2006 Qatar MotoGP Warmup - An Oil Spectacular

MotoGP warm-ups are generally fairly uneventful, and unspectacular affairs. The only time they are of any real interest is if it's been dry during practice, and it's raining on race day. Today's warmup at Qatar was, if not meaningful, at least spectacular.

Stoner was fastest (again) during the 20 minute session, though with a much slower 1:58, and it looked like being a fairly typical session, with people riding around looking for last minute adjustments, when, with 5 minutes to go, Vermeulen's Suzuki blew up in a most spectacular way, halfway down the main straight, clouds of oil streaming out from behind him, made worse by the very strong headwind blowing almost directly down the straight.

Hopkins was the first victim, running straight into the gravel trap as he lost grip and couldn't brake in time for the first right-hander at the end of the straight. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that the bikes are doing around 325 kph at the end of the straight, and have to brake very hard to get into the first corner. Vermeulen immediately came rushing back along the gravel trap, towards the straight, waving his arms wildly, whilst Hopkins, stuck on his Suzuki in the gravel, joined in the Oil Flag Dance. The officials, unfortunately, were not so quick, and seconds later, Nakano joined the Bridgestone party in the gravel. Eventually, after what seemed like about a minute, the organisation got it together, and the officials red-flagged the session.

It was a rather comical, and worrying spectacle: the officials all rushed out to grab Hopkins bike in the gravel, but had no idea that there was a bunch of oil on the track, despite the vast cloud of oil which had emerged from Vermeulen's bike. Hopkins could later be heard commenting to his pit crew "they're asleep".

The clean up operation was hampered by the strong wind. Imagine trying to spread concrete dust on a particular spot with a 35 kph head wind, and I'm sure you'll see the problem. Plenty of dust was being used, but it was refusing to stay in place.

20 minutes later, the session resumed, with Stoner just improving his time, and staying fastest. The concrete dust seems to have worked, as there were no incidents, and the start of the 125 cc race seemed untroubled by any oil contamination.

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