Leading MotoGP riders plan to demand answers from the championship over the controversial decision not to red flag last weekend’s Moto2 race at Phillip Island while Jorge Navarro lay injured at the trackside.
Sources with first-hand knowledge of events have reached out to The Race to say that calls for a red flag were made from the scene.
That has been denied by MotoGP race director Mike Webb, who has explained the reasoning behind the decision to keep the race running despite Navarro’s position.
Pons rider Navarro, who will make the move to World Supersport for 2023, fell on the way out of the newly-renamed Miller corner on the fourth lap of the race, and was struck by the MV Agusta of Simone Corsi (who also crashed).
Navarro came to rest just off the circuit at the Siberia corner, and remained there next to the inside kerb for two full racing laps before track workers were able to move him. The scene was covered with waved yellow flags but the race continued.
He suffered a broken femur in the incident and the snapped bone also cut a blood vessel in his leg, leading to significant internal bleeding – a factor that could have become very serious had he remained much longer at the side of the track without medical assistance.
Navarro was visibly screaming in pain after Corsi (himself with a badly broken and cut finger) helped him remove his helmet to alleviate breathing issues.
Medics and marshals were seen standing over him, appearing to signal for the race to be stopped, before eventually moving him out of danger in gaps between bikes coming past.
“I was there and he was screaming ‘I can’t move, I broke my leg’ and was in agony,” said one marshal, who wished to remain anonymous but whose credentials have been confirmed by The Race.
“The other track marshals including our senior marshal got there and I was yelling at them that they were going to get hit, to red flag it.
“He said he couldn’t, as that’s the medics’ call, but they decided to try to move him on the stretcher.
“I told them to stop and get an ambulance out here, you can’t move him, he’s snapped his leg. It was absolutely ridiculous.”
TV footage of a track worker repeatedly tapping his radio headset at the scene led to discussion in the paddock over whether there might have been a radio communication problem.
That was denied by another person who was on the scene and who also contacted The Race in the aftermath.
“The radio was working,” they said, “and was being used to clearly call for the following in order: spine board, doctor, red flag and alpha [MotoGP’s medical intervention car, which sits in pitlane and can only be deployed on a red flagged circuit].
“All of these were clearly relayed to race control repeatedly.
“It put not only Jorge’s safety in further risk but also every other official on scene.
“I can tell you they [the riders] were not slowing down for the yellow [flag]. As a competitor myself, it’s a shame to have such a disregard for safety and I am absolutely dumbfounded that it could happen like this.”
In response to questions about the incident posed by The Race, Webb said the information being provided from the scene to race control didn’t justify a red flag.
“A red flag cannot be ‘requested from trackside’, so no definitely this did not happen,” Webb told The Race.
“The only person who can order a red flag is the race director, usually in consultation or at the request of the chief medical officer, it cannot be requested from trackside.
“The trackside marshals could give information to the CMO or the clerk of the course or myself, which could provoke a red flag (for example a rider unconscious).
“Furthermore, I confirm that we did not receive any such message from the medical marshals with any information that entails the display of a red flag.”
Webb also explained race control’s thought process behind leaving the race running, and admitted it took longer to reach Navarro than expected.
“The CMO and RD were in constant communication, and due to the fact that the rider was conscious and sitting up, and due to the position – inside of a turn and in a place where crashes are exceedingly rare – the decision was taken to make the rescue under double yellow flags,” he continued.
“This took longer than anticipated due to the position, as less marshals are positioned there due to it being a very rare crash position.
“The placement of medical and track marshals is being reviewed since this incident, in order to improve the recovery time.”
A third eyewitness with emergency services experience also contacted The Race to express concern about how Navarro was evacuated from the scene. An ambulance could not be brought directly to him with the race still live.
“My wife and I were sitting up in the grandstand at Siberia, and had a clear view of what took place” the source told The Race.
“We couldn’t believe the race went for two laps before any assistance got to him.
“What I saw in the response was just second-rate.
“They loaded him onto a stretcher and then placed him on the gurney. Unfortunately the wheels on the gurney were restricted due to the access road surface so they had to basically drag it to the back of the ambulance. You could see how much pain Navarro was in due to the rough ride.
“When they got to the ambulance they couldn’t get the gurney to go in and I saw several attempts where they ‘banged’ the gurney against the rear floor trying to make it collapse and go in. Eventually they lifted the front up and got it in.
“Finally they got him into the ambulance. The driver then backed the ambulance onto the waterlogged grass and immediately the rear sank. They then had to all get behind the ambulance to push it out.
“If it wasn’t so serious it would have been laughable.”
Leading MotoGP riders expressed their anger at the incident, with Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro comparing it to the time taken to stop the Buriram Moto2 race amid appalling visibility.
“In Thailand it should have been red-flagged three laps before and they said, ‘sorry, sorry, we made a mistake’ and we said ‘OK, we’ll move forward’,” he said on Sunday at Phillip Island.
“Here, Navarro was on the floor, he had his leg completely destroyed, and he was crying a lot on the floor.
“I know, because Albert [Valera], my manager, is his manager too and told me.
“The marshals on the floor with him too, and no red flag. No explanation. Crazy.”
His views were echoed even more strongly by 2020 world champion Joan Mir that same day.
Asked whether the matter would be raised in Friday’s commission meeting at Sepang, Mir replied “F***ing hell, yes. The thing is that I didn’t see it so much because I was focusing on getting ready, but Navarro was without a helmet?
“We will speak about it, but that is a clear red flag. We will speak about it.”
A similar stance was taken by Marc Marquez and Alex Rins in the press conference ahead of the Sepang weekend.
“I will ask why [the race wasn’t stopped],” said Marquez. “Because from what we saw from the TV, was unacceptable. That’s my opinion. But maybe there was some reason. So, for that reason… my opinion from the TV is [it’s] unacceptable but I will ask – first of all I want to ask why they didn’t stop the race.”
“For me, as Marc said, it’s not good,” Rins said.
“It’s unacceptable what happened. Two-three laps, with Jorge there on the track. I saw some pictures, he was like screaming, no? Of pain.
“And the marshals there, the bikes sliding. Makes no sense.
“We need to fix it. Because already … last week one rider passed away [Victor Steeman in World Supersport 300]. We need to fix.”
Navarro underwent surgery on Sunday night at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne to insert a pin into his broken left femur, and was discharged from hospital on Tuesday. He will remain in Australia to convalesce before travelling home to Valencia next week.
In a statement released on social media, he thanked the track workers on scene and the medical staff who subsequently treated him for their support – but also echoed the complaints of others that the race should have been stopped.
Thank you to everyone for the support 💪🏻❤️ pic.twitter.com/WZndLC2LJI
— Jorge Navarro (@Jorge_Navarro9) October 19, 2022
“I wanted to do this to tell you that I’m OK, that my physical condition is getting better every day and I also wanted you to know how I felt on Sunday,” he wrote.
“Without any doubts this was the scariest moment of my racing career and my life.
“To be super close at the track with the bikes passing by and seeing my leg broken in two. This shouldn’t ever happen to anyone.
“Thank you to Simone and the marshal who stayed by my side. A big thanks also to all of the medical stuff at the circuit and the Alfred Hospital who took really good care of me. Thank you for all of your kind messages, they mean a lot to me. The surgery went well and I am recovering.”