Maverick Vinales criticises novice series' bikes; axe to fall on WorldSSP 300?

Maverick Vinales says power and weight - and not the age of a rider - are the critical factors to address in Moto3, WorldSSP 300 after deaths

Dean Berta Vinales

MotoGP rider Maverick Vinales has reiterated his criticism of the Moto3 and WorldSSP 300 formula, saying the power and weight of the bikes are the most significant contributing factor.

His comments come in the days following the death of Victor Steeman in an accident during the 2022 WorldSSP 300 finale at Portimao.

Steeman - who had come into the last round with a shot at winning the title - is the second death to occur during a WorldSSP race in little more than a year, following on from the passing of Maverick’s cousin, Dean Berta Vinales, at Jerez in September 2021.

Together with fatalities last year in Moto3 with Jason Dupasquier and Hugo Millan in the European Talent Cup, pressure has been mounting on the FIM to act on better preventing such incidents.

In response, the FIM has introduced a minimum age limit and invested in improving automatic warning systems, but Aprilia rider Vinales feels the changes don’t strike at the heart of an issue of underpowered bikes that encourage ‘pack racing’.

Currently, the Moto3 bikes are powered by 250cc four-stroke engines, while the WorldSSP 300 is predominantly Yamaha R3 and Kawasaki Ninja 400 machinery of similar power output.

While slipstreaming has always been integral in the lighter, lesser powered classes, Vinales feels it has now reached a point where the drafting benefit is so great it prevents any rider from escaping at the front and stretch the pack out.

As such, many Moto3 and WorldSSP 300 see large groups of riders circulating closely together, which both increases the likelihood of a collision and a strike from a rider behind if they fall.

“In this moment, also in Moto3, you see the riders all go [stay] together. It wasn't like this in the past and the talent was more [important] than if the bike is a bit faster or slower.

“For me, with the Supersport 300, the problem is that the bikes are [140] kilos, no speed, so they go 30 altogether. And of course if someone crashes in the front, it is impossible to escape.

“For me, it's not about the age, it's not about the riders, it’s about the bikes. They have no power [but] weight like a MotoGP. Brakes are shit. Swingarms are from the street, so the problem is the category.

“It's not the riders, it’s not the young [age], because at 13 years old I was riding a 125GP and nothing happened because we were not 20 in one pack. We were only 3-4, not more, Because was difficult [to ride the bikes].

“I’ve tried a 300. And for me it's a very easy bike, no power. You can go all together. There can be a rider that is 2 seconds slower but if they follow, they can go with the first."

Indeed, Vinales feels the current formula is restricting the development of rider skill adding the 125GP class with its open engine formula was more challenging for any newcomer to get to grips with.

“I always had the same opinion about Supersport 300. I said it before what happened with Dean, before many things, that these kinds of categories with bikes of [140kg] that can [only] go at 140km/h maximum on the straights - this is useless for a rider. You don't learn anything… And if you have a bike which is 2k’s faster, you can win the race.

“I remember when I was a kid, I needed to ride a 125GP [two-stroke] that [if] you were not talented it was impossible to win or to follow the good guys. I remember I arrived here in the World Championship and the first time I tried to follow someone, I highsided. So I learned a lesson. You needed to work, you needed to do things.”

“Basically there is too much weight on these bikes, no power, so they all go together. That's the biggest issue I think.”

WorldSSP 300 class set to be scrapped for Twins Cup?

In a separate development, speculation in the WorldSBK paddock suggests the WorldSSP 300 series is set to be scrapped after the 2023 season in favour of a new championship built around a twin-cylinder formula.

While the deaths of Steeman and Vinales are likely to have been a contributing factor in the decision to adopt a new approach for the production-based support programme, according to Speedweek the FIM is keen raise the novice category’s capacity bracket in line with WorldSSP.

A change in the WorldSSP regulations to allow larger capacity twin and triple-cylinder models to compete has seen Ducati and Triumph join Yamaha and Kawasaki, while MV Agusta replaced its discontinued F3 675 with its 800 version.

To compensate, the so-called ‘Twins Cup’ would pave the way for more powerful 600-800cc class open to models as the Aprilia RS660, Kawasaki Ninja 650 and the Yamaha R7.