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MotoGP riders reflect upon Sunday's use of white flag rule

MotoGP riders reflect upon Sunday's use of white flag rule

MotoGP riders reflect upon Sunday's use of white flag rule

Last Sunday's Grande Premio de Portugal saw the first enforcement of the white flag rule, which indicates to the riders a change of the track conditions and allows the riders to stop and make a change to a bike fitted with rain or intermediate tyres.

The white flag was waved with 20 laps to go, but none of the riders took the opportunity to change bike, deciding instead to make do with the tyres they had. For most of them, pitting in was just not worth the loss of time it involved, even if remaining on a partially wet track proved to be a tricky and risky task.

Italian Gauloises Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi, who took second place at Estoril, was not entirely convinced about the appropriateness of the rule during Sunday's race and decided to continue without changing.

"I gradually got used to the conditions during the race but it's not ideal to ride like that," said Rossi. "The new wet race rules are better for TV but it's not entirely safe, although it's clearer now for all the riders when the race has been declared as wet. I think it's impossible in our sport though to find a perfect rule for that."

Eventual race winner Alex Barros, determined to win after a weekend of fastest laps in the practice sessions, was tempted to take some risks to catch up with leader Sete Gibernau, but the Spaniard crashed and left Barros in the lead.

"The race was even more complicated. The track was virtually dry at the beginning but then there were a few drops. There was a moment when Sete took a bit of an advantage, then he slowed and I caught him up. I began to push and push, trying to put pressure on him, even though I could feel the raindrops on my helmet and on the bike. Then he lost the front end and crashed out, he was at the limit.

"They put out the white flag, but I didn't think about coming in for one moment, it wasn't raining enough for that, and it wasn't even worth putting on intermediate tyres. It was a tough race, the track was in difficult conditions, but the satisfaction is enormous."

Loris Capirossi was understandably one of the most cautious, as he couldn't afford the risk of further injury, already racing with an injured left ankle, but he also decided to not change bikes.

"The track conditions were really unbelievable," commented Capirossi. "Some places it was wet, other places dry and no one stopped in the pits, because it would have been pointless. Luckily only a few riders fell and none fell down in the last three or four laps, when it began raining even more heavily. I tried to be careful and to finish so I brought home some points."

The track conditions continued to get worse as the race went on and several riders crashed, including Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss – who were able to re-join the race – and John Hopkins and Sete Gibernau who were not able to rejoin. Gibernau explained that he was at a disadvantage by leading, as he couldn't use any other rider as a reference point.

"The only mistake I made was to lead from the start. It was a very tough race and it was important to judge the marshals' flags properly because that was the only reference I had of how much water was on the track. Wherever there was a flag I slowed down and where there wasn't one I sped up. I didn't go mad, I was in control of the race and I was even slower at the end of the straight than usual, but it wasn't enough."


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