FIM robustly defends homologating maligned San Juan WorldSBK circuit

The FIM governing body breaks its silence over a number of accusations levelled at it during the Argentinean WorldSBK round at San Juan Villicum

Eugene Laverty - San Juan Villicum

Motorcycling’s governing body has issued his first statement about the furore surrounding the Argentinean WorldSBK event at San Juan Villicum after being accused of homologating a circuit it knew to be unworthy.

Six riders – Chaz Davies, Eugene Laverty, Leon Camier, Ryuichi Kiyonari, Sandro Cortese and Marco Melandri – refused to start Race 1 in Argentina on safety grounds, citing a dusty track and concern over oil used in laying the new-for-2019 asphalt rising to the surface in scorching conditions.

Indeed, though the dust and inadequate cleaning prior to Friday’s practice action drew sharp criticism from riders and teams initially, increasing temperatures on Saturday brought on a more serious issue in patchy oil slicks, one of which was blamed for the crash that left Loris Baz with an injured wrist and led to Superpole times unusually being much slower than in FP3.

With 90 per cent of riders unwilling to ride – according to the six that eventually did boycott – the protest reportedly dwindled after the FIM and Dorna allegedly put pressure on the teams to give riders an ultimatum to compete.

The statement from the FIM skirts that accusation but instead focuses on a response to riders who say the FIM erroneously granted homologation to the San Juan Villicum circuit despite knowing it didn’t meet standards to be race-worthy.

The FIM insists that other than a request to circuit management to clean the circuit of the dust that had built up – due to high winds in the in-land mountainous location – it saw no reason not to homologate the circuit.

It adds it uses the same procedure for every circuit prior to the weekend, a response to suggestions it may have bent the rules since Argentina attracted more than 80,000 spectators in 2018, more than any other event. This year’s round experienced a sizeable drop to 52,000, though it remains one of the best attended rounds of the year.

FIM Statement regarding Argentinean WorldSBK rider boycott

“Following the decision of six riders not to participate in Race 1 at the Motul Argentinean Round of the FIM Superbike World Championship, in San Juan on Saturday October 12th, FIM wishes to provide some clarifications. 

“At the request of the FIM in 2018, the circuit of San Juan was resurfaced to host WorldSBK in 2019. On Wednesday, October 9th during the inspection of the track, the FIM safety officer requested the circuit management to wash the track to remove the dust that had accumulated during the last days to ensure the safety conditions necessary for the smooth running of the Argentinean round. 

“After an intensive cleaning of the track, the homologation was issued on Thursday during a new inspection. This homologation procedure valid from Friday to Sunday is identical for each event of the championship and takes place on the Thursday preceding each race according to the FIM rules. 

“On Friday evening during the safety commission meeting, the rider representatives expressed concern over the scorching conditions and its possible effect on the newly laid asphalt. In agreement with all the stakeholders (Riders, representatives of FIM and Dorna), it was decided that a meeting would be held on Saturday at 12h00 after the Free Practice session 3 to make a new point on the situation. 

“At this meeting all riders were happy with the improvement of the track conditions and it was unanimously decided to go ahead with the Qualifying Sessions and race. Nevertheless, after Qualifying Sessions six WorldSBK riders decided not to take part in the race two hours later. 

“The FIM wishes to remind that the safety of all riders is its priority and wish to emphasize that neither the scorching conditions nor the condition of the track surface at that precise moment justified the cancellation of the race. 

“In addition, and to provide a high level of marshalling, the FIM also provided a seminar for the 150 track marshals on Thursday at the San Juan circuit with the support of the national federation CAMOD.”