Nervous wait for MotoGP as cargo plane departs Kenya

The Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. Picture:

An aeroplane believed to be at the centre of MotoGP’s freight drama which threatens the Argentina Grand Prix appears to have finally left Kenya, based on flight tracking data.

Flightradar24 shows that flight BSC4042 left Mombasa’s Moi International Airport (IATA: MBA) at 06:41 local time/03:41 UTC/00:41 Argentine time/14:41 AEDT this afternoon.

According to radar data, the aeroplane in question has the registration EX-47001, which corresponds to a Boeing 747-200(F) belonging to freight company Aerostan.

MotoGP had advised that the plane it is waiting for would follow its original itinerary of Mombasa to Lagos, then to somewhere in Brazil, and onward to Tucuman, where it is supposed to arrive on Friday (local Argentina time).

As at a short time ago, the plane detected by radar tracking had just passed over Uganda, on a path taking it towards Nigeria, where Lagos is located on the coast adjacent to the Gulf of Guinea.

Whether or not the flight makes it to Argentina in time for the grand prix to go ahead remains a question.

Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta said the event could proceed, albeit a day late, if the plane left around 20:00, although he did not specify a timezone.

If the flight takes off this afternoon, around 20pm [ie 20:00/8pm], then we will be okay,” he stated in a press conference held on Thursday at Termas de Rio Honda at 12:00 local time/15:00 UTC/02:00 AEDT (next day).

By any obvious metric, the plane being tracked by Flightradar24 left Mombasa multiple hours later than that time, raising doubts about the event.

Radar tracking of a cargo aeroplane which has left Mombasa in recent hours. Picture: Flightradar24

Already, Friday track activity has been cancelled, with an extra session for each class on the Saturday of the event.

Multiple teams are affected by the drama due to equipment having not yet arrived, including teams’ championship leaders Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, riders’ championship leader Enea Bastianini’s Gresini Racing, the Ducati Lenovo Team, and Mooney VR46 Racing Team.

There were in fact two aeroplanes which suffered issues, including one sent back from Argentina.

Consistent with that chain of events, Flightradar24 data shows the plane now running flight BSC4042 went from Mombasa to Lagos to Salvador to Tucuman earlier this week, in the days after the Indonesian Grand Prix.

It then returned to Mombasa via Lombok, the island on which the Indonesian round took place.

“The chain of events started last Wednesday when one of the five airplanes suffered a problem during a technical stop in Mombasa, Kenya,” explained MotoGP as part of a Thursday (Argentina time) statement.

“The first plane which had already arrived in Tucuman was then returned to Lombok to collect more freight, and unfortunately has also suffered a technical problem during a layover this past Wednesday night.”

EX-47001 left Mombasa on March 25, eventually reached Tucuman on March 26 via a route consistent with that outlined by MotoGP, then ended up in Lombok on March 30 and Mombasa later that same day.

That data suggests that the second plane is currently in use, rather than that which has apparently been stuck in Mombasa for several days.

Practice at Termas de Rio Hondo is set to start on Saturday at 08:45 local time/22:45 AEDT, with Moto3 up first.

CLICK HERE to track the flight referred to above

EX-47001 flight history, according to Flightradar24

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