With all of Friday's practice sessions for the Japanese MotoGP cancelled, a highly flexible revised schedule has been announced - taking into account several different scenarios for Saturday and Sunday.

Wet and foggy conditions severely reduced visibility at the remote Motegi circuit, preventing the medical helicopter from flying to the track, under Japanese law.

"Without a medical helicopter on site for evacuation and no viable alternative we're not prepared to run, when there is a risk that a seriously injured rider may not be adequately treated," explained Race Director Mike Webb in a special media briefing at the circuit (pictured).

"The helicopter has been trying to get permission to fly to the circuit since Thursday. It's been on stand-by all the time. Our advice was that as soon as permission was granted, the helicopter could be here in ten minutes, so we waited until the last possible moment before cancelling practice.

"As far as alternatives, the big problem is location. Motegi is more than one hour by road to the accredited hospital. We have been advised that this is not safe in the case of a seriously injured rider. Many, many alternatives were proposed and looked into - such as part-way by ambulance, then by air, closer medical centres. No reasonable solution was found.

"The weather forecast for Saturday is brighter, but if the helicopter still cannot fly by tomorrow afternoon then it will be dismantled and shipped to the circuit by road and reassembled ready for Sunday. The problem is not the rain, it is the visibility."

We've divided the options available for Saturday and Sunday into 'Plan A', 'Plan B' and 'Plan C'...

Plan A:
"If we are able to run tomorrow [Saturday] morning, we will run free practice for as long as possible and then move on to a normal Saturday afternoon qualifying schedule and a normal Sunday schedule," said Webb.

Plan B: (Presently most likely).
"If we are not able to run tomorrow morning, Saturday afternoon will be deemed free practice and will be run as long as possible. Then a heavily revised schedule for Sunday - involving practice, qualifying and the race - will be run.

Plan C:
"If it is not possible to practice at all tomorrow, we are still expecting Sunday's weather to be significantly better and we have a provisional, heavily revised schedule, that includes practice, qualifying and the race on Sunday. We are committed to running the Japanese Grand Prix and are doing everything we can to make it happen."

In terms of how long the new track sessions will be, Webb added: "It depends entirely on the weather and what time we can start. I've written up a draft schedule for every possibility. Current weather forecasts suggest rain on Saturday morning, easing around 2pm.

"We will give as much track time as possible to all classes. [If Saturday morning is not possible] I'm aiming at afternoon sessions of 75 minutes or more for MotoGP and perhaps as long - or a little shorter - for the other classes. We will run as long as possible until a lack of daylight."

Saturday's FP3 usually acts as the deadline for automatic entry into the second and final part of MotoGP qualifying, for those that have set a top ten practice lap time. Such a format is unlikely to prove popular if run over just a single session, where teams and riders will want to focus on set-up rather than taking risks for a top ten time. However MotoGP may revert to a traditional qualifying session, under the circumstances.

The other question mark is whether, once the helicopter gets to the circuit, the visibility problems return and prevent it from potentially taking off - which would halt the track activity once again.

Indeed, two medical helicopters must be available at all times - so that racing can continue even if one is in use - and the best possible locations around the circuit have been analysed to try and avoid the need to take off or land amidst heavy cloud cover at the circuit, which is situated on high ground.

Motegi is the second disrupted grand prix in as many weeks, with tyre problems forcing a revised race for both the Moto2 and MotoGP classes in Australia last weekend.

The Japanese Grand Prix is the penultimate round of the year, with title victories possible in all three classes on Sunday.

There are currently no plans to delay the race until Monday.


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment