'The fear is for your life' - Fernandez crash return was terrifying

‘The fear is for your life’ – Fernandez crash return was terrifying

Feb 13 2022
By Simon Patterson

Questions over MotoGP’s ability to properly assess and provide medical care for concussed riders have once again been raised before the 2022 season has even commenced, after Tech3 KTM rider Raul Fernandez admitted at the final day of pre-season testing that Sunday crash was a direct consequence of his injuries from the previous day.

The MotoGP rookie fell heavily on Saturday evening at the brand new Mandalika Bay circuit, bringing his penultimate day of testing to a premature halt and leaving him with heavy bruising visible on his left temple and, according to The Race’s sources in the paddock, other signs of a potential concussion such as slurred speech.

Raul Fernandez crashed KTM MotoGP bike Mandalika

However, despite MotoGP supposedly implementing a stricter concussion protocol for 2022 following a number of incidents last year, most notably when Fernandez’s former Moto3 squadmate Deniz Oncu was passed fit to ride at Misano after admitting to having lost consciousness, Fernandez too was cleared to take part in Sunday’s final day at the Indonesian track.

Completing only seven laps of the morning’s action, he then crashed again at Turn 10. Speaking to the media afterwards, he admitted that he believes the fall was due to the head trauma suffered the previous day, after braking 20 metres later than usual for the 90º corner at the end of the track’s short back straight.

“The feeling now is good,” he said, “but the problem is that I cannot ride. When you ride normal, you have the speed on your mind.

“Now I ride, and I don’t have the speed on my mind. It’s really strange. I crashed again because I braked more later, but when I crashed I didn’t understand why because the feeling was that I braked on the same point. It’s strange.

“I went to the Clinica Mobile and they said that I needed to stop because I have a big impact on my head.

“I stopped for that, because it’s not safe. In the end, this is MotoGP and you go all the time at more than 300kph. The fear is for your life.

Raul Fernandez Tech3 KTM MotoGP Mandalika

“I slept well, this morning I was well, but this morning when I put on the helmet I had an incredible pressure in the mind. I said ‘OK, if I do some laps maybe it will be better’.

“I continued, but I had to say f**k, I don’t have the perception of the speed. I went long, I couldn’t ride, I said ‘this is too dangerous’ and I stopped.”

The MotoGP medical regulations were updated ahead of the start of the start of the season, with what was hoped to be a positive change in requiring stricter evaluation of injured riders – with concussion one of the areas specifically highlighted at the time.

The Commission approved a number of new regulations “concerning the medical assessment conducted to permit return to competition”, said a report from the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s chief rule-making body.

“Specifically, there are new requirements on evidence that must be considered when reviewing recovery from head injury and concussion, abdominal/thoracic injury and musculoskeletal injuries, (such as fractures requiring surgery, compound or complex fractures),” the report added.

“In case of doubt, the CMO, the MotoGP Medical Director and the FIM Medical Officer can request further opinion on the reports and evidence provided to determine the status of the rider (fit or unfit).”

Raul Fernandez Tech3 KTM MotoGP Mandalika

The crash means an early conclusion to Fernandez’s testing, but the 2021 Moto2 runner-up says that it’s not a huge drama after a successful preseason so far. Riding for two days at Jerez in November followed by a further five in Sepang last week and then two in Mandalika, he’s confident that he’s starting the season strongly.

“It was stupid to continue,” he added, ”because we did a nice pre-season, 250 laps in Sepang, more than 100 here, and anyway the feeling with the bike and the team is good.

“I’m in a good way with the team. We couldn’t do one laptime here like everybody else, but more or less I’m comparing with the factory [KTM] bikes and we are not too far. I’m really happy for that. I need to relax for two or three days and recover the training now.”

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