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MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales Criticizes SSP300 After Recent Death

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Image for article titled MotoGP's Maverick Viñales Criticizes Supersport 300 After Recent Rider Death

Photo: Mirco Lazzari gp (Getty Images)

The lower categories of international motorcycle racing have had a tragic last two years. In May 2021, 19-year-old Jason Dupasquier died in a Moto3 qualifying session after falling off his bike and being struck by another bike. In July 2021, 14-year-old Hugo Millan died in a European Talent Cup race after falling off his bike and being struck by another bike. In September 2021, 15-year-old Dean Berta Viñales died in a Supersport 300 race after falling off his bike and being struck by another bike.

Seeing a commonality between the three fatal incidents, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) decided to explore methods of keeping riders further apart on track. Except, motorcycle racing’s international governing body didn’t do that. In October, The FIM actually decided to raise the age limits in Moto3 and Supersport 300 to 18 years old for the 2023 season and onwards. The grid sizes in both championships were also limited to 32 riders starting this year.

World Supersport 300 racing at Misano last June

World Supersport 300 racing at Misano last June
Photo: Mirco Lazzari (Getty Images)

By not addressing the root cause of the incidents, it left open the opportunity of there being a similar fatal incident. Last weekend, 22-year-old Victor Steeman died in a Supersport 300 race after falling off his bike directly in front of another rider. While riders across the sport gave their condolences to Steeman’s family, many also criticized the series’ regulations.

Aprilia MotoGP rider Maverick Viñales, cousin of Dean Berta Viñales, is one of the most vocal critics of the lower-displacement support categories. As reported by The Race, he said:

“In Supersport 300, the problem is that the bike are 180kg, no speed, and they go all together. Of course if someone crashes at the front, it’s impossible to escape. It’s not about the age, it’s not about the riders, it’s about the bikes. They have no power, they weigh like a MotoGP bike, the brakes are shit, the swingarms are from the street. The problem is the category, not the riders.”

The most recent Moto3 in Thailand. Notice the marshals responding to the crash at the top of the photo.

The most recent Moto3 in Thailand. Notice the marshals responding to the crash at the top of the photo.
Photo: Steve Wobser (Getty Images)

These support series are the introductory categories on the two major bike racing schedules: the ~400cc Supersport 300 class for the production-based FIM World Superbike Championship and the 250cc Moto3 class for FIM MotoGP World Championship. However, the racing in these classes is nothing like the top level. Pack racing largely reigns supreme as riders jockey for position, trying to slipstream past each other in large groups and often rubbing elbows. It is nearly impossible to ride away from the field.

Maverick Viñales knows the style of racing well as he was the 2013 Moto3 World Champion. He admitted that after trying a bike from the category he had actually recommended to his family that his cousin Dean not race in Supersport 300. Viñales pointed out what most agree is the root issue, the poor power-to-weight ratio. There’s no way to ride away from the other riders and create space on track. Until something changes, the riders in these championships are in greater danger than those riding on MotoGP’s 1,000cc prototypes.

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