This weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix is in danger of being canceled due to a typhoon sweeping through southwest Japan.
Typhoon Nanmadol was classified as a “violent” typhoon, Japan’s most severe tropical storm rating, and made landfall on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four major islands, on Sunday evening.
With wind gusts of up to 200 kilometers per hour, the Japan Meteorological Association issued a “special warning” from Monday, an alert level used only for the most extreme forecast conditions.
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Seven million people have been asked to seek shelter or to evacuate. 200,000 households are already without power, while up to 400 millimeters of rain are expected in some parts of the country.
Though the typhoon’s path is expected to travel north of the Motegi circuit through Tuesday before departing for the Pacific on Wednesday, the storm is causing disruption to air travel across the country, which could delay MotoGP’s arrival in the country in time for day one track action on Friday.
The sport has a tight four-day turnaround to fly more than 10,000 kilometers from Spain to Japan, but with the typhoon expected to pound the country through at least Wednesday, there’s a real risk cargo flights won’t be able to land in time for the weekend set up.
On Monday, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, the country’s two major airlines, canceled nearly 800 flights. More than 200 flights were canceled at the major airports in Tokyo and Osaka.
MotoGP cargo and personnel are expected to leave Europe for Tokyo between Monday and Tuesday.
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The sport had already canceled Friday morning practice for all categories amid the tight turnaround and after major cargo delays between Indonesia and Argentina earlier this year. A technical problem with a cargo flight to Termas de Río Hondo forced the organizers to cancel all Friday operations.
However, the additional half-day buffer may not be enough to account for typhoon delays when flights are only able to land late in the week.
To make matters worse, the Thai Grand Prix follows immediately after as the final leg of an ambitious triple-header race. Although the typhoon will be over by the end of the weekend, delays in air traffic could cause further problems.
speed week has reported that a representative from the International Road-Racing Teams Association is already traveling to Japan to warn of potential problems and allow for a smooth arrival should major delays occur.
By Sunday night talks had begun between MotoGP organizers, the teams and the circuit about contingency plans should flights fail to arrive as planned, with a force majeure cancellation reserved only for the worst-case scenario.
Postponing is not an option given the fullness of the calendar with five races scheduled in the seven weeks to Japan.
A cancellation would potentially benefit title leader Fabio Quartararo as Motegi’s long straights will be a boon for Ducati rival Francesco Bagnaia, although the Frenchman believes the large braking zones could shift the balance of power at least a little in his direction.
Quartararo leads Bagnaia in the title table by just 10 points but led the Italian on 91 points five races ago, with Ducati strong in the final half of the season.
The Japanese Grand Prix has been canceled for the past two years because of the pandemic, with the country remaining largely closed to foreign visitors until this year.
The race had previously been held continuously since 1987 when it was held at Suzuka, southwest of Nagoya, before finally moving to Motegi, around 150 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, in 2004.