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GP Week : Issue 135
You can picture the scene. Aragon’s Motorland circuit is a fine and fully equipped modern facility, and with the MotoGP class about to go out for the second free practice session, when suddenly the lights went out. And life came to a stop. No TV monitors, no CCTV, no radio communications to the marshals, no electronic timing equipment. No go. One transformer had failed; the second was “unstable”. Replacement was the only option. Perhaps this should have been foreseen by the organisers. As it was, the remote location meant it took a couple of hours before a spare was installed and everything up and running again. By then, free practice two had been cancelled, and the clockwork progress of the meeting wrecked. It was considered a catastrophe. At least by those new-century types, who have no idea of what sort of difficulties GP racers had to soldier through, when the loss of power was the least of the problems. Like the time, at the 1989 US GP, when the power went down good and proper, and practice times were distributed in hand-written format. Trouble was, they didn’t necessarily agree with the teams’ own times, also taken by hand. There have been many overtones of amiable shambles at Laguna Seca over the years, and the timing system has fallen short at least once since then. But 1989 stands out because it had also an undercurrent of horror. It was a week after the inaugural Australian GP, and everyone had crossed the date line and been jet- lagged into a state of bug-eyed numbness – from riders and pit staff to the FIM blazer boys. And the bikes were late, so that the first free practice (they ran Thursday afternoons back then) was cancelled. The jet lag surely contributed to a high number of crashes, the last on the cool-down lap, when Australian Kevin Magee stopped to do a burn-out, and was hit from behind by US dirt-track multi-champion Bubba Shobert. The Texan eventually recovered from life- threatening head injuries but never raced again; Magee suffered a badly broken leg. A Lucky Strike Suzuki team guy was with Kevin as they loaded him into the ambulance, whereupon the driver turned round and asked: “Which way to the hospital, buddy?” The most entertaining muck-ups – only in retrospect, of course – centre on Latin America. Without even having to mention the run of three races at San Carlos, in the Venezuelan hinterland. A bumpy track, rudimentary pits and a dearth of local accommodation (Barry Sheene’s factory Suzuki team was adopted by the local fire brigade, and dossed down in the fire- house dormitory.) made it a nightmare start to the years from 1977 to 1979. But it was in the F750 class rather than in GPs that the local lap-scorers lost count during the race, an error that cost the late Gary Nixon the World Championship. San Carlo is old history. But with WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT? A mysterious power outage affected practice at last week’s Aragon MotoGP. But, as Michael Scott explains, there’s been worse! 40