Phillip Island, Australia
The elements prevailed in the end. The weather gods threw rain and wind at the Phillip Island circuit on Friday, and after showing their power to pose real peril to the riders, the riders and Dorna surrendered to a power greater than them. The very strong gusting wind was just too dangerous to make riding at the Australian circuit safe.
Miguel Oliveira's crash was the last straw. The Red Bull KTM Tech3 rider was caught out by the changing wind in the early part of FP4, got pushed wide on the entry to the terrifyingly fast first corner, and took a massive tumble through the gravel. It looked like a huge crash, and Oliveira was very lucky to come away with no broken bones, though he had heavy bruising on his arm and hand.
"I was slipstreaming Zarco and at that point I was a little bit more close to the left side of the track," Oliveira said. "And from the morning to the afternoon the wind just completely changed the way and was really sideways going onto the straight. I rolled off to let Johann pass and when I braked, I braked completely sideways and the wind just pushed me out of the track."
Strong winds have forced Dorna to cancel qualifying for the MotoGP class at Phillip Island. Wind with gusts of over 70km/h made conditions impossible during FP4, and after Miguel Oliveira suffered a massive crash at Turn 1, blown off line and onto the grass, an impromptu meeting of the Safety Commission voted to cancel qualifying, deeming it too dangerous to continue.
The heavy wind gusts had brought out the red flags halfway through FP4. Initially, it appeared that this was due to pitboard numbers being blown onto the track along the front straight, but it soon became clear that it was because of the strong winds which had caused Red Bull KTM Tech3 rider Miguel Oliveira to crash.
After rain threw a spanner (or several) in the works for the qualifying sessions preceding FP4, the premier class were thankful for some dry track time without the stress of rain flags. However, the stress of troublesome winds was still firmly there and after a scarily fast crash for Miguel Oliveira at Doohan Corner and some pitboard signs blown across the finish straight, the red flag came out and an ad hoc safety commission was convened.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Phillip Island:
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class at Phillip Island:
The premier class got the worst of the conditions on Saturday morning, drops of rain touching the surface of a track that was already ice cold and getting relentlessly blasted by wind. The first victim of the conditions was Jack Miller’s pitboard, which went on a bit of a stroll on the main straight and caused an early red flag in the process. The unusual occurrences continued with Joan Mir taking a tumble on pitlane entry but proceedings quickly resumed once Pramac Ducati and Suzuki retrieved their respective belongings.
In addition to cold wind giving viewers motion sickness from watching unsteady cameras, the intermediate class had the added complication of dark clouds gathering above them throughout the session. That only served to rush riders along in pursuit of a Q2 worthy time and early signs were more encouraging than for Moto3, Jorge Navarro’s early benchmark only three tenths of a second off Friday’s top time. However, further progress was halted for the middle part of the session, when riders retreated to pitlane as the wind picked up and a very light drops grazed visors.
Four seasons in one day. That's how they describe the weather at Phillip Island, and that's exactly what MotoGP got on Friday. Jack Miller's day summed up conditions nicely. "It was quite windy early as the doors were nearly blown off my house," the Pramac Ducati rider said. "Then it started calming down, then bucketing down, and believe it or not I was sitting out having a coffee at 6:30 this morning in a t-shirt as it was 18 or 19 degrees and then as I was driving to my parents’ house the temperature started going down and down and then the rain came in. I thought it would be set in for the day but it managed to clear up this afternoon and we managed to get on the slick tires."
In the end, the MotoGP riders got three session in different conditions. FP1 was cold, wet, and blustery. FP2 was warm, dry, and fairly sunny. And the special tire test session, to put the final touch on the new construction rear tire Michelin wants to introduce in 2020 was cooler, with temperatures dropping.
Those changing conditions had a fairly significant impact. First, it meant the MotoGP teams were trying to cram an entire weekend's worth of setup work and tire testing into 35 minutes, followed by chasing a time for Q2 in the final 10 minutes. Even Marc Márquez, who never stresses about chasing a time for Q2, stuck in a soft tire in pursuit of a quick lap, nearly losing out when he found his teammate Jorge Lorenzo sitting on the line through the final two corners.
Not quite the Titanic spin-off predicted 24 hours ago but although the lightweight class escaped another downpour, they could not dodge the cold and the wind. A few riders took to the track all wrapped up and resigned to the idea that the Q2 ship has sailed but keen to work towards the race, while some were in no hurry to aggravate injuries or risk new ones in the challenging conditions.