump on the bike the first thing you do is release the clutch. This is a rule we have to change.

"Also, sincerely why if I enter pit lane five-seconds before him, for example, do I need to wait for him to pass and then go behind? I understand that it's safety, but we have to look for another rule that is safe, but also I don't lose my advantage because I risk more than him on the track.

"We talk a lot about this bike swap rule, last year and this year. Dani Pedrosa - for example - proposed a couple of things, because he also said that it's stupid to give an advantage to the rider behind you [by waiting]."

A better solution, Espargaro feels, would be to adopt the WorldSBK system, where a minimum pit-stop time is set by Race Direction. Anyone quicker than the time set for entering and leaving pit lane is then penalised.

"You put a countdown on the dash when you enter in the pits and then you can do everything relaxed, you have time to look behind [before you leave]. Everybody has to spend the same time in pit lane, if not you get penalised," Espargaro confirmed.

"For me this is one very good rule, if not we need to look for another rule, because this [present situation] is very dangerous. We have leathers and helmets, but if the bike hits a mechanic… it can be a disaster."

Even with such slower pit stops, the same situation of a rider wanting to leave just as another arrives could still occur.

"But if you have, for example, 5-6-7 seconds more to stay in the pit lane then instead of jumping on the bike, you can change bike, look behind, release the clutch and then you have to go out of the pits very slow. Maybe you cannot even go 60km/h, you have to go 30km/h [to avoid beating the minimum time]," said Espargaro.

"For me it's a good rule. If not, I don’t know. It's not my job, but we have to look for something safer. Because okay today we throw our race in the bin because of this, but the most important thing is the safety, not the race."

Having survived the pit lane scare, Espargaro briefly held second place behind eventual winner Marc Marquez, but was fading backwards even before serving the three-place penalty.

"I decided to start the race with the new bike, because I thought the race would be like last year and stay wet," Espargaro explained. "I made a mistake because when I stopped in the pits and took my second bike, the engine was a disaster, super-slow, because it was a very used, old. Old spec and old seamless.

"Also we fitted the soft rear tyre and from the beginning I was spinning a lot. So I was really frustrated because I saw I was in P2 but I couldn't go fast. Even with this mistake, we could fight for top five or top six with the Ducatis. But then I saw 'drop 3 places'. I looked behind and there was nobody behind me, so I had to wait for Vale and the two Ducatis.

"So a big opportunity lost once again this season. But anyway, we are strong. We did a good, solid weekend. Eighth place. Not happy but not that bad."

Espargaro's three-place penalty was relayed to him directly by Race Direction, via a dashboard message.

"It's great because in a really nervous race like this one it's not easy to check the board all the time and in the dash you look all the time. At least I do. So it was clear," he said of the system.

But he still isn’t using team dashboard messages, and the decision to pit was his own.

"It's too much information and for me the team can never decide when you have to change the bike, because even if Marc is lapping a lot faster, if the rider is not convinced he can be faster with the slick, the team can say to you 'stop' but [makes a 'no way' hand gesture]! This is a rider decision."


Loading Comments...