In the latest of his Crash.net columns, Bradley Smith looks back at the four lap sprint that was his rain-curtailed 2009 125cc Grand Prix opening round...

It will probably rain not again in Qatar for another two years after the amount of rain that fell out of the sky above the desert on Sunday evening. Eight months of training and preparation resulted in just four laps of racing and, although it was nobody's fault, I do feel cheated.

I was sitting on the grid waiting for the start of the race when four or five enormous strikes of fork lightning lit up the sky and I realised all was not well. Away from the floodlights the sky was pitch black, although I could see no clouds.

The lightning was still lighting up the sky when the race got underway and within two laps the rain started to fall. It just got heavier and heavier. It was a really strange situation, then the heavens opened and the rain really let go. Of course we were all on slick tyres and everybody slowed right down to ensure they got back to the finish line when the red flag came out.

When I saw the red flag I automatically thought the race would be re-scheduled but instead the result stood just after four laps and only half points were awarded. I was actually up to fourth place when the red flag was shown but the result is taken from the previous lap and so I had to settle for fifth. I'm sure Andrea Iannone was happy to take his second grand prix win when he stood on the podium but I'm sure that first win in China meant a lot more to him, so it was a bit of a hollow victory. Four laps aren't the same as a race.

Everything had been going so well both in the two days in Qatar testing and then in practice and qualifying. I'd qualified on the front row in second place behind my team-mate Julian Simon and everything was prepared and ready for an 18 lap race. I made a decent start but at the first turn I let the bike drift a little too much and was so careful not to fall I dropped to 11th place. I fought back to fifth and then fourth. With 14 laps remaining I was confident of at least a podium finish, but then the rain arrived.

Nobody back home would believe me that it can rain in the desert and to be honest I did not believe it myself until Friday night. Just before the first practice session I was sitting in the Aspar's team office when there was a drumming on the roof. I thought somebody was throwing golf balls onto the roof it was so loud but when I went outside it was rain that just is supposed to fall in this part of the world.

Anyway, enough of my complaining about the weather and those half points because there are plenty of positives to take from my week in Qatar. Last year I may have taken pole position but left the opening round in Qatar with no points and was already 25 points down on race winner Sergio Gadea. This year despite all the frustration I'm only seven points down on the race winner Andrea Iannone. All the work we've done on the set-up of the bike has paid off and we were in a great position before the start of the race.

The next round of the Championship at Motegi in Japan is one of my favorite circuits and I'm certain the bike will go well there. Three years ago I finished as the best Honda in eighth place, which was my best result of the season although a crash and mechanical problem have meant no points in the last two races in Japan.

I was back home in Oxford by the time the MotoGP race got underway on Monday evening in Qatar. It was good to be home but I was just more than a little envious when I heard the MotoGP engines fire-up. I would have loved to be out there, even if it meant getting home late.

They always tell you the first grand prix of the season is full of surprises and the rain was certainly a big surprise! Let's just hope that's enough rain and half points for the remainder of the season.

Bradley Smith

 

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