Epic thunderstorms halt training in Abu Dhabi

Strong winds and rain cause local disruption

Nicolas Ivanoff stays calm in the storm

With the arrival of unseasonal thunderstorms hitting the Arabian Gulf around midday, today's planned training flights for the pilots were cancelled. Local news reports stated that winds reached up to 100kph – an exceptionally rare phenomenon in Abu Dhabi.

The normally calm water of the Corniche saw strong waves hitting the barges, but ultimately unable to move them from their moorings. A few of the 25m-high pylons suffered at the mercy of the conditions causing them to deflate on the floating steel barges.

With a second episode of severe weather expected later in the afternoon the offical Race Committee took the decision to cancel all flying sessions for today.

The strong wind and rain also caused the Abu Dhabi Education Council to close schools for "the protection of students and teachers in anticipation of the weather conditions." Road closures in the area are in place due to a number of road traffic accidents and fallen trees. Even the stock exchange halted trading.

Thunderstorms of this magnitude only happen every few years, say locals, but the Red Bull Air Race is well prepared as the race hangars and Race Tower are built to withstand winds in excess of 100kph.

Pilots will be eager to get back in the air tomorrow to gain as much valuable track time as possible before Friday's Qualifying round.