The cloud of volcanic ash which hangs invisibly over Northern Europe has claimed its first victim in the shape of a major sporting event. The disruption and cancellation of 80% of flights around Europe has caused the Motegi round of MotoGP, due to take place next Sunday, April 25th, to be canceled and rescheduled for October 3rd.
Reports of problems started to emerge earlier this weekend, as MotoMatters.com reported yesterday. Teams - most of whom are based in Europe, and were therefore caught up in the air travel chaos - reported they were monitoring the situation closely, hoping for improvement, and trying to reschedule flights as soon as possible. Dorna had even gone so far as to charter two wide body jets, capable of flying 600 people to Japan directly, to avoid teams getting caught up in the snarl of international air traffic.
But last night, according to GPOne.com, Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta started phoning round team bosses to investigate whether the teams could get enough of their staff to Spain and Italy to fly out to Japan. But there were some teams for whom even this would be impossible, and it was decided to call off the entire event. Contacting team managers, team members and everyone involved has been extremely difficult, as even MotoGP teams like to have a weekend off. Indeed, our own attempts to contact teams has proven difficult, with only some teams managing to respond to your requests, and conflicting information from those who did reply. Eventually, though, it became clear that the event had been canceled.
The rescheduling of the race will not meet with much enthusiasm in the paddock, however. Running the Japanese Grand Prix on October 3rd will put all three flyaway races on back-to-back weekends once again, leaving the teams and riders facing long haul flights from Japan to Malaysia, then from Malaysia to Australia on two consecutive Mondays. That grueling travel schedule, combined with time zone shifts, makes it difficult for teams and riders to perform at the level they need to for a MotoGP weekend. The alternative - complete cancellation, and another year of 17 Grand Prix - would not have been acceptable, however.