Several MotoGP riders have taken to openly critiquing the newly-added chicane at the Catalunya circuit, feeling it severely dampens an otherwise excellent track.
Tracks are never static. They are constantly undergoing change, refinement, and improvement. As the demands of various Motorsports change, so too do the tracks to accommodate them. Typically, these changes are met with favorable response from the riders given that they are implemented after long periods of discussion and iteration. And yet, there is always an exception.
The Circuit of Catalunya has implemented a new chicane in a bid to revamp the final sector of the track as well as increase the safety level from its previous iteration – but after extensive testing from MotoGP riders, it doesn’t look like the chicane is up to make the desired effect. Sam Lowes did his best to give a conservative comment on the new portion, but admits that the new layout is problematic:
“It’s not a MotoGP chicane. I don’t want to talk bad. It’s a touchy subject given the reasoning behind it. For me it’s not the way.
MotoGP probably OK. Moto2 and Moto3 I promise you, and I don’t want to say it, but the first laps there people are going to be crashing – a lot.
Before you could run through the [first] right into the left right. Now you go into the right and it’s not good. The track’s a little slower than before. In the end they’ve gone overboard. If you had put some airfencing in there – you’re not going that fast there.
They didn’t need to do it. I didn’t like how it was before. It’s worse now. It’s hard to get a rhythm through it. You can risk a lot and take the curbs. Some people were today but I don’t think they’ll allow that on the race weekend. I think it’ll be a lap deleted.” – Sam Lowes
Other riders, like Aleix Espargaro, were more concerned that the new layout damages the “fun” the Catalunya circuit once had:
“Where the back straight is, the track finishes. We do stupid corners with completely stupid angles. It’s not fun and it was one of the most fun tracks in the world.” – Aleix Espargaro
Avintia Ducati’s Loris Baz was much more to-the-point regarding his thoughts on the new chicane:
“It [the new chicane] is just f**king s**t. I understand it’s better like this [for safety] than it was before but, yeah, the layout is s**t.” – Loris Baz
Track layouts and design is by no means an empirical science. The track management must juggle factors such as safety and spectacle equally. If any indication of just how much a track can influence the outcome at the race, just look at the tumble that occurred in Moto3 after oil on track caused half of the grid to tumble down, with some unlucky riders taking a hit or two from oncoming riders and bikes.
The Catalunya circuit has yet to respond to the concerns of the MotoGP riders, though they would be wise to heed their criticisms, as if a large number of riders reach a negative consensus, the track’s participation in future MotoGP seasons could be up for debate.