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28 days ago
By motogp.com

All in the same boat

After a rain-soaked Thai GP, Nick Harris remembers some other occasions when the sport ran into monsoon-like weather in the past few years

Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) summed up the situation perfectly before the start of the Grand Prix in Thailand. The good thing is we are all in the same boat the Australian told the cameras as the rain hammered down on the empty grid and the thunder rolled ominously around the Buriram circuit.

You may all be in the same boat Jack, but some including yourself and, in particular, winner Miguel Olivera (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) were pulling the oars a lot harder than others. It is so easy sitting at home watching events unfold on the television early on a Sunday morning.

When the Moto2™ race was stopped after just eight laps as the riders aquaplaned down the main straight, there was a real danger that the MotoGP™ race may not even start as the monsoon-like rain hammered down. While my only worry was, to enjoy one or two boiled eggs for breakfast, the decision if the race should go ahead, how many laps or awarding half World Championship points, like in Moto2™, had to be made.

It was only the fourth time in the 74-year history of Grand Prix racing that half points had been awarded. When the rain abated it was obviously safe to race and only reduced by one lap. It was tricky, to say the least, but rideable.

It was ironic that the monsoon-like rain had been forecast for most of the weekend but hardly touched the MotoGP™ riders in practice and qualifying. So, no real wet time until those warm-up laps before the start of the race. It’s not that the teams and riders are not prepared for these types of conditions when they travel to Asia. There have been plenty of monsoon-like rain falling causing delays and cancellation of practice and qualifying sessions in Sepang, Motegi and what about the race at Mandalika this year? What catches everybody out is when it rains in a country where we are told there will never be a wet track.

I remember thinking that somebody must be cleaning the windows of our commentary box at the Lusail International Circuit in Qatar. It just did not cross my mind that it could be rain because I had never seen or heard of rain in Qatar. It was 2009, the second year of the amazing floodlights at the circuit. As the 125cc race started to get underway spots of water appeared on the commentary box window. You could see first the drizzle and then heavier rain falling on the unwetted tarmac through the glare of the floodlights.

The race was stopped after just four laps. Surely this was just a rogue shower but it was like being back home as the rain continued. Andrea Iannone was declared the winner of the 125cc race with half World Championship points being awarded. The rain stopped and the 250cc race, reduced to 13 laps, was won by Hector Barbera who just scrambled through before the drizzle in the glare returned to the middle of the desert. The MotoGP™ race was postponed for a day causing a long night of flight changes and travel plans. Of course, it was dry the next day and Casey Stoner brought Ducati victory in the 22 lap race watched only by marshals and probably a few camels from a safe distance.

It rains in Italy and England but not in the same epic quantity as those Asian venues apart from when MotoGP™ arrives. The long-awaited return to the World Championship for the Misano circuit on the Italian Adriatic coast in 2007 after a 14 year absence hit problems. The first day of practice for the San Marino Grand Prix was scrapped when the circuit, running the opposite direction from its last Grand Prix in 1993, was flooded. We have witnessed plenty of wet races at Silverstone, but it rained so hard four years ago that race day had to be completely cancelled.

Of course, Jack Miller wanted to race in the rain on Sunday especially after his Motegi victory seven days earlier, but he also had an equally important or in some people’s mind even more important reason. Jack admitted he would be in for some real strife if he could not stick to his original travel plans because he was getting married next weekend before Phillip Island in two weeks’ time. Sounds like the Australian just about got it right on both counts. Hopefully, the sun will shine on his wedding day but on Phillip Island, no promises.

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