Álex Rins, one of the riders who crashed in Saturday afternoon's Free Practice 4, said it all: "When I left the box, on the first out lap I saw that the straight was covered in water, but I thought it must be okay because Race Direction would have put the red flag out if it was very dangerous. But when I arrived at full gas, the bike was aquaplaning and I saw the wall coming. So I decided to jump off the bike, and then many other riders crashed there."

In addition to Rins, Franco Morbidelli and Tito Rabat crashed in the same place, Rabat badly breaking a leg and requiring helicopter transport and a long operation.

Álex Rins
Álex Rins was one of the numerous riders to crash at Silverstone before the cancellation due to rain.Courtesy of Suzuki Racing

Morbidelli said, “The rest of the track was almost dry, but when we reached there (T7) it was hell. Then I just lost the front.”

Aquaplaning or hydroplaning occurs when the pressure generated by the fast-moving tire in rapidly pushing a wedge of water ahead of it and to either side lifts the tire off the pavement on a nearly frictionless film of water. The vehicle—car, truck, aircraft, or motorcycle—loses directional control.

The straightaway before Stowe Corner (turn 7) is long so the approach is fast. During hydroplaning brakes and steering have no effect. Not a good combination.

Marc Márquez said, "I go out of the box in FP4 and luckily I close the gas in the middle of the straight because there was so much water. I arrived at turn 7 and the aquaplaning was amazing. And the rain was only on those three corners.

“The problem is the bumps. The water is [dammed up among] the bumps, and then you have aquaplaning where you don’t expect.”

Rained out
Riders waited on the grid for word from Race Direction if the race would go or not.Courtesy of Yamaha Motor Racing

Valentino Rossi said, "Tito crashed and the bike of Franco hit Tito. When the asphalt is normally wet the grip is not so bad. The problem [here] is that the water does not drain and so it stays on the top and there is aquaplaning."

Andrea Iannone: “With the rain it will not be possible to race. In fact, large puddles are created. Unfortunately the asphalt does not drain and a lake is formed.”

The predicted rain began after morning warm-up, and a series of announcements were made regarding track inspections and possible delayed start times. Those times became later and later until there was no longer any possibility of racing. All three events—MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3—were canceled.

Weather delay at Silverstone
The reason for the delay and ultimate cancellation of the Silverstone round of MotoGP.Courtesy of Yamaha Motor Racing

The track was resurfaced this past February and initial rider reactions were positive regarding grip, negative regarding the many bumps that somehow survived the paving process.

Silverstone’s longer turns reward bikes with high midcorner speed and/or edge grip. In the first three practices the Ducatis, Yamahas, and especially Cal Crutchlow were strong. A bumpy surface is always a problem for a very stiff bike, suggesting a reason Márquez did not display his usual “buoyancy” in the practice standings (10th in FP1, fourth in FP2, ninth in FP3, third in warm-up).

Crutchlow (fifth in FP1, second in FP2, first in FP3, fifth in warm-up) said, “I wanted the front row or pole position (he qualified fourth). But I did the best I could with the package that we have and the bike we have at the moment. As we know, the Honda moves a lot, the bike slides a lot, and when we have the wet tire on a drying track it makes it slide a lot again.”

Ducatis staying dry
Ducatis sat idle under rain covers as the rain fell.Courtesy of Ducati

Márquez prefers a stiff chassis because it is most stable in hard braking and corner entry—two essential elements of his riding style. On bumpy surfaces, stiff bikes “move around a lot.” Or, as Crutchlow put it a few races ago, “We blow the middle of the corner.” So far, no design team has solved the problem of combining high braking stability with corner speed.

Maverick Viñales and Rossi, fresh from Misano, testing possible electronic solutions to their long-running problem with initial acceleration, were 1-2 in FP1 but descended to 11th and 12th in wet qualifying.

Jorge Lorenzo qualified on pole with Andrea Dovizioso 0.16 second behind so it seemed this might be the “Silverstone wrecking crew.”

Rubber duckies
The only suitable rubber for the 2018 British GP.Courtesy of Suzuki Racing

We’ll never know because that set of possibilities sank beneath the waves in turns 6, 7, and 8. An estimated 90,000 fans and the riders and teams who very much wanted to race before them went home disappointed.