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GP Week : Issue 79
intervention of freak weather, was only last year. The desert of Qatar produced out of nowhere a flooding storm right as the MotoGP grid formed up. It was already late at night, and it only took a couple of hours for the event to be called off. But it was almost immediately rescheduled for the next day, so it hardly counts. But there have been countless occasions when the weather has played mayhem, causing races to be curtailed, although never actually abandoned. As recently as 2008. The inaugural Indianapolis GP was hit by Hurricane Ike. Under lowering clouds and freshening winds, the MotoGP race was already under way, when vicious winds and lashing rain struck. Conditions became increasingly dangerous, with advertising hoardings flapping, and at one stage a whole concession stall threatening to blow across the track. After 20 of 28 laps (more than two thirds, and therefore enough to count as a full result) the race was called off, and riders thankfully fought their way through the storm and back to the pits. In 1995, a monsoon struck early in the 125 race at Shah Alam in Malaysia -- a track where existing problems included cobras and giant monitor lizards (Max Biaggi called them "crocodiles"). They slithered around for a bit, barely visible with the giant raindrops bouncing off the track, before the race was stopped. It was Australian Garry McCoy's first GP win, but with only 12 laps run it meant only half points. There were half points also for another extraordinary race -- the 500cc Belgian GP of 1989. The race was interrupted by rain, twice, and restarted twice. Afterwards, the FIM Stewards overruled the Clerk of the Course (one Claude Danis, now FIM delegate to the GP Commission) and declared the second restart invalid -- a decision still disputed to this day. The decision had a profound effect: Kevin Schwantz, for example, came second. He had crashed out of the third leg. There have been works-rider walkouts before races began -- those in Belgium in 1979 and at Nogaro in France 1982 stand out, if only for having privateer winners -- New Zealander Dennis Ireland and France's Michel Frutschi respectively. They came at a time of rider rebellion. Another start-line sit- in at Assen in the 1950s indirectly cost Geoff Duke another World Championship. And even a mid-race mass withdrawal -- the factory riders pulled out en masse when rain hit at Misano in 1989. Clouds of war have shadowed but not cancelled other events. The 1939 TT was run with international tension building in the run up to World War Two, which began in earnest within three months. And the Argentine GP of 1982 was won by Kenny Roberts just four days before the start of the Falklands War. Some things are even more dramatic than volcanoes. Moto GP FEATURE >> 29