Bikers hoping for dry races
Meryl Chow in Shanghai
Riders and promoters will have an eye on the skies for the Chinese Grand Prix of the MotoGP World Championship this weekend.
Memories are still fresh of a rain-drenched weekend last May in the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix, where riders skidded on safety shoulders and the sparsely filled stands embarrassed those who put together the world's premier motorcycling competition's China debut.
Official statistics then declared only 25,348 fans turned out at the 150,000-capacity circuit to witness Valentino Rossi take the crown in the torrential rain. Many local motorcycling buffs, said organisers, 'were deterred by the elements'. No figures for ticket sales have been released for this event.
But it seems bad weather may once again make an appearance with precipitation forecast for tomorrow and Sunday. The riders in the MotoGP, 250cc and 125cc classes start practice runs today.
'Last year the rain saved us a lot by causing quite some trouble to our opposition but this time I would definitely prefer a dry race,' said Rossi, the five-time world champion who this season is struggling find pace with his inconsistent Yamaha machine and trails 12 points behind championship leader Nicky Hyden in fifth position.
'The 2006 version Yamaha didn't work as well as we had hoped in the wet practice sessions in the Turkish Grand Prix two weeks ago and we need as much dry track time as possible to get the bike setting as I like it.'
Hyden, the Honda-equipped American who tops the standings one point ahead of Ducati's Loris Capirossi, said, although he would go all out to extend his margin, rain or shine, a dry race would help set the stage for a better show.
'A race in normal conditions will be more fun and hopefully draw a bigger crowd,' said Hyden.