Blog: Rain stops play

Published: 09 September 2006

MCN MotoGP reporter Matt Birt spends his days, nights and weekends getting to know the GP world better than anyone. Now he's sharing the experiences of being a top GP reporter with a new blog.

Well today was a bit of a damp squib to say the least with the decisive MotoGP qualifying session cancelled after a tropical storm lashed Sepang in spectacular fashion.

Tropical storms are not an uncommon sight in this neck of the woods but the severity of this afternoons was the worst Id witnessed. And Ive been coming to Sepang at least twice a year every year since the track opened in 1999.

So the big question is what happens if we get a repeat of the torrential downpours tomorrow for the race?

Cancelling a qualifying session is one thing, but cancelling a race if a whole different ball game with a world championship at stake and a global TV audience of millions to appease.

I spoke with Valentino Rossi at his usual debrief after the qualifying press conference this afternoon and he admitted that it would much harder to cancel the race should the heavens open again tomorrow.

Rossi said the only solution should it be as bad tomorrow would be to wait until conditions were safe enough to ride.

This afternoon that just wasnt possible and common sense prevailed and qualifying was binned.

We were sat in the media centre wondering when the last time that happened, and it turned out it was back in 1997 at the A-1 Ring in Austria when Mick Doohan was struck by lightning. Ironic really considering he was known as the Thunder from Down Under.

It left race bosses with a quandary about how to award grid positions. The solution was to use the riders best time from the first three practice sessions to allocate the grid placings, and that inevitably created another storm. This time thought it was only raining complaints from some quarters.

The lottery winner was Valentino, who grabbed pole position after hed used qualifying tyres in the morning session. So did Nicky Hayden, Loris Capirossi and Kenny Roberts Junior who completed the top four. It was a canny tactic as those who didnt were left down the grid and a little miffed.

Casey Stoner and Marco Melandri who hadnt run qualifying tyres in the morning, were the most vocal opponents, saying that the times should have been taken from Friday afternoon when everybody had run race tyres.

Rain or shine thought it promises to be a cracking race, with four of the five title contenders in the top five on the grid, including Dani Pedrosa, who must have been the happiest man alive when he saw the storm clouds gathering.

He needed a wheelchair just to get from the hotel to the track this morning, and he could barely walk to his Honda after his horrendous crash yesterday left him with a badly gashed right knee that he can hardly bend at all.

Im off to bed now not a happy bunny at all. Aside from bike racing, the number one passion is my beloved Leicester City Football Club. Sadly Ive just spent the last two hours staring at my computer screen, watching the live text commentary on the BBC website confident we were going to sneak a point at West Brom. Then we let in two goals in the last ten minutes including an own goal and a penalty. Im surprised you couldnt hear me shouting expletives back in the UK. Well worth staying up until midnight for.

Later M.

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