Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 2020

Spa’s artificial grass replaced with asphalt in run-offs for motorbike racing

2020 Belgian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 race director Michael Masi has explained why all artificial grass was removed from the exits of corners at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend, a move which several drivers criticised.

All sections of artificial grass (‘Astroturf’) were removed from the circuit prior to last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix. They were replaced with asphalt, a change which allowed drivers to run wide at some corners without losing time.

FIA F1 race director Michael Masi said the circuit made the change as it is seeking a licence from the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme to hold motorbike races. Artificial grass is considered less suitable for bike racing.

“It’s not a secret here that the Spa circuit is working on their FIM licence and getting motorcycles back and artificial grass is not part of that,” said Masi. “So that’s why it’s been removed.

“It may be more forgiving in certain areas, but we also saw from a track limits perspective that we’ve got other measures that we’ve used throughout the year that have been put in place.”

F1 has increasingly relied on timing loops to detect whether drivers have run wide at certain corners. Several of these were installed and used at Spa last weekend.

“Track limits here were monitored in the same way that they have been in utilising timing loops as they have been of late,” said Masi. “So we have a number of loops together with all the available vision that we get access to, be it CCTV, onboards broadcast. And you combine all of those tools together.”

Tall ‘sausage kerbs’ have been used on some tracks to prevent drivers running wide. However these became a focus of criticism last year after Formula 3 driver Alex Peroni was launched by such a kerb at Monza’s Parabolica corner. Masi confirmed timing loops will be used at that point on the circuit this year.

“With regards to Monza there’s a number of the sausage kerbs that are still in there,” he said. “There’s other alternative measures that we’ve used for track limits that we use next weekend.

“[These] being two timing loops at Parabolica, on the final corner. [We’ll] see how we go with it. I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all, so to speak, there’s an appropriate solution for each particular area.”

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Dieter Rencken
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  • 28 comments on “Spa’s artificial grass replaced with asphalt in run-offs for motorbike racing”

    1. Just out of curiosity which FIM events does Spa hold? MotoGP and WSBK surely doesnt visit Spa.

      1. That’s because they don’t have the license, which is why they are working on getting it

        1. Given how the Red bull ring was accused by MotoGP riders of favouring F1 too much, we might see very similar situation for Spa especially under wet conditions. Radillion, Bus Stop and Les Combes can get very dangerous very quickly.

    2. MotoGP would be epic at Spa. Hope it happens.

      1. TrickyMario7654
        1st September 2020, 8:37

        They used to visit Spa once a upon a time, though they haven’t done it since 1990.

    3. Why not do it when you get to host a race? I seem to recall this was the same reasoning behind Monza putting asphalt on the outside of Parabolica, yet I don’t think they held many motorcycle races since.

      1. Yes, FIM dont hold a race at Monza either.

    4. If Massi believes timing loops are the solution (I prefer natural inhibitors) then why not place them to keep at least one part of the car within the white lines.
      And stop the inefficient laborious error-prone 3 strikes policy; just choke the PU by 50-100bhp for a couple of seconds. I don’t buy that this is dangerous for chasing cars as the same happens (lifting) when a car hits grass or gravel.

      1. @coldfly, I don’t think the tech for that exists at the moment but I’m sure they could develop it for 2022 if they so wished. Just cut the hybrid system for a few seconds after running wide would do the trick.

        1. @paulk A temporary loss of power could prove to be an unnecessary safety risk for the driver behind suddenly reaching the car ahead moving a lot slower, so not worth it.
          @coldfly I’ve been fine with the FIA using the curbing as the reference for track limits rather than the white lines. I don’t see an issue with this.

          1. @jerejj, I don’t think a sudden loss of power does not create any additional risks.
            It’s not like braking, but more like less power when exiting the corner. It’s like a Haas exciting a corner ahead of a Mercedes.

            If all agree with you that the curbing should be the track limits, then passing the white line there. But be strict and consistent on not being allowed to leave the track to find a faster way through a corner.

      2. @coldfly Totally agree. Such an obvious solution. This should have been implemented years ago. Just have the rear lights blink if it’s deemed that F1 drivers aren’t able to expect cars having gone off track to have reduced traction when coming back on.

        1. Smart addition those blinking lights, @balue.
          They use it now as well when ‘harvesting’. I recall Lewis complaining about loss of power in Spa (due to harvesting), and of course did Bottas not crash into the back of him.

    5. Spa is becoming too dangerous for cars. Motorcycle racing at Spa is plain irresponsible.

    6. The FIA need to commission a real study to find a solution to this. It is ridiculous seeing tracks with flat kerbs, secondary kerbs, painted asphalt run-off and real run-off that are all essentially the same race-able surface.

      Timing loops may be able to police drivers to an extent (more so in qualy, less so in the race) but it is a terribly dull way of doing so. Watching drivers try to stay ‘within the white lines’ with no risk / reward is simply not good enough for a sport that prides itself on excitement and adrenaline.

      The actual track-out point for most corners is relatively small and consistent across many different vehicle types. I would have thought the bright minds of F1 could develop a ‘drop-in’ system that would allow different materials for different events (ie asphalt, synthetic grass, real grass or gravel). Sure it would come at a cost, but the race track design is fundamental to the excitement of the sport and worth the investment IMO.

      1. Strongly agree with this. Bring back gravel!

        1. @hufggfg, the worst part is that some corner actually have gravel but then have 2 meters of asphalt run-off between the kerbs and the gravel which drivers obviously use to the full-extend.

          Not to mention other corners without any deterrent, like the bus-stop chicane just to mention one, where several drivers went off without any kind of punishment. At least put a sleeping policeman there.

          1. Yep agreed.

            One idea that could be trialled at a race (or 3) would be to just give significant penalties for any breach of track limits. Maybe something like: 5 second penalty for each infringement, getting 3 would be drive through penalty (which would be seen as serving your 3 penalties).

          2. Not only is there no penalty @paulk, drivers actually gain time by their mistake… then they have to back off so as to not ‘gain a lasting advantage’.

          3. Bus stop needs just grass and small curbs. It’s a slow speed corner. If any motobike goes off full speed straight off the bus stop, asphalt will not save him.

            1. I remember back in the 90s you couldn’t put a wheel off track and you would end up in the gravel and ruin your race. As a racer a corner with gravel or something just as bad on the outside that ends your race instantly your more careful of the lines and moves you’d do into the corner rather than what we have now were there is little to no risk running wide or putting someone wide, putting stupidly high curbs is not the answer when you hit them at full speed because something has gone wrong

            2. With the bikes it’s more that some surfaces (including grass and gravel) are more likely to cause a sliding rider to tumble, which hugely increases the likelihood of injury.

              If you think about a likely accident at the bus stop, its most likely to be lowside, and while this won’t be at “high” speed, if you’re sliding along at 60-70mph then hitting grass or gravel is still going to be a lot more of a problem than just 20 meters of tarmac to slow you down.

    7. With driving standards in MotoGP and junior series… Spa might be a lot to dangerous. Imagine a crash at one of the high speed sections?

      1. We dont have to imagine, just watch the 2 crashes of Moto2 and MotoGP during Austrian GP.

    8. It’s funny, tho, because MotoGP drivers complained about track limits in Austria the other weekend. In Moto2 they penalized the guy that had finished 1st, but then in MotoGP Pol Espargaro kept the 3rd place after running very wide.

      Surely they can all get together and find a solution that is safe and also forces racing to happen between the white lines, not wherever drivers/rides want…

    9. Jose Lopes da Silva
      1st September 2020, 10:48

      Once again Hermann Tilke ruining everyone’s fun.

    10. So motorbikes killing F1

      1. F1 killed it self with all the rule changes and having a push to pass system pretty much with drs and boost. Aero grip killed the racing in f1

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