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When to stop.

Hindsight is a wonderful word. The Concise Oxford Dictionary sums it up perfectly - 'Wisdom after the event'. How many times in your life would a little wisdom after the event pushed you down a different path?

It certainly applies in grand prix motor cycle racing. A bit of hindsight would certainly have helped with tyre choice and race tactics but even more seriously, as was perfectly illustrated at Brno last weekend, on the crucial question of riders safety. As it turned out, hindsight would have probably produced exactly the same solution to a very tricky situation in the 20 lap 250cc race.

The race started on a dry track but with dark clouds threatening. The rain held off until lap six when it started to fall at the bottom end of the 5.403 kms circuit. Race leader Alex De Angelis and second placed Randy De Puniet put up their hands to indicate they thought the race should be stopped. A similar move by the MotoGP riders at Mugello this year brought out the red flags to halt proceedings on the orders of the Race Director.

However, reports from marshals at the wet part of the circuit and the TV helicopter above indicated that the track surface was not dangerous enough to stop the race and the red flags never arrived. While the leaders slowed with hands raised, others just got on with racing.

The race continued in tricky conditions with spits of rain on the riders' screens but on a surface that was certainly not dangerous enough to stop the race. Race leader Dani Pedrosa even set a new lap record on lap 17. One lap later after the Spaniard re-wrote the record books, the rain appeared heavier and up went his hand but not before that early leader De Angelis crashed out. Once again some riders slowed while others saw there was no red flag and carried on racing.

The Race Director again sought advice from the marshals and helicopter and was told it was safe to proceed. The red flags stayed behind the barriers. Suggestions that the race continued in order not to delay the start of the MotoGP race with it's lucrative television contracts bore little credence, especially in the case of the second attempt. If the race had been stopped the riders would have completed enough laps for the results to be declared there and then, thus giving even more time before the start of the money making MotoGP encounter.

If and when to stop a grand prix race is a difficult decision to make. It's the Race Director who makes the final decision although riders play a massive part. If all the riders had slowed at Brno and put up their hands, surely there could have been no other decision than to order the red flags. However, not all did and indeed some took full advantage of the situation by following the rules to the letter of the law, racing on with not a red flag in sight.

No wonder after the race there was not total harmony among the participants. It will be interesting to see what happens if a similar occasion occurs before the end of the season. Perhaps they will have discussed a little bit more solidarity. If the leader puts his hand up everybody else follows suite and slows up.

In the MotoGP class it does appear the leaders have a bit more clout both with their fellow competitors and the Race Director. At Mugello this year a fabulous battle between Valentino Rossi, the Camel Hondas of Max Biaggi and Makoto Tamada, plus the Telefonica machine of Sete Gibernau was brought to a halt in the rain when Rossi's raised hand at the front brought out the red flags.



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