After the eventful Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, the MotoGP paddock heads to Japan, hoping for a slightly quieter weekend. It looks like they may well get their wish, thanks to the weather predicted for the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.
Typhoon Francisco, an intense tropical depression, is set to hit the Islands of Japan this weekend, blowing through on Friday night and departing by Saturday afternoon. With Francisco forecast to dump large quantities of rain in the region around Motegi, free practice could well be a washout, with the rain only letting up on Saturday afternoon.
Fortunately for MotoGP, Typhoon Francisco is rapidly losing strength. It had quickly grown to be a Category 3 typhoon, increasing last Sunday to Category 5 , the most powerful category of storm.
However, it is now diminishing in intensity as it approaches the southern coast of Japan, and has been reduced to Category 1. Francisco is expected to produce strongs winds and a lot of rainfall, but it will not be as bad as initially feared.
Most of the rain looks set to fall in the southern half of the country, with between one and three inches of rain likely around Motegi. That could leave the track flooded and too wet to ride on for parts of Friday and Saturday, but the forecast is that Sunday should be dry and a fine day for racing.
Heavy rain will be welcomed by both the Yamaha and Ducati teams, especially if it means they get to sit out a session or two. Several riders have engines on their last legs, and so any mileage they can save through bad weather is a welcome relief.
At the moment, Francisco is expected to pass to the south and east of the Japanese coast. You can track its progress on the Japan Meteorology Agency tropical cyclone information web page.