Pramac Ducati rider Johann Zarco has expressed his unhappiness at the ‘stressful’ demands of MotoGP’s revised schedule, believing them to be a contributing factor in a slew of injuries for multiple riders so far this season.
His comments ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix of The Americas at COTA relate to MotoGP’s move to double the number of races in a season with the addition of a shorter Sprint Race to take place on Saturday afternoon’s.
Prompting the first major overhaul of the weekend programme since the current ‘elimination’ qualifying format was introduced in 2013, it has led to a knock-on effect for the schedule, with riders now completing Practice 3, Qualifying and the Sprint Race on Saturday alone.
While Zarco – currently third in the overall standings after two podiums from the opening two rounds – is supportive of the Sprint Race itself, he raises concerns about the more demanding schedule off the track.
Using the example of being required to make a mandatory appearance for the benefit of fans ‘15mins before racing a bike at 300kph’, Zarco says the short turnaround is bound to have a detrimental effect on a rider’s concentration.
“The Sprint Race is very interesting,” he told assembled media at Thursday’s pre-event press conference. “Really also to prepare for Sunday, you get so much information and you have this pressure to fight.
“It’s true on Saturday that you have to focus to get a good qualifying, then switch the mind and be ready for the race, it is asking a lot. That is good to have more show and that is fine, it is true, and on the sport side we enjoy a lot.
“But what is wrong is what they are asking on the side of the track. They sometimes are forgetting we have to concentrate to race a bike at 300kph and now on Saturday morning it is mandatory to see the fans, 15mins before we go on the bike.
“I don’t agree with this. Because it is mandatory we will maybe get penalties if we don’t do it.”
“More stress, more injuries, less MotoGP riders”
It has been a bruising start to the year for a portion of the MotoGP field with four riders – Marc Marquez, Enea Bastianini, Miguel Oliveira and Pol Espargaro – forced out of the second round in Argentina due to injuries sustained in the Portuguese opener.
Though only Bastianini was sidelined as a direct consequence of an incident during the Sprint Race, Zarco suggests the busier itinerary will contribute to more stress and therefore more injuries.
“If we have FP3 in the morning, it’s still a bike going at more than 300kph on tracks that are difficult, like here at Austin. It is good to make a show, but we do that on the bike.
“Fifteen minutes before going on the bike, that is maybe the reason there is more stress, more accidents, more injuries and less riders on the track.”