Silverstone, Great Britain

2018 Silverstone MotoGP Saturday Round Up: A Bad Day At A Great Track

The weather usually plays a role when racing in the UK, in any discipline, but Saturday at Silverstone, the rain took center stage. Not just because of the way it forced the MotoGP riders to pick their strategy very carefully, making timing and tire management absolutely crucial. But also because a heavy downpour at the southern end of the track created massive problems, and kicked off a serious debate.

More than that, it caused a bunch of riders to crash during FP4, starting with Alex Rins at Stowe, or Turn 7 as the riders tend to call it, to avoid confusion during debriefs. Then Tito Rabat crashed in the same place. Then Franco Morbidelli, whose bike hit Rabat who was sitting in the gravel, smashing into the Reale Avintia rider's right leg, breaking his tibia, fibula, and femur, requiring surgery and putting him out of the running for a long time, if not for the remainder of the season.

Having been the first to fall, Alex Rins did his best to emulate Kevin Schwantz at Donington in 1992, running out into the gravel to warn other riders to take care, while all around him, riders headed into the gravel, unable to brake on the water-soaked surface. Jorge Lorenzo came flying by, as did others, until eventually the session was red flagged.

Those crashes triggered a chain of events which saw the MotoGP race start moved forward to 11:30am local time, to avoid the expected heavy rain on Sunday afternoon, which could have made it difficult to run the race. It caused delays as the riders were forced to wait for the return of the medical helicopter, which had flown Tito Rabat to hospital in Coventry. And it created a fascinating spectacle during qualifying, where timing ended up being everything.

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2018 Silverstone MotoGP FP4 Result: Viñales Escapes Downpour Before Red Flag

Despite the cool conditions following earlier rain, plenty of hard front tyres were unveiled as riders took to the track for one final stroll ahead of qualifying. There was no such need for Jorge Lorenzo, who shot into the lead with a 2:01 as soon as he hit the track on new mediums and held station until Maverick Viñales found himself back into the familiar position at the top of the timesheets on the same tyres halfway through the session.

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2018 Silverstone Moto2 FP3 Result: Schrotter Dodges The Rain

In stark contrast to the first session of the day, clear patches of sky were clear to see by the time the intermediate class hit the track for the first time on Saturday. The mostly dry surface seemed to revive Marcel Schrotter, who faded in a rainy FP2 after an exceptional FP1 in the dry. The Dynavolt rider secured top spot in the session after a handful of laps and stayed fastest as spots of rain returned in the final 13 minutes of FP3.

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2018 Silverstone MotoGP FP3 Result: Home Laurels For Crutchlow

With overnight rain leaving some damp patches spread over the length of the circuit it was a cautious start to proceedings for the premier class. A dry line courtesy of Moto3 was available but it was a couple of seconds slower than Friday to begin with and it looked doubtful that any improvements with Q2 in sight were on the cards. Nonetheless, most of the grid was out straight away to put in the laps on used rubber – with the exception of the factory Ducatis, who played it safe for the first ten minutes and let their rivals test the conditions first.

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2018 Silverstone Moto3 FP3 Result: Kornfeil Tops Damp Morning

After Silverstone gave the first rain recital on Friday afternoon, the second morning at the track started with the infamous bumps covered in damp patches. The action was slow to start and most of the lightweight class riders only went out after the slight sun encouraged them to play and help dry out the surface. Times were nowhere near Friday’s benchmark but riders were getting faster as conditions improved significantly in the final ten minutes of the session.

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2018 Silverstone MotoGP Friday Round Up: A Bumpy Track, A Yamaha Revival, And A Voice From Space

For the past couple of months, the UK, along with the rest of Northern Europe, has been sweltering under one of the hottest summers in recent memory. That, of course, was before MotoGP arrived. The arrival of Grand Prix racing brought an abrupt end to the British summer, with temperatures struggling to get anywhere near the 20° mark. Add in a strong and blustery wind, and a late shower in the afternoon, and the MotoGP paddock faces a very different prospect to recent weeks. And let's not talk about the heavy rain which is forecast for Sunday.

Before the bikes took to the track, there had been much talk of just how bumpy the new surface would be. On Thursday, the riders were wary, wanting to ride the track at speed before making a judgment. After Friday, the verdict was pretty devastating. For the majority of the riders, the bumps are worse, if anything.

"Everybody expected the new asphalt to give us a good track and it was a disaster," Marc Márquez commented. "It was worse than last year, better grip but many bumps." In Spanish, he joked that he hoped the contractor had not sent a bill yet. Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro was even more vehement than Márquez. "Sincerely I don't understand what happened. I’ve never seen something like this. Many times this year we have pushed in the safety commission to make new asphalt in tracks that are much better than this! It’s a shame because Silverstone is a really nice track; very long with a lot of fast corners but I am more trying to avoid a crash and the bumps than being competitive."

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2018 Silverstone Moto2 FP2 Result: Marquez Leads Before Downpour

If Moto3 escaped with only a hint of rain and MotoGP dodged the threat altogether, the intermediate class got stuck with the late summer shower after only a couple of laps on the board. The rain flags came out barely five minutes into the session and the riders sought refuge in the pitlane for the following twenty minutes.

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