MotoGP’s return to Argentina hasn’t exactly gone to plan this year.
Cargo delays mean that at the time of writing most people in the MotoGP paddock, journalists and fans are checking speed cameras and flight trackers to keep up to date with the missing cargo plane. And people who don’t watch flight trackers constantly update Twitter to get updates from people who watch flight trackers.
Like most people looking at flight trackers today, I have no idea what that really means. All I know is that if the cargo arrives relatively early, the run will be good, and if not, the run might not be good.
With no knowledge of what flight trackers mean or show, and a lack of desire to learn that information, a look at this week’s MotoGP stat sheet has become the obvious thing to make.
It shows that the 1961 Argentine Grand Prix was the first World Motorcycle Championship race to be held outside of Europe.
That year, the race was held in Buenos Aires on October 15, a month after the final European round of the season in Kristianstad, Sweden.
Even still, not everyone went to the first two-wheeled flying Grand Prix, including that year’s 500cc world champion Gary Hocking, and the premier class race was won by local rider Jorge Kissling on a Matchless.
The 125cc race was more eventful, however, as Ernst Degner did not race, meaning Tom Phillis was able to win the race and the championship, Honda’s first Grand Prix title.
It’s hard to imagine the logistical challenges of transporting a motorcycle and a Grand Prix team to South America in 1961, but given that the Boeing 747 was the first aircraft capable of transporting pallets of cargo complete and only built in 1968, it was probably quite difficult. Hard enough that most wouldn’t care, with the title already wrapped up, anyway.
The situation facing the Motocross World Championship two weeks ago when it raced in Neuquén was similar. While the premier class MXGP gate was filled fairly decently with local riders, the MX2 gate suffered with just 15 riders lining up for the restarted second race on Sunday.
So in a way it was actually the opposite situation of 1961, with the upper class better represented than the lower class.
Anyway, the problem for MXGP was that the European-based teams saw no benefit in transporting their bikes, riders and everything else to Argentina for a weekend, only to bring everything back to Europe a week later. late in time for the Portuguese GP which takes place this weekend (April 2-3).
In 2022 it was seen as something embarrassing for a world championship to have even satellite level teams and riders not showing up (even the factory beta team originally planned to skip Argentina, and in the end they only went with a rider).
Previously, the Argentine round had either been followed by Mexico on the MXGP calendar or was the season opener. This made the GP more logistically logical for the teams, as the Argentinian race was part of a two-race American swing, rather than two days of blasting through the volcanic land of Patagonia sandwiched between two stints of 40 hour trip; or as a season opener, the race took on greater significance.
But, while there was a precedent for MXGP in Argentina this year, in 1961, there was none. No one had been outside of Europe before, and so that was what it was.
Similarly, there is little precedent for teams’ cargo not showing up, although it’s not the first time such misfortune has happened to a world championship in 2022. When F1 was due to be tested at Bahrain, the Haas team saw their cargo blocked Turkey. The answer in this case was for F1 to give back to Haas the time lost due to a situation beyond his control.
Likewise, MotoGP did the only logical thing this weekend by canceling Friday’s action and creating a hectic Saturday in which all practice and qualifying for both classes will take place. Hopefully there won’t be a need for a red flag tomorrow, as there isn’t much room for things to be pushed back as they are.
What the situation has created is an interesting experience. Without a doubt, the Argentine race in 1961 was somewhat experimental. This is always the case when trying something new. Then the experiment clearly worked, as air racing became an integral part of the MotoGP world championship (pandemic permitting).
Now, in 2022, the MotoGP World Championship will be able to experience the two-day weekend.
Formula 1 tried it two years ago at Imola, and it didn’t have much effect. Mercedes won, as they have done most of the time in 2020. But the pace of the weekend was more exciting. Rather than having a day of nothing on Friday before things got more serious for qualifying on Saturday, Friday was scrapped and the focus of the weekend was immediately on qualifying.
The difference for MotoGP is that it doesn’t have the problem that Fridays don’t make sense, due to the importance of being in the top 10 for Q2. Adverse conditions on Saturday morning present the possibility that FP2 is the best time to get a hot lap, and every driver – usually – feels the need to seize this opportunity.
So Fridays in MotoGP are exciting. But are they essential? The obvious answer is “yes”, but how much of that is because we’re used to it? And how much does the news cost? Well, we should find out tomorrow. But, in the meantime, back to the flight tracker.