On other occasions we have spoken about the logistical complexity of back-to-back races on the MotoGP calendar. Doing a couple of Grand Prix in a row in Europe is quite a challenge and forces the teams to overexert themselves in order to arrive on time and have everything ready and organized for the new race weekend. But when we talk about facing a transoceanic race, the challenge is even bigger and more complex.
For several decades, MotoGP has faced a long and complex voyage with what is known as the Asian triple-header, the journey between Japan, Australia, and Malaysia in just three consecutive weekends. Although these trips may appear to be confined to the same area, we must remember that these races are still located several thousand kilometres away from each other and many hours apart by plane, but it is something that is done so regularly and safely that it hardly catches our attention.
However, the MotoGP calendar has introduced some changes with the return of the Indonesia Grand Prix, which ended up being placed in the early part of the season, taking the Thailand event to the final stretch, where we already had the usual three races of the “Asian tour”. This forced Dorna to reorganize the calendar: the Aragon, Japan, and Thailand events have been placed consecutively, leaving a weekend of rest before the Australia and Malaysia events.
Taking all the MotoGP material from one side of the globe to the other is nothing new for the championship organization, which has been taking on this job for 30 years with enormous success. Everyone is on alert for possible moving complications. The journey from Indonesia to Argentina in March had various unforeseen circumstances that forced the first day of practice in Termas de Río Hondo to be suspended, due to the delay in the arrival of one of the aeroplanes carrying material.
That served as a learning curve and aroused interest in the logistics of MotoGP transcontinental travel. Curiously, it was the website that monitors flights that gained the most attention, as they saw their visits multiply in just a few days. On that occasion, the unforeseen circumstance arose from an aircraft that broke down during a technical stopover in Mombasa. The war between Russia and Ukraine further complicated the situation, as sanctions derived from this conflict have grounded a large part of the world’s cargo aircraft fleet. The logistics of transcontinental transport are a little more complex than other types of transport. If an aeroplane breaks down, you can’t get off and catch the next one, like you can do with a bus or metro. It is somewhat more complicated…
It may seem too risky to connect the Aragon and Japan races, but it made sense for the planning of the championship. So, at that point, Dorna decided to approach this move more conservatively in case any unforeseen circumstance were to arise, especially after the experience in moving material to Argentina.
Air traffic is always vulnerable when flying to Asia. One of the more comfortable direct routes, flying to Finland and from there, Japan, would mean flying into Russian airspace, so alternative routes, such as via Anchorage, Alaska to Tokyo, must be studied. In the end, an Asian route with one stop was chosen: two aeroplanes will stopover in Doha, Qatar and the other two in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, before continuing their flight to Japan.
As a first measure, it was decided that the Friday practice day in Motegi be limited to one, longer-than-usual session in the evening to give the teams extra time on the morning of Friday, 23 September to finish organizing their structures and assembling the bikes.
Hundreds of tonnes
Moving the MotoGP World Championship from one side of the planet to the other means moving hundreds of tonnes of material. In this case, four large cargo planes, Boeing 747 or similar, are necessary to be able to take everything: the bikes and team material – tools and spare parts, equipment for the boxes, equipment for the riders (helmets, suits, gloves, boots, etc., which make up a significant portion), as well as the organization’s material, which also represents a large amount of the tonnes to be transported.
The freight dynamics are no different from those of the last thirty years. Once the races finish in Aragon, the teams will be tasked with packing up the material, which in paddock jargon is called “packing boxes” because everything is stored in metal boxes for certain volumes and weights. If any rider has the misfortune of falling and damaging their bike, there will hardly be any time to repair it and it will be sent to Japan in its current state. So when the team opens the box in Motegi, they are going to have to work twice as hard to catch up.
All the packed and labelled material will be transported that same night in trucks from MotorLand to the Zaragoza airport, which is located around 100 kilometres from the circuit. Assuming there are no setbacks, the four cargo planes with the MotoGP paddock inside will take off from Zaragoza on Monday for Doha and Tashkent, where after carrying out their respective technical stopovers, will continue their journey to the Narita airport, in Tokyo, Japan, where they will land that Thursday. Dozens of trucks will await them there and take care of moving the boxes to Twin Ring Motegi. The circuit is around 150 kilometres from the airport, but it is a much slower and winding journey that what you can imagine. Because the freeway network in Japan isn’t very wide, the majority of the journey is on narrow conventional roads with many through towns and villages.
And once in Motegi, the teams will start the frenetic job of unpacking and assembling. Fortunately for the teams’ personnel, there are no hospitality services in the races outside Europe, so the work will focus on assembling the boxes and getting the bikes in running order. As we said at the start, for precaution and to give the teams more time, there will be no activity on Friday morning, and they will only have one somewhat-longer session on that first day. Those who come out on top with this big modification are us viewers who watch the Grand Prix from a distance, as we won’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to watch the Friday morning session live.
And once the bikes have started up, those responsible for the championship logistics will be able to take a sigh of relief… momentarily, because only two days later they will face a new challenge to pack up and send all the material to Thailand. Seeing where the first shipment travelled, this new move is a piece of cake!