Silverstone boss Stuart Pringle is issuing apologies to spectators who purchased tickets because the MotoGP event/race was cancelled on Sunday. It’s assumed that the track will have to refund or make good on all of Sunday’s ticket purchases.
Apologies and refunds to spectators after the event are the easy part. The fact remains that the Silverstone MotoGP event was in trouble even before the heavens opened. The repaving of the Silverstone track only intensified the aggressiveness of the severe bumps on the track. And this was well known before practice started with F1 driver and motorcyclist Lewis Hamilton saying–well over a month ago–that the firm who carried out the Silverstone repaving were incompetent and did a very poor job. Hamilton was quoted as saying, again, over a month ago, that “MotoGP are screwed” at Silverstone and this was before rain came and it quickly became apparent the new blacktop did not drain water from the surface.
Pringles’ comments regarding the track after FP4 bordered on the incomprehensible or maybe a better way to put it is a “let them eat cake” level of arrogance. Pringle was widely quoted after FP4 stating that the track did not have a problem with drainage but the real problem was a particularly intense cloudburst, this even after on-board footage from the session clearly showed a scene where MotoGP bikes looked like motorcycles trying to navigate a river crossing at 190 mph.
After Tito Rabat crashed in the standing water, he got up to walk to a safer part of the gravel trap when he was struck by the crashing motorcycle of Franco Morbidelli. Alex Rins jumped off his bike so as to not collide with a wall then tried to signal the riders behind him that they were riding into peril (Marshalls?!). As the FP4 pandemonium played out on live global TV, video footage from the corner featured the sickening screams from Rabat, who had suffered a triple leg break–a broken tibia and fibula, and also a broken femur from the impact of Morbidelli’s bike. The scene in that corner looked like one from a war. The Rins kid had pupils so big you could measure them with a ruler, and the 1000 yard stare of someone who had seen something unspeakable. Rabat was screaming like a combat soldier who just had his leg shot out from under him.
It rains frequently in the UK, and not having a track prepared for a dumping of rain is, in hindsight, almost criminally negligent. Rabat suffered possible career-ending injuries and multiple riders crashed in that session basically because Silverstone didn’t think to bring a hose to the newly re-paved circuit and flood the new blacktop in order to test how well the track drained water. This is simply so incredibly negligent that it beggars belief that it actually went down that way.
Silverstone’s surreal and at times horrifying scene all played out within the small bubble of the UK’s MotoGP media. Meaning few from the large group of UK media entities and personalities were willing to strongly and openly criticize the circumstances that led to a young Spanish rider laying in the gravel screaming in pain, with his leg smashed and broken. Where were the expose’s on the broken process which led to not knowing how the track surface would react to a hard rainstorm, a not rare occurrence in the UK?
“I don’t want to say anything bad about Silverstone …” the normally very outspoken Cal Crutchlow said to start one of his very seemingly carefully worded statement about the situation.
If these events had played out at any non-UK racetrack, say, for example America, there is little doubt the reaction from much of the British press would have been drastically different. There would have been exposes on both the ineptitude of the track management and the flawed if not criminally negligent process which allowed a global motorsports entity to go to a racetrack where the surface was an unknown, or ignored, entity. The “let them eat cake” statements from Silverstone’s boss, if they had had been uttered by a US track boss, certainly would have prompted the UK media to call for his resignation and for multiple column inches to be spread with reports of bumbling Americans who know nothing about racing and should not be in the racing business. Instead, the UK media seem to have successfully spun their critical focus after the Silverstone debacle to arguing with the few idiots who feel the riders should have raced in the rain, and reports of Pringle’s apologies to the ticket buying fans. Where is the demand for his resignation? The call for an overview of how it is that MotoGP bikes are allowed to race on new blacktop without anyone testing it in all too common conditions for the area?
Sunday August 26 was a sad and humbling day for British motorsport. Not that you’d know it from reading much of the UK’s own statements on the subject, of course. Anyone with eyes–and ears to hear poor Rabat screaming and crying in anguish–could see that Silverstone, the home of British motorsport, was amateur-hour exacerbated by an almost incomprehensible level of ignorance, or was it arrogance?
I wonder how bad it would have had to get in order for an honest media reaction to develop? Would it take Rossi crashing instead of Rabat and being struck by a flying bike? Someone being killed?
Silverstone’s boss man Stuart Pringle should have his office cleaned out and he should be fired. He should never work in motorsports again.
Smilin’ Loris Capirossi, who seemingly can’t have his photo taken enough, is clearly not qualified to work in race direction. He, along with anyone else in an on-site administrative role who were taken by surprise when it began to rain (in England!) and they did not know how the new blacktop was going to react needs to be broomed.
If they are dumb enough to ask why, play them the audio of Tito Rabat screaming in pain and anguish.
The tragedy is that it was all very avoidable.