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Laguna Seca Tragedy Highlights One Unavoidable Risk of Roadracing

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We regret to report that two young men lost their lives at the start of yesterday’s MotoAmerica Superbike/Superstock 1000 race at Laguna Seca. Both from Spain, the deceased riders are Bernat Martinez and Daniel Rivas Fernandez. The race, which included a grid of nine rows of riders three abreast, began with the typical drag race involving the powerful bikes, but ended quickly for several riders when one of the bikes stalled (there is a rather graphic video below).

The incident reminds us of Scott Russell’s accident at the start of the 2001 Daytona 200 when his Ducati stalled at the start and he was viciously rear-ended by a rider starting behind him. Russel survived, of course, but suffered through several surgeries and a long rehab. There are many other similar, tragic stories, of course, and this appears to be a risk inherent in motorcycle roadracing.

MD offers its condolences to the family, friends and teammates of the deceased riders. Here is a press release from MotoAmerica concerning this tragedy:

MONTEREY, CA, JULY 19 – A chain-reaction, multi-bike incident on the first lap of today’s second MotoAmerica Superbike/Superstock 1000 race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has resulted in the deaths of two competitors.

Bernat Martinez, of Alberic, Valencia, Spain, was transported from the raceway by ambulance to Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP) in Monterey, where he succumbed to his injuries. He was 35.

Daniel Rivas Fernandez, of Moana Galicia, Spain, was transported by REACH Medical Air Services to Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, where he also succumbed to injuries. He was 27.

“I really don’t have any words to describe what we all feel,” said MotoAmerica president Wayne Rainey. “First and foremost, is the loss to the families and loved ones. Our sincere condolences goes out to each and every one of them as well as the MotoAmerica family. They are in our thoughts and prayers.”

“We are deeply saddened to learn the news of the passing of Bernat Martinez and Daniel Rivas,” said Gill Campbell, CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “Our prayers and hearts go out to their families and teams.”

 

19 Comments

  1. Max Frisson says:

    I have been following road racing since high school and that was almost a half a century ago. Death incidences are incredibly rare. According to one article I read 12 high-schoolers die annually in US football, only one NFL player has ever died on the field but several have died post game from injuries. This is so sad, yes. Do I want changes like rolling starts and safety interpret V2V systems, emphatically NO.

  2. bikerrandy says:

    Coming to any conclusions from this 1 video angle is not good. At the end of the Moto
    America race there was a short video of this incident from a rear camera. From that angle it looked like all the bikes that ran off the track did so like a flock of birds do. Apparently their actions were caused by a rider in front of them going slower than they should have been and the riders behind them in unison went off the track. 8^ 0

  3. Superchicken says:

    I wonder if this isn’t something that technology could solve at some point. We’re a ways off from that for now, but maybe V2V technology could be adapted for racing use based on closing speed at the beginning of a race. If it’s triggered, red-flag and restart.

  4. mechanicus says:

    Either force a Nascar-like green flag rolling start or deal with this happening again. I say leave as-is. This is big-boy territory at the tip of the spear – only real men need apply, and they don’t want your sympathy – they know the risks and relish pushing the envelope.

    • Gary says:

      Another option would be to line them up two-across, rather than 3. More room to maneuver. I would hate to be on the front two rows, stall on launch, and get rear-ended by someone accelerating full-tilt.

  5. takehikes says:

    My condolences. I’ve always thought standing starts should be staggered side to side as far as possible to leave as much room as possible should someone stall.

  6. Mike says:

    RIP compatriots of the ride

  7. Gary says:

    I witnessed a similar crash at Laguna about 15 years ago. Terrible. But I have to say it is a wonder it doesn’t happen more often. All it takes is a bike popping out of gear or stalling.

  8. Will Parker says:

    Video is hard to see, but appears both riders were struck by other bikes/riders..this is terrible, I watched the last few laps online and had no idea Thats why the race was shortened..this is not the kinda publicity MotoAmerica was hoping to get I know..

  9. jyo says:

    Really sad news—RIP racers.

  10. arbuz says:

    Terrible loss, they have parents and may be kids and spouses. I could not imagine re-living through this.

    Why is this ‘unavoidable risk’ ? What makes these specific kinds of tragedies unavoidable in road racing?

  11. Michael H says:

    It is time to abandon the standing start.

  12. MGNorge says:

    Very sad. R.I.P.

  13. Blackcayman says:

    RIP brothers. Very sad news.

    God Bless their families

  14. Jeremy in TX says:

    Wow. So sad. Right at the start.