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Jan 18, 2012

VIR Management Agrees To Modify Design Of New Curbing To Address Rider Safety Concerns

Original design of new FIA curbing at VIR. Photo provided by Jim Bonner.

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The following report and findings by Ron Barrick are based on the track inspection by himself and Aaron Stevenson on January 5th, 2012. Please note: Glen Goldman and Bill Sink also inspected the track on January 6th, 2012.

Contrary to initial reports, Kerrigan Smith, VIR's Director of Track Operations and Connie Nyholm, co-owner of VIR, were very receptive and open to our recommendations and comments. During our inspection we found that VIR is making several improvements and changes with all participants in mind, not just the car clientele. Much time was spent in discussion and an even greater amount of time walking the track and photographing the curbing (new and old) from a variety of angles. The initial investigation determined the new curbing should not pose a problem for motorcycles as the initial media reports indicated.

After inspection, we recommended the following changes to the curbing:
A. Change curb molds to eliminate all blunt edges.
B. Add a slope to the track-side face of rear dirt retention wall. (see photo of Catalunya Exit curb)
C. To add below grade plate that would start below grade and taper up the leading edge of all new curbs.
D. Smoothing of the plates edges and top of dirt retention wall to existing curbing installed, specifically T6.
E. Adding a traction improving grit to any paint applied to the curbing.

*FIM and FIA categorize the plate style curbing as "Vallelunga" which has a positive slope and are recommended for use on apexes. "Melbourne" which has a flat/negative slope and are recommended for use on exits. See attached illustrations.

The ONLY new FIA spec curbing currently installed on the North course are found on the esses of T6 (specifically: T5A, T6, T6A--see attached photo--Please note: photograph was taken during installation process. The rectangular transport holes in the center of the curbing plates will be filled with hydraulic cement once the curbs are finished). All of the turns with the exception of the T6 esses are still the same as they have been for the last decade. Any new curbing installed will be of the Phase 2 generation.

The North course cut-through (T7-T12) will not have any of the new curbing installed as the Patriot Circuit configuration runs clockwise and counter-clockwise with the FIA curbing being directional.

One of the main benefits to the new FIM/FIA style curbing is the reduction of dirt erosion and debris which in turn means a cleaner track for all. We learned that cars at VIR are now rarely getting into the dirt/grass, exposing rocks and creating ruts, which has led to less dirt on the racing surface. It effectively widens the tracks usable surface should a rider alter their line either by mistake or in avoidance.

Modification was recommended to be made to the curbing to make it more suitable for motorcycle use. During the discussion with Kerrigan Smith, he agreed to our requests for a "softer" curb as the one referenced from Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain and has started modifying the molds. The second generation molds adds an angled slope running from top to bottom of the trackside curbing edge used for soil retention as well as the front edge of the plate. As Kerrigan Smith stated, "When the additional Phase 2 curbing is finished and installed on the North Course, it should look very much like the Catalunya curbing." (Please see the attached photo of the Catalunya curbing as an example of the style and angles).

Since it's re-opening in 2000, VIR has been recognized as one of the best facilities available for use by motorcyclists. Over the last decade, VIR has been regularly inspected by AMA Pro Racing management and pro-riders. VIR has been able to address many of the concerns by making changes such as relocation of tire barriers and guardrails, grading back of hills and additional paving to improve the track flow.

Over the years modification to the existing curbing has been done to reduce problems associated with high performance motorcycle riding. Many of you may recall the problems that the original curbing type caused riders in turns 7 and 10, knocking off knee pucks and injuring a few riders knees before grinding was done to angle the leading edge of the slots/teeth that are part of the original design. Additionally, VIR extended the curbing of T10 North back towards T9 so riders would not catch their knee on the leading edge.

Ongoing improvements by VIR include the following:
A. Drainage improvements in several areas to better control issues with standing water or streams across the track.
B. Relocation of T7 corner station to allow marshal slight lines between stations.
C. Run off area grading to improve water run off and control erosion of dirt onto track surface. The grading of the run off area is also intended to create a more consistent/smooth overall surface in the event of rider error.
D. T8 (full course) run off area has been increased with barrier and tire wall relocation.

In summary, the North course at VIR is one of the better tracks for bikes in this country and we do not feel that the new curbs are a negative for riders. On turn exits, only the Melbourne style curbing similar to the one depicted in the photo from the Catalunya circuit is being installed. This same style of curbing is in use at many tracks around the world that host FIM World Championship roadracing events as well as at a few tracks in the U.S. There are times that a little extra rideable width is welcome - even on curbing - it's better than grass or dirt ruts. With the old curbing inside of the new at turn apexes, the new curbs on the inside of turns should not present additional problems for riders. And on the turn exits, the approach angle at most of the exit curbs is shallow. The original curbs didn't keep the cars from dragging dirt and debris onto the racing line and we expect the new, added curbing should help the track surface stay cleaner. After spending one full day and part of another discussing the curbs and other track issues with Kerrigan, It was good to learn that he is willing to work with the two wheel community and wants to gain an understanding of how our needs are different from the car participants. We look forward to working closely with Kerrigan and the staff at VIR on future projects or modifications which incorporate perspectives from all track users, two and four wheel.

Following the inspection that took place on January 5th, 2012 by Ron Barrick and Aaron Stevenson, and Glen Goldman on January 6th, 2012, we (Specifically: Evelyn Clark (WERA), Kevin Elliott (ASRA/CCS), Keith Code (California Superbike Schools), Bob Blandford (NESBA), Glen Goldman (Team Pro Motion), Aaron Stevenson (Cornerspeed) ), the primary motorcycle event renters of VIR, have concluded that the VIR circuit is acceptable/suitable for use by motorcycles.


"I am very pleased that VIR management has responded to the motorcycling community's needs and wants. Being both challenging and fun to ride, VIR is on my top five tracks list in America. The proposed changes will enhance that experience for myself and my students."
Keith Code

"Before I saw the curbing in person, I had reservations but those reservations were laid to rest after our inspection. Once the new molds are cast, the issue of impact from the edges in question will be greatly reduced. I will not put my customers at undue risk if I feel the conditions are unacceptable. As most of you know, I have a 3 month old son and a family that depends on me. I have assessed the risks and I am fine with riding at this track."
Aaron Stevenson

"I trust Ron's judgement - WERA plans to continue holding events at VIR."
Evelyn Clarke

"I am very pleased with the response from VIR to our concerns and your hard work on behalf of the motorcycle racing community. ASRA/CCS is fully behind these changes and we look forward to many more great races at VIR."
Kevin Elliott

"I am excited to find VIR viewing motorcycle safety as priority, where the actions being taken toward the requested changes will ensure that rider safety is not compromised. The positive sides to the curbing which were also taken into consideration being added traction should a rider need additional width in times of misjudgment. The small back wall of the curbing could serve in making for a smoother and level transition should a rider get onto the grass and manage to come back onto the track over the curbing."
Glen Goldman

"I think this is amazing progress...It is much more than I expected and I am onboard with supporting this in anyway I can. I want to thank Aaron and Ron for taking point on this effort. I look forward to riding at VIR during our first event"
Robert Blandford

About Ron Barrick:
Ron's knowledge of racing spans decades. He road raced with WERA and AAMRR for 5 years before beginning a racing career as an engine builder, tuner and crew chief for top tier racers.

Highlights include:
Crew Chief for Randy Renfrow including two AMA Pro Championships.
Crew Chief for Dale Quarterly in AMA Pro Superbike Championship.
Crew member for Bubba Shobert in the FIM 500 GP World Championship.
Tuner for Andy Liesner in the FIM 250 GP World Championship.

His expertise in track safety and race management is extensive. He has participated in numerous track inspections with fellow FIM officials responsible for issuing Homologation Licenses for FIM World Championship track certification.

Highlights include:
AMA Pro Racing Superbike Series Manager 1994-2007
FIM Road Race Commission member 1996-2006
FIM Chief Steward for MotoGP, World Superbike and World Endurance Championship events in countries around the world
FIM Clerk of Course (event director) for MotoGP and World Superbike Championship events in the US
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