Silverstone was a blast (2)

What about the folks in the front seat, the folks doing what I did?

The first thing to say is that there is a fundamental difference in how the medical service is organised in MotoGP, as compared to F1. With F1, the governing body, the guys who write the rules, also supply the people to liaise, coordinate and if need be work with the local team providing medical cover. The COMMERCIAL rights holder, has NOTHING to do with things.

In MotoGP, the FIM writes the regulations, and presumably has mechanisms to verify compliance. But the people at the circuit, sitting in the medical cars, work for Dorna, the commercial rights holder.  Now I’ve not thought through the implications and complications of this (not sure it’s better or worse than the set-up in F1, just different), so I’ll simply point out the difference.

In the “old days”, that is up until shockingly recently, medical care for this championship was supervised by “Dr. Costa” and his Clinica Mobile. Usually described as a legend and a demi-god by non-medical people, he was certainly his own greatest admirer. If I had lawyers, and I don’t, they’d be waving their arms madly to prevent me from writing exactly what I think of the Clinica Mobile. So I won’t. Not even to say that – what’s that? – I can’t even say THAT? Ok forget it. You all get the message, right. Wink wink? Wink wink!

The death of Simoncelli was the catalyst for Dorna to bring in a group of people who were tasked with bringing medical cover and response from the Renaissance to the 21st century.

The team is 100% Spanish, which is normal given that Dorna is too. They’re a small, friendly and highly motivated group of doctors and paramedics. They’re on a very steep learning curve, given what would appear to be total neglect over years (either that or total, severely misplaced, faith in many of the local teams!) of medical and rescue training and standards at many of the circuits visited top-flight motorcycle racing.

Interestingly, from what I can see, they’ve been “parachuted” into this environment without having followed the “usual” path we all follow. That is, junior doc/nurse/paramedic paired with an experienced person for a season or so, then years of accumulating experience and knowledge about race procedures, the clinical epidemiology of the injuries seen, etc. Then being the senior person mentoring the junior. Then deputy chief, etc etc.

This is important.

Not having that shared background “in the trenches” has a number of consequences that will make their jobs a bit harder.

Credibility: it’s hard to realise just how important this is. The shared database of shivers and full bladders, snoozes and cold sweats, of radio failures and aborted starts is almost REQUIRED before most motorsport rescue people will take your comments on board.

Real-world experience: what’s an Incident Officer? What’s the blue flag mean? Knowing that leaning on or over the Armco is dangerous. At an accident scene, knowing (and loving) that edge of chaos and the need to improvise every time.

And most important? Passion. If these folks are passionate about the sport, and about doing everything they can to make the care offered to the riders as good as it can possibly be, they’ll succeed. If they approach this as a job, they’re going to struggle. That’s because for US, the one word on all our lists of why we do this is passion.

If they’ll have me again, I’d love to work at another MotoGP race. I just won’t make it a habit!

6 thoughts on “Silverstone was a blast (2)

  1. Would be nice if you gave more depth and detail on your criticism of the MotoGP medics….too vague, makes for rather shallow reading and makes it appear as though you think as much about yourself as you state Costa did of himself.

    I enjoy reading your posts, but this one not so much…

    • First of all, it’s not criticism of the MotoGP medics. Rather, it’s a few observations gleaned over one race weekend – hardly enough to formulate criticism of anyone or anything, much less to make it public! These guys are doing a hard job in difficult circumstances, and I’m in no position to criticise!

      Not sure where in the post the appearance of being full of myself comes from. It was a rather unique situation, what with a guy who’s done a bunch of Formula 1 races sitting in the back seat with the folks covering a whole ‘nother thang. That perspective, and not anything specific in MY resumé, is what might make this post interesting. If juicy criticism is what you’re after (you do so diplomatically call it “depth and detail”), you won’t get it from me. Sorry to disappoint you, but I fail to see how the requested “depth and detail” will make you a fuller person, or the MotoGP medical team better at what they do.

  2. Hi Gary.

    I’ve been following your blog for quite some time and until now I abstained from commenting: most of the times I agree with you, so I didn’t have much to add. This time however, I cannot understand your unexpressed criticism of “Dr. Costa” and his “Clinica Mobile”. The guy might be, as you say, his own biggest fan, however he was literally revered by professional racers and I only heard and read very positive opinions about him and the Clinica Mobile. Quite frankly, I think that if one has something to say, they shall say it, otherwise it is best to say nothing. This gossipy hinting is not what I came to expect from you.

  3. Interesting post. With two tragic deaths in as many years recently – and both riders being dropped while on the stretcher by marshals – I think MotoGP definitely needs a safety overhaul to Sid-standards. You being his protege, I think your input would be vital, Gary. Let’s hope they give you a call!

    • I told these guys they can call whenever they want. I think big humility is the key attitude here. No one has all the answers, but a few decent, motivated brains sure can get problems solved. They’ll get it right, no doubt about it. If I can help (and still get on with my life!) I’ll do what I can.

  4. Very insightful on how things were not that long ago and now today. I race at club level in UK Motorsport. What’s your view on the level of medical given at the bottom of the Motorsport ladder?

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