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Mar 26, 2001

First Person/Opinion: On Red Flags, Pace Cars And Rider Safety, Part V

By Joe Facer

It's long been possible for auto racing to implement aggregate timekeeping by going back to the gaps recorded just prior to the full-course yellow being shown, but the races could quickly become a blocking or tailing game of just-fast-enough strategy once the first-full course yellow occurred. If you had two or three full-course yellows, you wouldn't know what you were watching without an annotated scoreboard to footnote how the track position of the car related to its position in regard to the aggregate times.

Instead, NASCAR and all the other associations using full-course yellow flags and pace cars accept the closing up of the field as the natural consequences of maintaining safe conditions during track clean-up. By accepting that, their races become straightforward head-to-head races from start to finish with the leader at the front and with what you see, being what you get.

I would like to see the same thing in motorcycle road racing. We have to have red-flag situations and restarts in motorcycle racing to keep it as safe as possible, but we also need to have as much straightforward close and exciting racing as possible too, for the spectators and the sport. Forget aggregate times. Forget the fastest bike and rider on the track running third as long as third place is close enough to first place. If that means that a couple of times a year, you have to have two good starts in the same race to win it, or you have to be the fastest racer at the end of the race as well as during the first few laps, so be it. If someone wants to cruise to a win, let him do it in front of the pack.

Everybody wants to grow motorcycle road racing, for the benefit of the racers, the spectators, the fans, the manufacturers, the trackworkers, the parts vendors and the performance shops. Fine. The key to this is to first maximize safety. Deaths and crippling injuries that are preventable are absolutely and totally unacceptable.

Work to eliminate anything that poses a hazard and does not promote safety.

That means eliminating full-course yellow flag situations and pace cars.

It means red flags when they are necessary and local yellow flags when that is the best response.

Finally, once that the safety aspects are dealt with in the best possible ways, let's race.