Well suit-ed

Down and not out: Hafizh lying on the ground after a crash at the Red Bull Ring circuit in Spielberg, Austria on Aug Sunday. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah feels he was so lucky to have narrowly cheated death after a frightening high-speed incident in the Moto2 race at the Red Bull Ring Circuit. But it may not be all about sheer luck.

Hafizh can also thank his protective airbag suit for saving him from suffering more serious injuries than a heavily bruised hip after crashing at more than 200kph.

Hafizh was in 19th, and coming out of the first corner on the fourth lap, when Italian Enea Bastianini’s motorcycle strayed into his path.

He slammed straight into the bike and his own machine split into two in the frightening crash.

Hafizh was lying on the track before he was quickly transferred to the circuit’s medical centre. The rider, incredibly, was back on his feet and resting at the motorhome within 24 hours, although still on crutches.

He has to thank a ruling made back at the start of the 2018 season when the organisers made it mandatory for all riders in the world championship, including MotoGP, Moto2 and even Moto3, to wear a protective suit equipped with a functioning airbag system when on the race track.

The new safety regulations covers test riders and wildcards, not just the permanent ones.

In the event of a crash, the system deploys in a fraction of the time it takes the human eye to blink – inflating around the rider’s collarbone, ribs and torso.

The suit can detect crashes prior to impact thanks to built-in accelerometers, a trio of gyroscopes and a GPS unit. The suit also lights up when it inflates, thus helping the racer to be visible even in dark, rainy conditions.

Naturally, the suit does not come cheap. It costs approximately €3,000 (RM15,000) but with the high speeds achieved during a race or even practice session, wearing an airbag suit only makes sense.

Italian rider Valentino Rossi was among the top riders who took part in the early development of the airbag suit almost a decade ago.

The nine-time world champion was quoted at that time as saying he believed it would be an extremely important innovation although the early designs carried extra weight and restricted movement.

“After few monster falls, I no longer had any doubt that it was time to start wearing this new suit, which certainly offers more safety than the standard suit.

“It takes a little time to get used to wearing the new suit but I feel much safer with the system on.

“The system has really improved over the years. Now you don’t even notice that the suit has an airbag, ” said Rossi.

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