From the beginning of the 2018 season every rider in the three Grand Prix classes (MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3) will be forced to wear race suits fitted with an airbag in a bid to improve riders' safety.
The ruling was only announced last month and is music to the ears of those who already support, sponsor and provide airbag one-piece leather suits to professional riders, such as Dainese and AlpineStars. Not only because they've collected vast amounts of data from crashes over the years leading to first-class development but it also paves the way to produce a range that mere mortals like you and I could go and spend our money on.
Moments before the launch of their new jacket range including the latest generation Pro Armor protection at the recent Milan Motorcycle Show, we spoke to Dainese CEO, Cristiano Silei, who explained his company's position.
"The sponsored riders provide absolute fundamental feedback especially Valentino Rossi who has been working with us on the suit (Mugello R, due on shelves in April 2017) and on the helmet (new AGV Pista GP). We test with them to understand how we can improve safety and comfort but also what ideas the riders have like the superb and precise feedback Rossi has to make sure we do a better job with the new suit."
While Dainese, sponsors of Rossi, Andrea Iannone, Jack Miller and Pol Espargaro in the top class, have airbags fitted within their off-the-shelf products, other manufacturers who aren't quite as far down the development road as the Italian firm will require a third-party agreement for race suits to comply with the 2018 ruling. French firm Furygan is one company who currently have an agreement to use the D-air technology created by Dainese. Their stable of sponsored riders includes Aprilia’s new man Sam Lowes, double Moto2 world champion, Johan Zarco, and 11-time Isle of Man TT winner Michael Dunlop. Both Zarco and Lowes make the step up to MotoGP in 2017.
Mr Silei continued, "We are super happy about it (the MotoGP rule) but here we are willing to help everybody else in order to meet the regulations for 2018. We have an agreement so that we can provide them technology and they can apply it as an undersuits. The more we can support everybody else to develop the system in a suit for the riders, the better it is for us."
Rossi and the other Dainese-sponsored riders have a direct influence on our safety by developing the gear we eventually ride on road and track. Figuratively speaking, they are our own crash testers enabling the Italian firm to bring the equipment we wear up to the highest standard. Yes, the kit can be expensive but the way in which the technology is getting better, stronger and more comfortable contributes to fewer A&E trips and more bike time.
Dainese produced their last new suit in 2009 and have spent the last seven years developing the Mugello R fitted with the D-air system and "25 new innovations" focusing on protection, comfort, performance and style as the four elements that contribute to safety. "If it's not comfortable or doesn't look good you're not going to wear it," states Silei.