The fifth round of this year’s World Superbike Championship at the Imola venue saw Alvaro Bautista and Ducati’s stranglehold on the series finally ended.
This year’s British MotoGP at Silverstone should have been one to savour with the likes of Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso set to do battle with local hero Cal Crutchlow but, as we now all know, it was the complete opposite and descended into a disastrous and sorry affair as heavy rain and a recently resurfaced track resulted in too much standing water for racing to safely take place.
The warning signs were there on Saturday when riders stated if the rain continued, it wouldn’t be safe to race and when four riders crashed at Stowe – effectively aquaplaning off the circuit – it could be argued the writing was on the wall.
That crash resulted in serious leg injuries to Esteve ‘Tito’ Rabat and with safety always paramount, the riders stuck together with only Johann Zarco and Jack Miller stating they wanted to race at a last ditch riders’ meeting that took place at 4pm on Sunday afternoon almost five hours after the intended race start.
Asphalt fails to pass the test
Needless to say, the fallout afterwards was considerable – disgruntled riders, disgruntled organisers and, of course, disgruntled spectators and marshals who’d stayed out in the cold and wet weather all day long in the hope of seeing some race action.
The new asphalt was given as the main reason why it just wasn’t possible to go racing and whilst the drainage at Silverstone – a relatively flat, former RAF airbase – can often be an issue, a meeting of this stature should have got it right and also been able to cope. The circuit certainly hasn’t come out of it looking good and a thorough investigation will definitely need to take place, and quickly, to ensure no such episode can happen again.
The British Superbike Championship visits the Northamptonshire venue in two weeks and whilst the series doesn’t have the same standing as the World Championship, the principles remain the same. The unpredictable British weather may result in the same levels of rainfall and with race fans already expressing their considerable criticism on social media, another high profile meeting cannot afford to fall by the wayside.
It’s not the first time poor surface conditions have affected the race in such a manner but you have to go all the way back to Misano in 1989 to find it. In a similar occurrence, the Italian track had been recently resurfaced only for heavy rain on race day to turn it into an ice rink.
All of the leading riders bar one boycotted the race and with the exception of factory Honda rider Pierfrancesco Chili, who had to ride to satisfy his sponsors, only the privateers took to the grid.
Chili won on his works NSR Honda from RS Honda-mounted Simon Buckmaster and Michael Rudroff but Chili’s face told a thousand words at the conclusion of the race and you’d have thought he’d come last not won. Winning his home Grand Prix should have been his proudest moment but it was exactly the opposite.
Rain at previous Grand Prix races, including Qatar, resulted in the races being moved to Monday but that seemingly wasn’t an option at Silverstone a large proportion of the teams apparently vetoing the idea.
However, it was way back in 1980 when the last Grand Prix was completely cancelled with heavy overnight snow resulting in no racing at all taking place at the Austrian circuit of Salzburgring.
Modern day technology has done wonders for all sports but the modern asphalt simply couldn’t cope with the natural weather that befell the Silverstone circuit. What follows next in terms of the repercussions, including refunds for the spectators, is anyone’s guess.
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.