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GP Week : Issue 79
FEARS that the cancellation of last weekend's Japanese GP would have a knock-on effect on Sunday's Spanish GP at Jerez were set to rest on Monday, when the first of three Jumbo-jets touched down at Seville with bikes and cargo from Japan. The Japanese race was called off with a week to go, and rescheduled for October 3, in response to an almost week-long shut-down of air space over most of Europe, because of volcanic dust from Iceland. With aircraft grounded riders and team personnel would have been unable to get to Japan for the race. But Dorna was in a double bind. Not only were the staff stranded around Europe, but the bikes and equipment were also stranded in Japan, having been flown out directly after the opening round in Qatar two weeks before. Cancellation of the race gave more time to return the bikes, but at the same time the backlog of passengers and cargo from the shut-down had left schedules in tatters, and caused real fears that the bikes might not get back to Spain in time for the race. By the weekend air traffic was moving again and air-space back to normal. By then, Dorna had already arranged three air-freighters, one flying via Siberia and Kazakhstan, the other two taking a more southerly route via Helsinki, and all prepared to divert to fly in the opposite direction, via America, if necessary. In the event, there were no hitches, with the first plane landing as scheduled at Seville on Monday, the other two expected on Tuesday. MotoGP travels with 270 tons of equipment in 600 cases. More than 100 bikes and associated team gear account for 180 tonnes, Dorna's TV gear another 50 tons. The rest includes advertising material, timing equipment and the BMW service cars and bikes. end that the event was off, and would be rescheduled in October 3, a week before the Malaysian GP. Teams' association IRTA chief Mike Trimby told GPWEEK: "Ninety percent of the teams were scheduled to fly out of northern Europe -- Paris, or Frankfurt or Schiphol."With the situation uncertain and plans for re-opening air space being deferred day by day, he said that Dorna would make a firm decision on Monday. In fact, Dorna had already decided to pull the plug, and teams were informed during the weekend that the race was to be postponed. The machines and equipment were already in Japan, having been air-freighted directly from Qatar the weekend before. But the riders and team personnel were missing. Dorna had a back-up plan in motion, with two wide-bodied jets on standby to take off from Istanbul. However, this was abandoned, in the face of continuing reports that the crisis showed no sign of lifting, and amid fears that the dust cloud might close the Turkish airport as well, even if the people were able to get there. The MotoGP event was the first major sporting fixture to be cancelled because of the air-traffic shut-down, but with travel chaos spreading world-wide it is unlikely to be the last, unless the crisis is rapidly resolved. The postponement means that the first European round, the Spanish GP at Jerez on May 2, becomes the second round. But the 18-race scheduled will be maintained, with the Motegi event now scheduled for the weekend before the Malaysian GP. This is followed a week later by the Australian round, meaning a gruelling schedule of three back-to-back flyaways at a time of the season when titles are likely to be resolved. MotoGP solves the double bind Bikes back in time for Jerez Moto GP news >> 13