On September 25, 2021, Dean Berta Viñales tragically died after sustaining “severe head and thoracic injuries” in race 1 of the World Supersport 300 Championship (WSSP 300) Jerez round. While the Supersport and Superbike World Championships honored Viñales, many riders struggled with returning to the raceway following the harrowing experience. Now, many of racing’s influential riders are speaking out, with hopes that FIM will implement
“Tomorrow I will refuse to run out of respect for human life,” wrote former WSBK rider Michel Fabrizio in a September 26, 2021, Instagram post. “And I withdraw. It's time to say enough.”
Fabrizio’s protest comes in the wake of not only Viñales’ death but also following the tragic deaths of 19-year-old Moto3 rider Jason Dupasquier and 15-year-old European Talent Cup Rider Hugo Millán. While the Moto3 runs different machinery than WSSP 300 and the European Talent Cup, each championship requires young racers to ride on the limit to gain an advantage.
“It’s not the best time to talk about it but WorldSSP 300 is the most dangerous category ever. I don’t even look at it because there is something to be afraid of,” admitted former MotoGP and WSBK rider Loris Baz. “The bikes all have the same performance, you can’t make a difference, as a result, you find yourself in big groups and then hope nothing happens.”
The high number of contestants also contributes to the dangerous conditions. This year, WWSP 300 featured up to 44 riders, making for a cluttered grid. With the riders piloting small-capacity bikes, slipstream becomes more important than ever, forcing competitors to collect into tightly-bunched groups.
“Too many, too many drivers with little or even very little experience, and this happens not only in the world championship but also in national championships, where to make money, you take everything, up to the last available seat,” proclaimed Fabrizio.
In many instances, it isn’t the initial impact that delivers fatal blows, it’s the pile-ups that occur due to the cluster of riders. While Baz believes that younger riders would be safer on 600cc machines as a result, there is a universal call for WSSP 300 race stewards to dole out harsher penalties for unsafe riding. Many believe that punishing aggressors will set an example for the rest of the field. However, in Fabrizio’s case, the recent deaths of three teenage riders were enough for him to officially retire from the World Supersport Championship (600).
“Let's add that I withdraw from the racing world to send a strong message of protest! So that the rules change for the protection of human lives. The problem is in the Moto3, the Talent Cup, and the national championships!” concluded Fabrizio.