Marc Marquez currently leads the 2018 MotoGP championship but it was only a month ago in Argentina that the Repsol Honda rider had arguably his worst race in the premier class. While much of the post-race talk was about Marquez’s role in Valentino Rossi and Aleix Espargaro crashing out in two separate incidents, what happened to Marquez on the starting grid was somewhat overlooked. Here’s a reminder of what happened:
The start of the race was already somewhat chaotic after all the racers save Jack Miller opted to head back to the pits to change tires. As a result, everyone that switched was penalized 12 spots on the starting grid, forcing everyone to line up four rows behind Miller. Something must have happened when Marquez’s crew put on the slick rubbers, as his RC213V‘s engine stalled after he returned to the grid.
Not knowing what to do, Marquez appealed to race marshals for assistance before deciding to push start his bike. Once the engine finally started, he had to scramble back into his starting position. Marquez later claimed marshals gave him mixed directions on whether to head back to the pit.
Ahead of this past weekend’s race in Jerez, the Grand Prix Commission met to clarify the rules regarding what to do in such a situation.
This is what the rulebook previously stated:
Any rider who stalls his engine on the grid or who has other difficulties must remain on the motorcycle and raise an arm. It is not permitted to attempt to delay the start by any other means.
As each row of the grid is completed, the officials will lower the panels indicating that their row is complete. Panels will not be lowered when a rider in that row has indicated that he has stalled his motorcycle or has other difficulties. When all panels have been lowered and the safety car has taken up its position, an official at the rear of the grid will wave a green flag.
According to this rule, Marquez was supposed to stay on his bike and raise an arm. Officials would then keep the panels for Marquez’s row raised, to indicate the row was not complete. The confusion comes in not explaining what the stalled rider should do next to get the bike started. The rules say a rider should remove the bike to pit lane if the engine stalls before the warm-up lap, but there’s no mention of the procedure for a bike stalling after the warm-up and before the race starts.
What Marquez did, pushing his bike to get it to start, is mentioned in the rules, but only for a bike stalling after the race has started:
If, after the start of the race, a rider stalls his machine, then he may be assisted by being pushed along the track until the engine starts.
If, after a reasonable period, the engine does not start, then the rider will be pushed into the pit lane, where his mechanics may provide assistance, or where the rider may change machine in MotoGP only.
After meeting in Jerez, the Grand Prix Commission made this rule change to clarify what to do if this happens again:
Hopefully, this clarification will prevent any future confusion if this situation ever comes up again.
In addition to the rule modified, the Grand Prix Commission also approved two wild card entries for the Aug. 5 Czech Republic Grand Prix in Brno. Stefan Bradl will make his MotoGP return as a third rider for the Repsol Honda team while Sylvain Guintoli will wild card for Suzuki Ecstar. Bradl raced for Honda’s World Superbike team in 2017 but has no regular ride this season. Guintoli is Suzuki’s regular test rider and filled in for Alex Rins when the Suzuki racer was injured last season.