Czech Grand Prix, Brno: Raceday roundup – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) threw down the gauntlet to his Championship rivals in the Czech GP, with the race declared wet but the track quickly drying at the start – conditions made for a tactical masterstroke for those willing to gamble. And that’s exactly what the number 93 pulled off. A second consecutive victory saw him grow his Championship lead, with teammate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) closing in on those above him in the standings with an impressive ride into second – taking his 150th podium. Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) managed to stage an impressive charge back up through the field to complete the rostrum, limiting the damage caused by pitting later and keeping himself second in the standings.
With the field all on wets, Marquez got away in the lead at lights out, but a storming start for Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) from fifth saw him then moving through for the lead on Lap 1. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) slotted into P3, with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) just besting Pedrosa to take fourth.
Lorenzo began to pull away with a good gap as Rossi swooped through on both Dovizioso and Marquez to take second, and a dry line was already appearing. The number 93 was dropping through the field and then dived into the pits as the first to try the switch to slicks – struggling on the softer tyre and taking the gamble early.
Rossi was hunting down Lorenzo as the track was drying and drying, before the ‘Spartan’ headed in – as did many of the front group. Meanwhile, Marquez was on a charge setting red sector after red sector back out on slicks, and it appeared he’d played his hand to perfection.
As the deck shuffled, he was soon taking the lead – and proving his decision to pit a tactical masterstroke as the dust settled and the gap back to P2 was around 20 seconds.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo was delayed in the pits as the riders around him – including Viñales – streamed out, with Rossi and Dovizioso steadfastly remaining out longer until both diving in together.
Viñales got the hammer down from the mid-pack as everyone shuffled back out on track, slowly starting to reel in those ahead of him. Picking them off one-by-one, the rider from Roses finally battled past Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) to make it into some clear air, some six seconds off Pedrosa in second and the podium seeming decided. Pedrosa, meanwhile, ate a good number of seconds off Marquez’ lead, more than secure in P2.
Slightly further back, Dovizioso had a simple mission: after both pitting late, the Italian needed to stay as close to compatriot Rossi as possible. Close on points in the Championship, ‘DesmoDovi’ managed some good damage limitation in managing to stay close enough, but Rossi kept the upper hand.
With Cal Crutchlow the last man in between the ‘Doctor’ and his teammate Viñales as they honed in on the top four, Rossi got his head down and pushed on – eventually catching the Brit and able to get past him on the final lap. Dovizioso followed the number 35 home and took P6, close but not quite able to shadow his compatriot over the line.
Petrucci took a solid result in seventh after losing grip in the latter stages, ahead of Aleix Espargaro after a penalty for an unsafe release in pit lane saw the Spaniard move back three places.
There was a rockstar performance in P9, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) crossing the line only two tenths off his older brother, taking a stunning result in a tough race and bringing some good points home for the Austrian factory.
Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) completed the top ten, with the German rookie slicing back through the field and escaping the clutches of fellow rookie Alex Rins. Folger had been well outside the points, and Rins’ result was the culmination of a promising weekend for the Spaniard as he comes back from injury – the second rookie home and ahead of Zarco, who was twelfth.
Karel Abraham (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) was running much further up for the initial stages until the pack shuffled around him, but the Czech rider nevertheless took solid points at home in P13. Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was fourteenth after a more difficult weekend.
Jorge Lorenzo, after leading early on, found his delay in the pit lane costly. The five-time World Champion put in a good comeback, however, moving through from outside the top twenty to complete the points in fifteenth – bridging some big gaps along the way.
The next stop on the calendar will be heartening for Lorenzo and the Ducati team, as MotoGP™ heads to Austria – a track that suits the ‘Desmosedici’ like no other. And despite Marquez’ domination at Brno, everything remains very much an open book – with Viñales, Rossi, Dovizioso and Pedrosa still in hot pursuit ahead of next weekend’s visit to the Red Bull Ring.
Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) took a near-perfect win in a shortened six-lap sprint for the Moto2™ field in the Czech GP, carving out a five second advantage in almost the same number of laps to head Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) across the line. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completed the podium, with Championship leader Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) coming home in P8.
In the initial race, Oliveira got the best start off the line, but Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) soon struck back on the first lap to take the lead – leaving the KTM to duel Morbidelli. Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) made a good start to soon slot into fifth, with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) tagged onto the back to make a lead group of six.
Then the rain began to fall, and as the frontrunners began to raise their hands, the Red Flag came out. It would be the Quick Restart procedure, sadly missing Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP), who crashed ahead of the flag, and Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing), whose bad luck continued after contact on Lap 1 saw him out of contention.
Full points awarded – and a six lap sprint.
The grid was formed from the standings on the last lap before the Flag, putting Pasini back on pole. As the lights went out and all eyes turned on the front row, Lüthi stole the limelight as he made the start of the century, taking the holeshot from seventh on the grid. Alex Marquez slotted into second, before drama hit just behind soon after as Pasini then slid out, bringing his 200th GP start to a sadly premature end.
As Lüthi bolted, Marquez followed and it was Oliveira on the chase – with Morbidelli getting swamped in the mad dash. Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team), Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing), Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) and Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) all flew past the points leader, with a battle of the rookies between Brad Binder and Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) raging behind him.
Alone at the front, it was near-perfection from Lüthi, who simply disappeared into the distance to cross the line almost five seconds clear: a stunning 25 point haul sending shockwaves through the title fight. Marquez took an impressive second on his return from injury after a similarly faultless performance in the tough conditions, with Oliveira just unable to chase down the rider from Cervera and forced to settle for completing the podium.
Marini took P4 ahead of Vierge in their best ever results, with Corsi behind and able to create some fresh air between himself and Bagnaia. Holding onto P8 all eyes were on Morbidelli, but he managed to salvage some solid points on the tough sprint to the finish.
Completing the top ten were two more candidates for joining Lüthi for ride of the day, with Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) charging up into ninth to impress for his best ever result – but in tenth was an incredible debut. Joe Roberts (AGR Team), in his first ever Moto2™ World Championship race, moved up from P28 to take P10 and his first six points – an unbelievable rookie ride for which FP1’s wet pace laid the foundations.
Jorge Navarro took a solid P11 after a good weekend, with Brad Binder back on the hunt after a tough first half to the season with injuries to take P12. Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) was thirteenth after a great showing, followed home by another impressive rookie – Khairul Idham Pawi (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia). Malaysian Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) completed the points scorers.
After the mad dash of Brno, Moto2™ now head for the hills of Austria and the Red Bull Ring – where Lüthi began his Championship charge in earnest last year.
Championship leader Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) has extended his advantage after a wet weather showdown at Brno, staying in contention throughout before holding off Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) as it came down to a duel. The weather was wet as the lights went out, with the track then drying more and more as the laps ticked on. The podium was completed by Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) after an almighty fight between the Spaniard, compatriot Juanfran Guevara (RBA BOE Racing Team) and Dutchman Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo).
Polesitter Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Racing Team) got a great start from pole, with Guevara moving up from P3 to follow his teammate through Turn 1. Mir attacked Fenati into the first corner, but the Italian held firm initially before the field began to settle in and some began to struggle, some to shine.
John McPhee (British Talent Team) had a fantastic initial charge from P19 into the top ten, with wildcard Tim Georgi (Freudenberg Racing Team) making up even more ground and soon battling the Scot. Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) was the highest-placed initial charger, however, as the Thai rider made it up into the top four and was the fastest man on track.
Up ahead, Guevara had taken off in the lead dueling Bendsneyder; the two clear of Mir in P3. The Majorcan, in turn, was under pressure from Atiratphuvapat and Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate). Fenati was a further second back, leading another group as the field proved more spread out than the usual Moto3™ dry showdown.
As the track dried out, however, a top group of four saw Bendsneyder, Guevara, Fenati and Mir off at the front – but there was a charge coming from behind. Canet, who started P17, was gaining more and more speed as the conditions improved. Mir made a break for it, followed by Fenati, leaving Canet to fight it out for the podium against Bendnseyder and Guevara, taking the honours to complete his stunning comeback.
John McPhee was another who made incredible progress, gaining thirteen places by the flag to take a top six. Marcos Ramirez came home just over a second off McPhee, just ahead of Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse).
Adam Norrodin (SIC Racing Team) charged hard too, taking ninth ahead of Thai rider Atiratphuvapat as both shone in the difficult conditions. Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) took positive P11, with Albert Arenas (Aspar Mahindra Moto3) slicing through the field into twelfth.
Philip Oettl (Südmetall Schedl GP Racing) faded slightly from an initial top ten placing to come home in thirteenth, only 0.005 ahead of an awesome assault through the field from Dennis Foggia (Platinum Bay Real Estate) into P14. The group headed by Oettl crossed the line almost in tandem, with thousandths separating Oettl from Foggia, Ayumu Sasaki (SIC Racing Team), Tony Arbolino (SIC58 Sqaudra Corse) and Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) in seventeenth.
Tim Georgi, after his wet weather heroics, just lost out in the closing stages as the track dried but nevertheless took a solid P18 within good sight of the points – and certainly made waves in both FP1 and the early stages of the race.
Next is Austria, where Mir took his first ever victory last season – and we don’t have to wait long, with action getting underway on Friday.