All Friday practice sessions for the Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi have been cancelled due to safety concerns caused by adverse weather conditions. Heavy fog along with constant rain and low cloud cover have hovered over the circuit since the early morning and have failed to clear throughout the afternoon.
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.
Wednesday at Assen is always a rather odd day. At most rounds, Wednesday is a travel day, and the paddock regulars spend the day in airports, planes, and hired cars. But because the race at Assen is on Saturday, the events that normally take place on Thursday such as the pre-event press conference, happen a day earlier.
That leaves everyone with the racing equivalent of jet lag, their bodies and minds 24 hours behind events. Mentally, we are all prepared for a day of torpor and inaction. What we are greeted with is a day of rushing around to talk to riders, team managers, and anyone else foolish enough to cross our paths. Mind battles physical reality, and both come out losers.
Even focusing on the upcoming race is hard. Rolling into the circuit under bright skies and cheery temperatures – not warm, but not freezing either – feels slightly surreal after having studied the weather forecasts for the coming days.
While race day is likely to be dry, Thursday and Friday look like being full wet days. What that means is that practice may not be much of a guide to what actually happens on race day, rendering practice and qualifying relatively meaningless.
Ask anyone what makes a great circuit, and they will tell you that it takes three things: fast corners, great scenery, and lots of elevation changes. So what makes the TT Circuit at Assen so great? It only really has one of the three factors that makes it a great circuit.
If the track has elevation changes, they can be measured in centimeters. The scenery is mostly absent, though that does allow more of a view of the expansive skies the Dutch masters of the 17th Century were so famed for. The only factor which the track still possesses is a collection of really fast corners, testing the mettle of anyone with ambition to take on the circuit.
The second day of the special CRT test at Sepang, laid on to allow the teams using the brand new Magneti Marelli spec-ECU, was as beset by problems as the first day. If technical problems and a lack of parts had been the bane of day 1, it was the weather which dogged the teams, though technical problems persisted.
Heavy rain in the morning meant that only Danilo Petrucci went to put in a few laps before running into an electrical issue with a coil left the engine running on two cylinders. The rain stopped in the afternoon, but the track remained wet, leaving the riders present to do only a few laps.
Petrucci ended the day fastest – though his best time of 2’23.546 is fairly meaningless at a track where the race lap record is 2’02, and the pole record 2’00 – but frustrated at having not been able to get much work done. The electrical problems left him stranded in the pits in the morning, while teammate Lukas Pesek took the only Magneti Marelli ECU the team currently has at their disposal in the afternoon.
If there is one subject that is getting mind-numbingly tedious to have to write about in motorcycle racing right now, it’s the weather. Almost every race this year has lost at least one session to difficult conditions, and we had hoped that the 2013 season might start off a little better. No such luck.
After a dry, clear night, the first rain showers arrived shortly before 10am, when the track was due to open for the test. By the time the track opened, enough rain had fallen to make it slick, greasy and extremely difficult to ride. That put an end to almost everyone’s carefully laid plans, leaving large groups of people wandering around and alternating between looking to the skies and carefully examining the track.
A few brave souls ventured out on to the track – including Valentino Rossi, at a few minutes after ten, the earliest he has ever taken to the track during testing since I’ve been following MotoGP, Rossi notoriously ill-disposed to mornings (as, I must admit, am I) – but for the most part, silence prevailed.
This was perhaps toughest on the TV commentators. Because of Rossi’s return to Yamaha, the first couple of hours of the test were streamed live on the MotoGP.com website, as well as broadcasted on both Italian and Spanish TV.
There was virtually nothing to show, though, except images of crowds milling in pit lane, riders wandering around chatting, some in leathers, some not, and endless repeats of slow-motion shots from the few bikes that had turned a lap in the morning, leaving commentators racking their brains for subjects to discuss, leading at one point to a surprisingly long discussion about fruit, and the riders who eat it.
The world’s top adventure riders have been down in South America the past week, competing in the 33rd running of the Dakar Rally. Racing through South America since 2009, the 2012 Dakar will be taking competitors through some of the toughest terrain available in Argentina, Chile, and Peru, as The Dakar continues to live up to its name as one of the toughest races in motorsport, and this year’s rally has tragically already claimed its first life, as motorcyclist Jorge Martinez Boero of Argentina died from a cardiac arrest, after crashing during the rally’s first stage.
For Stage 6 (Fiambala-Copiapo), the weather and terrain were apparently too inhospitable, even by Dakar standards. Set to cross the Andes Mountain Range for the seventh time in the rally’s history, snow and rain at the 15,420 foot Paso de San Francisco pass was too inclement for Chilean authorities to keep the crossing open. Accordingly, today’s stage will be a convoy of all the Dakar Rally vehicles, with the rally’s itinerary changed after the border crossing in Chile from Argentina.
There was nearly a riders’ mutiny this morning at the Isle of Man TT, as the Supersport 2 race was about to get underway with cloudy skies and a damp track. With the forecast showing strong rain storms coming in the afternoon, race control was eager to get racing underway.
With most of the top riders saying they would not ride a few minutes from the race (except Michael Dunlop who would likely race through Armageddon), one Ketih Amor strolled up to the starting line and wondered where everyone was. He wouldn’t have to wait long though, as John McGuinness, Guy Martin, and other soon arrived, ready to brave the conditions.
With this being MotoGP’s last stop at Donington for the foreseeable future, the British venue seems to be putting its best foot forward. Agreeable weather, rabid fans, and close qualifying makes Sunday’s race and send off that much more enjoyable. It won’t be all clear skies though, Sunday’s weather forecast is showing some rain, and undoubtedly riders are practicing their bike swapping out in their minds.
Just like LeMans two weeks ago, the starting of today’s GP at Mugello was a mixture of both wet and then dry, which meant that once again tire choice and pit strategy would decide the winner. With Valentino Rossi clearly being the biggest loser in Le Mans when this situation last presented itself, would he be able to make the right choices and win his eighth victory at his home track? Continue reading for the spoilers and find out.