MotoGP Race Director: “No choice” but to cancel Sprint
Sunday 22nd October, 2023 - 2:37pm
MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb says there was “no choice” but to cancel today’s Sprint at Phillip Island, due to high winds.
Problems had been expected on ‘race day’ before track activity even got underway at the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, and indeed the Grand Prix encounter was brought forward to Saturday afternoon as a precautionary measure.
That proved a wise move when the Sprint was cancelled within an hour before it was due to start on Sunday afternoon under the second schedule revision for the event.
Jack Miller was among those to question the decision to call off the race but Webb cited the experience of 2019, when qualifying was postponed to Sunday morning after Miguel Oliveira was quite literally blown off the track.
He said that was a benchmark, with forecasts that the conditions would worsen even after the Moto2 race was red-flagged.
“For us, we had no choice in the end,” he told reporters.
“We knew the forecast was bad and, strangely for here, it’s been consistent all week that this was going to happen on Sunday, and that’s why changed the race.
“The conditions turned out to be what was predicted.
“Just to be clear, the rain was never an issue – it’s wind – and we know from past experience, especially here, and especially with the wind in that particular direction, Turn 1 and 7, 8 are very trying.
“We’ve had this experience in 2019 [when] we red-flagged MotoGP qualifying for the same reason.
“So, we’re aware, and now knowing what the wind conditions were in 2019, when we last had bad wind, what it’s been every day this week, and during today, with the updates as fast as they can give us, the wind was below the level of 2019 and reasonable for the start of the day.
“By the time there was a gust… well, there were gusts throughout and the Moto2 race was red-flagged because of that, pretty obviously.
“All the way through the day, we’re monitoring what is the steady wind condition and what are the gusts peaking at, and that number slowly went up during the day.
“Having red-flagged a race for wind conditions, unless it got better, there’s no way we could start another race, and it didn’t get better; it got worse.
“So, in the end, we had no choice.”
According to Webb, it become obvious during the Moto2 race that wind was causing riders to crash when Celestino Vietti went down, with official data showing that the red flag was called 1:13s later.
He rejected suggestions from some riders, in line with Miller’s, that the MotoGP field could have at least been sent for a sighting lap before the Sprint was cancelled.
“We had so we had a meeting, shortly before we made the decision, with all the team principals,” recalled Webb.
“Loris [Capirossi, MotoGP Safety Advisor] and Carlos [Ezpeleta, Dorna Sports Chief Sporting Officer] have been talking to the riders and Tome [Alfonso, FIM Safety Office] talking to the MotoGP riders in their boxes to get their firsthand opinions.
“There is, as you can imagine, a big range of opinions of the riders, depending on who they are, their own circumstances, whatever… So, a huge range.
“Therefore, we spoke to the teams to say, ‘These are our options, this is the situation as it is at the moment.’
“But, to even start again, to even do a sighting lap and try to run a race when the weather condition is measurably worse than it was when the red flag…
“Sorry, there’s not an option; we couldn’t do it.”