MotoGP rider Maverick Vinales has launched an impassioned attack on the World Supersport 300 Championship after the death of 22-year-old Victor Stemann at last weekend’s round of the series in Portugal, just over a year after losing Vinales den Berta’s cousin. Vinales in similar circumstances.
Steemann, the championship contender who entered the final round last weekend at Portimão, collided on the opening lap of the sprint race and was knocked out by another rider. He was initially announced to be in critical condition due to head trauma on Saturday night, and it was confirmed on Tuesday that he had died of his injuries.
Second death in the series in a year after the Vinales accident the year before, it has prompted some soul-searching among the MotoGP circuit over what to do to make the WSSP300 series particularly safe, with Vinales unsurprisingly among the most vocal about what to do with chap.
Introduced in 2017 primarily to create a series of new low-capacity sportbikes being rolled out by the factories, the class was more a new model than a replacement for anything else, moving the Dorna production bike circuit for MotoGP chiefs closer to the three-tier. The model that the Grand Prix has used since the 80cc bikes were dropped in 1989.
But, while there may have been many specific issues that led to the two fatal crashes, Viñales insists that the root cause of the deaths could lie firmly in the nature of the World Supersport 300 bikes.
“I’ve always had the same opinion about the Supersport 300,” he explained. “I said before it happened with Dean, before many things, that this kind of class, with 180kg bikes you can ride at a maximum of 140km/h over the strait: they are useless for a rider.
“Useless. You learn nothing. Talented guys get involved in a situation where if you have a faster 2km/h bike, you win the race. No talent involved.
“I remember when I was a kid I needed to ride a 125GP, and there I was talented or it was impossible to win or even follow the good guys. I remember when I got here in the world championship, the first time I tried to follow someone, I was top of the rankings. First. Once You’ve learned a lesson, which you need to think about.
“At the moment, also with Moto3, you can see some of the riders but they are still together. It wasn’t like that in the past. It wasn’t like that, and talent was more important than if the bike was faster or slower.
“In the Supersport 300, the problem is that the bike is 180kg, there is no speed, and they work together. Of course if someone crashes in front, it is impossible to escape. It is not about age, it is not about the passengers, it is about the bikes. They don’t have Power, they weigh like a MotoGP bike, the brakes are small**, the swingarms are off the street. The problem is the class, not the passengers.”
With his experience rising through the ranks in an era when racers started using two-stroke machines, not modern four-strokes, and with time spent riding Supersport 300 machines, Vinales says he is convinced the only solution is to change bikes.
He explained, “When I was 13, I was riding a 125GP, and nothing ever happened. Nothing, because we weren’t 20 in one pack—we were four, three. Not more, because it was hard.
“I tried 300, I rode one, and for me it was very easy, no power, you can go together. You can have a rider two seconds slower and if you follow you can go with the first one. At the time, I told my family that this is not a debt class And it’s not good to ride here, but in the end you know, it’s just like that.
“But if this continues, a lot of other things like this will happen, because this class, like I said, has a lot of weight on the bikes and not so powerful that it all fits together. The bikes are not even racing bikes, that is the biggest problem.”
He’s not the only rider to share the opinion, with his Aprilia teammate Aliix Espargaro (one of the network’s most outspoken safety advocates) echoing Vinales’ sentiments.
“Really, it’s really a shame because last year hasn’t been very good in terms of safety for the youth groups,” he said. “The Supersport 300 is not a safe class, we know 100 percent, and I also know because I’m on the safety committee they’re working on, they don’t like it either. Hopefully we can improve for the future.”
And when The Race asked him for a solution, he went further than the Vinales.
“Cancel it. For me it’s not like that [just] A good solution, it’s the only solution.”