until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Portimao gravel ‘destroying the f***’ out of MotoGP bikes

by Simon Patterson
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Leading MotoGP riders have called for improved standards in track safety after Friday’s practice sessions at Portimao.

A number of riders were bruised and their machines battered by the large stones used in the gravel traps at the venue for this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix.

Among those to raise complaints was 2021 championship runner-up Pecco Bagnaia who, having suffered a heavy fall in the wet FP2 session, scooped up a handful of gravel to take back to his Ducati garage to present as evidence of what he believed needs to change.

“For the [size of the] crash we had, the bike was too much destroyed,” he explained afterwards.

“The gravel is too big, it’s not smooth like the standard gravel that we have to have in the tracks, and it’s something that we have to speak about in the safety commission for our safety and for the safety of our bikes too.


“In Mandalika too it was very big. There are three tracks in the calendar where the gravel is like this; Mandalika, Jerez and here in Portimao. We were complaining last year when [Jorge] Martin crashed. If you look today, every crash in this track when you arrive to the gravel you start to tumble a lot.

“This makes it so that you can get hurt from the gravel. It isn’t safe for me and the others.

“Because the track is quite fast, you arrive to the gravel very fast. The gravel is very solid, not smooth.

“Normally when you arrive to it you sink down and it’s hard to get out, but here you can get out of the gravel very easily. This means it is very compact, and a crash in this situation is very easy to have pain.”


That view was shared by his Ducati team-mate Jack Miller, who had his own fall in first practice.

“For sure it’ll be something brought up in the safety commission,” said Miller.

“Fortunately for me I didn’t scratch my leathers or anything, I just rode my bike into the gravel on my elbow and knee. But even walking the track yesterday [Thursday], I pulled up at Turn 8 and pulled a rock out that was big.

“The gravel bed had grass growing through it, which means it hasn’t been ploughed or turned over. The whole point of it is that it’s meant to be fluffed up, but with the type of gravel and letting it compact down it doesn’t do its job.

“A few guys really got s***-whipped today, and it destroys the f*** out of the bikes.”


The solution, according to regular safety advocate Aleix Espargaro, would be for MotoGP to introduce new safety standards not just for the preparation of gravel traps but also the type of material used in them.

The Aprilia rider suggested that stone diameter and smoothness should also be specified safety characteristics, which currently includes the type of paint and the height of kerbs used.

“I’ve been lucky not to try it today, but many riders have had problems in Jerez, in Mandalika and we are pushing because it’s very dangerous,” he said.

“You can have a big injury when you arrive in the gravel, and I hope that they can fix this.

“It’s not an easy thing to do, but at many tracks the stones are too big and too compacted so it is dangerous.

“I don’t really know why, but the gravel’s job is to stop us, and if it’s hard you can have a big injury just from jumping on it.

“They need to fix it and have a standard, like we did with the kerbs. This needs to be a bit more standardised.”

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