On Sunday after the St. Louis Supercross, we attempted to clear up the very murky red cross flag/yellow light situation in St. Louis.
It helped a bit, but no doubt, the fires continued to rage all week. Not everyone agrees with the decision, in fact, it seems like many more people disagree with it than agree. And questions remain. Why was Ryan Villopoto not penalized after the race for his first infraction? Do red flags cancel yellow flags? On it goes. I called the AMA’s Kevin Crowther again to get clarification. At this point, the decision is done and Crowther (and the FIM’s John Gallagher) made their decision based on the video evidence they had. That’s pretty much all he had left to say on this specific incident.
“We believe the decision we made was right and we’re not going to go back on that decision,” he said. “But what we have learned, as we always do in these situations, is that you look at some of the rules we have in place and see if you can improve them.”
From what I surmise, the general confusion of the situation—giving the riders two conflicting flags (yellow and red cross) at the same time—was part of the decision. All of the riders involved were put in a tough spot seeing two different flags at the same time. Was that a red cross “no passing zone” or a yellow flag “use caution but you can pass” zone? Obviously, they decided the pass was okay, but for certain, this race will result in a fresh look at the rulebook and how the flags and lights work, and also, the red flag staggered restart. If you look through the rulebook, you’ll find several parts of this situation undefined (does the red cross flag cancel the yellow? Does the yellow cancel the red cross?). They're going to have to go through the book with a fine toothed comb to eliminate some of those gray areas.
But they won’t ban passing under the yellow flag. Crowther searched the SX rulebook all the way back to 1997, and passing has been allowed under yellow the whole time. He says that supercross is different from regular, local motocross races (which do not allow passing under the yellow). For one, lapped traffic is a much bigger factor on a short supercross track, and there would be problems if you reached a lapper and a no-pass situation at the same time. Also, the yellow flags come out far more often in the tight confines. From tumbled Tuff Blocks to bikes off the side of the track, Crowther says yellow flags often come out 20 times per race, so if you put riders into no-passing situations that often, it would wreak havoc on the race. If there’s a real safety issue, that’s why they have the red cross flag, but not every situation is that extreme. They purposely build in two layers—the yellow caution flag and the red-cross no passing flag—so different situations can be addressed.
One more thing Crowther wanted to make perfectly clear: “I can tell you that there is no way in hell we would ever let any rider, team or sponsor influence a decision,” says Crowther, who points out that he is a full-time employee of the AMA. “We are an independent sanctioning body. That’s why we are there. For us, the rules are the same no matter if it’s Ryan Villopoto or Adam Enticknap.”