Airbag suits will be compulsory for riders in MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3, starting this year.
MotoGP organizers made the announcement regarding the safety gear this morning. Going ahead, every rider in every class must wear the suit every time they’re on track; the only exceptions are wildcard riders and replacement riders, who are exempt for their first two events, but required to adopt the airbag suit after that.
The airbag suit must be functional when the rider is on the track (no word on how they’re going to test that), and are required to cover the shoulders and collarbone. For now, back coverage is optional, but if a rider has airbag back protection, it must protect the entire spine. MotoGP does say “Small variations according to the specifics of each system are allowed, as are variations to accommodate the different morphology of each rider, but the same key areas and guidelines are in place for every manufacturer.” Given the patched-together, banged-up physique of most MotoGP racers, that’s probably good.
MotoGP also says “Each airbag system must pass a series of tests to prove it fully complies with the regulations. Requirements range from the battery and electronics to deployment and inflation times, with accidental deployment also an important factor. An accidental deployment of the airbag must not risk causing a rider to crash or impede a rider from controlling their motorcycle. In addition, airbag systems must not require any parts to be added to the motorcycle, and must be triggered without the rider being tethered to the bike.” Again, good news, as previous tether-operated airbag suits were far inferior to the current self-contained models.
However, the manufacturers will self-certify that their suits meet MotoGP’s standards, and declare the reliability of their own testing systems. Will that create potential problems down the road? Probably not at the MotoGP level, where millions of dollars are at stake.
Some people might not like the new rules, but it’s hard to see this as a bad thing, as several racers have walked away from very serious crashes in recent years thanks to airbag technology. Airbag suits won’t take all the risk out of racing, but they can make it safer than it was.