MotoGP riders want Australian Grand Prix venue Phillip Island to address the “unacceptable” issue of animals on track, with wildlife a recurring theme this weekend.
Two track sessions on Saturday – Moto3 practice and Moto2 qualifying – were cut short due to the presence of large birds on the racing surface, while wallabies were on or near the track at several points of the previous day.
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“We already talked on safety commission [meeting on Friday] that they need to improve the fences,” said Suzuki rider Alex Rins.
“Because… if we hit a duck or a wallaby, can be so dangerous – for the animal but also for us.”
Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro had a particularly close call with a wallaby on Friday, and was left distinctly unimpressed.
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“In the beginning [of the safety commission meeting] everybody was laughing – I understand it could be funny but they understood it was very very important thing in terms of safety.
“For me it’s unacceptable, it was very dangerous. But… let’s see if they can improve.
“For the birds you can’t do anything [because they fly]. But we also can have birds in other places. The birds can happen. But wallabies can’t happen.
“This is unacceptable. If yesterday I caught the wallaby, I was 220 [kilometres] per hour – big, big, big crash.”
Local rider Jack Miller did offer an opposing voice, the Ducati rider suggesting that there was no obvious resolution and that “all you have to do is drive down a highway to see the roadkill – there’s a lot of animals in Australia, not as many people”.
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“Like I said yesterday in the safety commission, I understand there’s not a six-foot fence the whole way around this joint – but that kangaroo definitely didn’t just waltz in. It’d say it was burrowed in somewhere.
“And the noise of these bloody 300-horsepower machines starting to go around, even Moto3 didn’t really wake him up, but MotoGP bikes soon did and they were out.
“At the end of the day, you have a track in such an iconic location like this, you’re always going to have an issue in Australia with wildlife.
“What are we going to do, exterminate the whole island? I don’t think so.
“It’s not nice to have it on the race track, 350k an hour, but at the end of the day, what are you going to do? I’m sure there’s nothing that’s waltzing in over the fence now, because the fences are bloody six deep, the whole way around, with people. I don’t think that’s too much of an issue.”
The animal question was just part of what Espargaro feels has made Phillip Island into “without any doubt the most dangerous circuit on the calendar”.
The Spaniard reckoned the Australian venue is badly in need of resurfacing, pointing out that the previous lap record from 2013 was only broken in today’s qualifying, and only by a tenth of a second.
“It’s very bumpy. Grip is very low. Now the bikes are super super fast, super good, a lot better than 10 years ago. And we just dropped one tenth of 10 years ago lap record. I think this is a good example.
“You guys know that all the riders, we love this track, we love this place, it’s very, very high adrenaline to ride here but it’s without any doubt the most dangerous circuit of the calendar for many reasons.
“So we need new asphalt here and they need to take more care about the animals.”
On the track surface issue, Miller concurred: “She’s been on there for about 10 years now and she’s starting to get pretty used. She’s probably due for a freshen up.”