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What caused MotoGP's shocking 15-crash Jerez sprint

by Simon Patterson
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP's Spanish Grand Prix sprint ended in chaos after track conditions played a major part over 60% of the grid having crashed at some point during the 12-lap event.

Only 15 riders of 25 made it to the chequered flag in the sprint, and five of those 15 did so after picking up a crashed bike.

The race was officially declared a dry one despite heavy overnight rain on the southern Spanish coast that continued into the morning and meant qualifying took place on a wet surface.

But while slicks were now clearly the tyre of choice and the pace was indeed representative of a dry race, problems with hard-to-see damp patches remained, something evident from early on.

Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro was the first to fall on the opening lap, and crashes followed intermittently over the next few laps.

But it was simultaneous crashes for Enea Bastianini, Brad Binder and Alex Marquez (all running together in the battle for the podium) at Turn 5 on the ninth tour that really opened the floodgates.

Jerez MotoGP sprint crashes

Turn 1 (Expo 92 corner, right-hander): Bagnaia

Turn 5 (Pons corner, right-hander): Bastianini, Binder, A. Marquez, Vinales, Bradl, Marini

Turn 7 (left-hander): Bezzecchi

Turn 8 (Aspar corner): A. Espargaro

Turn 9 (Nieto corner): M. Marquez

Turn 13 (Lorenzo corner): Di Giannantonio, Miller, Savadori, Rins, Zarco

With five of the 15 falls coming at Turn 13 and a further six at Turn 5, it raised immediate questions about what on Earth had gone so wrong for so many experienced riders.

“Probably in the TV you didn’t see,” explained 2020 MotoGP champion Joan Mir. "Probably on TV you don't understand so much why we had a lot of crashes. And it was because there were two wet patches in Turn 5 that even for us were very difficult to see.

“I saw it in the warm-up lap, and then the patches exactly on the line. Exactly. Outside of the line nothing, inside the line nothing. So that's the why of the crashes in Turn 5. And also in Turn 8, on the entry of the corner, the same thing. So that's why we could see a lot of crashes.”

Marc Marquez, who was on course to win comfortably before coming off at Turn 9, said of his fall: “Honestly speaking, I didn't realise that it was that wet patch [there] during all the race. I saw that it was some wet patches in the entry. But on gas I didn't see that wet patch.

Marc Marquez, Gresini Ducati, MotoGP crash, Jorge Martin, Pramac Ducati

“And then that lap I braked a bit earlier, and I kept more corner speed but maybe only I went 10cm [off] - it was a 20cm patch. I went 10cm out or in, I don't know, I don't know if I was passing that patch in the previous laps in or out.

“I was not overriding, but unfortunately when I lost the front I was not able to recover.”

Those conditions left some more than a little frustrated, too. "Race direction should understand that if 14 riders crash, it's because of something - put the red flag, check the conditions," said Maverick Vinales.

And his Aprilia team-mate Espargaro admitted the question for him wasn't just whether the race should've been red-flagged - but whether it should've started at all.

“You guys all saw the track conditions,” he said, “and I think the red flag was not the solution. If the track is not getting worse for some circumstance you cannot show the red flag - and the track was not worse at the end than the start.

“But the question mark is, should we start that race or not? It’s difficult, really, to have a fully agreed decision between all the riders. I talked to [safety officer] Loris [Capirossi] in the morning and he said to me that they were going to Turn 5 every time to try and dry it up, but it wasn’t time enough.

“For me it is very dangerous, with these powerful bikes to go out with the slicks when there are some wet patches. It’s difficult also for race direction because how do you control this? It’s difficult, really.”

Zarco, despite his own crash trying to counter-attack Franco Morbidelli at the very final corner of the race, was one rider who felt it was up to those competing to avoid the puddles.

"In Turn 5 you can see the patches only if you look back - downhill you see it, but uphill you can't see it. But it's 20 years that we come to Jerez. You're supposed to know it.

"These patches will remain there until tomorrow. It's Jerez. And really, it was possible to control. Just we have to accept that we go wide - every time in Turn 5, I missed two times, I could not go in, so I accepted to pick up the bike, miss the corner and come back. I preferred to lose the time.

"If you take this into consideration, it's maybe not the right mentality for a MotoGP rider but sometimes it's necessary to be careful."

Bagnaia versus Binder

However, while most of the crashes might have been attributable to the track conditions, one certainly wasn’t: that of reigning world champion Pecco Bagnaia, who hit the deck when he was involved in contact with Brad Binder early on in the race.

Losing his drive onto the main straight as he fought with Marc Marquez and then braking late as he went into Turn 1, Binder ended up divebombing up the inside of Marco Bezzecchi and Bagnaia just as the latter himself tried to go up the inside of the former.

It triggered contract that left the factory Ducati racer watching on from the sidelines.

“A 'racing incident',” Bagnaia smiled afterwards. “This is the decision of the stewards, and it’s their job, and it’s like this.

“For me, to overtake two riders from the kerb is not the correct line - you are out of the line. But I’m not here to penalise anyone. For sure it was caused by the guy on the inside, but we have to say that it was quite crazy in the first few laps. I only did two laps and one corner and I saw four or five contacts.

“Sprint races sometimes have no plan for overtakes, just let the bike go in [to the corner] and if you touch the guy on the inside then that is OK. This is why we saw many contacts during the sprint race.”

"I was on the normal line. I saw now on the video that, OK, when it got to the centre was tighter than normal for sure.

"I had a little highside coming out the last corner, and they split me. One went left, one went right. I thought there was chaos coming, I thought both were going straight so I turned in my normal line. It looked to me like [Bagnaia] just got sandwiched between two bikes.

"I knew there was a small touch with Pecco, but I had no idea anybody crashed or anything happened. I just carried on with my race and then my team told me about it when I came to the pits."

Binder said "I don't think so" when asked whether his bike had been damaged in the collision - before adding "well, it was afterwards" in reference to his subsequent crash.

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