10 motorsport events
that didn’t go to plan

Last weekend should have been the opening round of the Formula 1 World Championship in Australia. But the Melbourne event – which was cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak – is far from the only event to have been removed from the sporting calendar at short notice. Here are 10 more events that didn’t quite make it as planned, for a very wide variety of reasons.

10 motorsport events that didn’t go to plan 01

2008 Dakar Rally 

Just one day before the start, the endurance classic was cancelled because the organisers were not able to guarantee competitors’ safety in the light of several terrorist threats. The rally moved to South America the following year and has not run in Africa since – although the ‘Dakar’ name remains.

10 motorsport events that didn’t go to plan 02

1936 Le Mans 24 Hours 

The 14th Le Mans 24 Hours, scheduled for 1936, was cancelled due to a general strike in France, which was called after the election victory for the popular front. This meant that there was a lack of workers to convert the roads for race use, and also a lack of officials.

2011 Bahrain Grand Prix

This was meant to be Pirelli’s debut grand prix of the current era. But the ‘Arab Spring’ led to political unrest throughout the Middle East, which meant that the Bahrain race was called off and Australia resumed its traditional season-opening slot. Bahrain was back the following year.

10 motorsport events that didn’t go to plan 03

1982 South African Grand Prix

This race actually went ahead – but it very nearly didn’t. A row over superlicence conditions led to a drivers’ strike called by the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association. The drivers barricaded themselves into a hotel (where Elio de Angelis entertained them by playing the piano) but a last-minute compromise was eventually reached. One year before, the South African Grand Prix had actually been canned from the official calendar (it eventually ran as a non-championship race) due to an argument over dates.  

1999 Chinese Grand Prix

Bernie Ecclestone announced the very first Chinese Grand Prix as the second round of the 1999 championship, which would have been based at the Zhuhai circuit, previously used for GT racing. However, the FIA subsequently declared that the track didn’t meet the required standards, leading to the event’s cancellation before the season started.

1985 Belgian Grand Prix

The race was originally scheduled for 2 June, featuring new and costly rubberised asphalt at Spa, which was meant to improve grip in the wet. But when F1 arrived conditions were warm, which meant that the cars were already ripping up chunks of the hurriedly-laid asphalt during Friday practice. Despite hasty repair work overnight, the drivers declared that they had seen enough after just 25 minutes of running on Saturday. “It’s impossible to drive, let alone race,” reported Renault driver Derek Warwick. The Belgian Grand Prix was eventually postponed until September. 

10 motorsport events that didn’t go to plan 04

1990 Swedish Rally 

Some events have been cancelled in the past due to bad weather, but Sweden in 1990 was cancelled because the weather wasn’t bad enough. Without a decent layer of snow and ice to bite into, specialised snow tyres not only lose their studs and offer zero grip – which is dangerous enough as it is – but also cause considerable damage to the road surface.

1967 RAC Rally 

Foot and Mouth disease – which cripples livestock – caused the cancellation of the 1967 RAC Rally, amid fears that movement of cars and spectators across the country would promote the spread of the disease. Foot and Mouth reappeared in 2001 in the United Kingdom, forcing the cancellation of the Rally of Wales among other sporting events.

2019 Rally Australia

In an echo of what happened at the 2020 F1 season-opener, all the WRC teams arrived in Australia last year before heading home unexpectedly early, when the rally didn’t start. On this occasion, the cause was the bushfires that devastated the country.

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