MotoGP's record 21 race calendar puts pressure on teams

LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) - MotoGP is set for its biggest season yet and Mike Trimby, a power in the paddock as defender of team interests and rider safety for more than four decades, is apprehensive.

This weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix in Portimao will be the first of 21 with more races (10) outside Europe than ever, including newcomers India and Kazakhstan.

Every weekend also features a Saturday sprint, making 42 races in total.

Trimby, a former racer hired by riders in 1982 to represent them and co-founder in 1986 of the International Road-racing Teams Association (IRTA) he now leads, acknowledges some concern.

"The 2023 calendar is the first one I’ve looked at and thought ‘God, I don’t fancy that’," he said at a recent award ceremony for the Royal Automobile Club's Torrens Trophy honouring an outstanding contribution to UK motorcycling.

"We seem to be catching up with Formula One but... they will have two sets of mechanics that will alternate at events. We can’t afford that," the 74-year-old Briton told Reuters.

"I know personally of a lot of senior people in teams who are basically quitting, they are saying ‘No, that’s too much. I can’t be away from home that time, I’ve got a family’.

"I think we’re pushing the envelope a bit on the number of events we’re doing and we’re making our concerns clear to Dorna," he added.

"Dorna keep paying us extra money for all these extra races but there has to be a balance."

The increase will be felt particularly in the Moto2 and Moto3 junior categories, where teams have fewer people and tighter budgets.

Formula One, whose season started on March 5, has a record 23 races this year.

Trimby said Dorna, the Spanish company that took over the commercial rights in 1992 after a brief spell when then-F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was involved, had done a great job in promoting the sport and show on television.

Safety is also a world away from the dark days of wire catch-fences in runoff areas and no medical helicopter.

At the 1983 French GP two riders died, Japan's Iwao Ishikawa when the ambulance taking him to hospital got lost on the way and Switzerland's Michel Frutschi who fell and hit a wooden fence pole.

The first battles Trimby fought were to get the fences ripped out and replaced by hay bales before more permanent safety measures were implemented.

The nature of wheel-to-wheel racing, while great for excitement, remains a concern for the risk of riders being hit by others after falling.

Trimby said a rider alarm system was being developed, "so that if someone crashes it flashes on bikes that are following", but feared it could prove of limited practical use.

IRTA looks after the interests of all 37 teams while also managing the paddock. It provides the race director and deputy as well as technical director out of a total staff of 14.

Trimby, assisted by wife Irene, is chief executive and has no immediate plans to stop.

"I can’t play golf and I have no interest in anything else," he said. "Unfortunately I have never developed other hobbies because half the year we’re at racetracks... I’ll keep going until I fall over."

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis

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