Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky, Brno: Race weekend preview – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
It was an emphatic win at the Sachsenring for Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) when the whistle blew for half time on the season, and the number 93 took a 46-point lead into the summer break – fittingly, a 46-point lead over Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). But that was a signature venue for the Spaniard and this is Brno: a legendary racetrack carved into the hillsides of the southern Czech Republic with one of the most spectacular stadium sections in the world. And here, it’s not Marquez who has reigned.
To give the grid some respite from the onslaught of Marquez’ glory, there almost couldn’t be a better track to attack next. The six-time World Champion has reigned in the rain but it’s his Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa whose numbers stack up, as do those of Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) and, you guessed it, Valentino Rossi.
For Pedrosa it’s good memories of winning that famous duel in 2012 against the same Lorenzo and bringing Marquez’ winning streak to an end in 2014. For Lorenzo, there was a stunning win in 2015 and one in 2010, and both men have frequented the podium at the Automotodrom Brno. Can Lorenzo do what he did at Mugello and Catalunya and smash the hammer back down for his third Ducati win? He’ll be a big threat, that much is sure – and teammate Andrea Dovizioso will want to stand in his way, especially on the Italian’s 100th start for Ducati.
Meanwhile at Yamaha, the winless streak continues – and Brno is a good venue for the Iwata marque as well as a great venue for Rossi. It’s also the scene of the nine-time World Champion’s first ever win, taken in 1996 in the 125 World Championship, which was the first of seven victories at the track for Rossi. Teammate Maverick Viñales has also been on strong form, and the two are only ten points apart in the title fight. Facing down the worst winless run for Yamaha since 2003, could that change in the Czech Republic?
What of the Independent Team riders? The leader in the standings remains Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) as the Frenchman sits in fifth, but he’ll be looking for some form after some more difficult races. And Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) is a man ON form, fresh from taking the spoils as top Independent in Germany and from a front row start. Former Brno winner Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), meanwhile, needs to bounce back – and many of the rookies will be looking to do the same.
Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) impressed on race day to take P11 and cross the line top rookie in Germany, leapfrogging the absent-through-injury Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in the fight for Rookie of the Year. Morbidelli should be back at Brno though – and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) will want to get back in that fight again. Through to Q2 for the second time but then crashing out on Sunday, luck wasn’t with the Japanese rider in the race.
This is where it starts to ramp up and just ten races remain on the road to the season finale as the whistle blows to begin the second half. Who will keep lady luck on their side and who will she desert? Find out from the 3rd to 5th August in the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky.
It’s just seven points that separate Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) at the top of the Moto2™ standings, although the stories that have taken the two men to the top have been very different. Bagnaia has four wins from nine despite some struggles with fitness, whereas Oliveira has a single victory and some incredible fights back after more difficult qualifying sessions. After the summer break, however, it’s reset for both.
Bagnaia will use the break to recharge back to full strength and bounce back from some bad luck, and Oliveira’s key target for the second half as action restarts will be qualifying form. Teammate Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) showed the value of grid position last time out at the Sachsenring as the South African took a stunning first intermediate class win from much higher on the grid. Despite Oliveira’s charges from further back, he could only manage fourth in Germany.
Binder will be an interesting quantity now he’s taken that first victory, as we wait to see how the 2016 Moto3™ World Champion goes with that landmark out the way. And it’s a landmark his successor to the lightweight class crown, Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), will want to hit soon – taking another podium as a rookie last time out.
Mir’s teammate Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) will likely be a big force to be reckoned with in Brno, however. The 2014 Moto3™ World Champion has a fantastic record at the track and will be recovered from the pain suffered in a crash at the Sachsenring – and isn’t out of title contention by any stretch, 35 points off the top.
How will experience vs the eagerness of youth play out in the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky? Will Bagnaia and Oliveira retain their hold on the top or can Marquez, Mir and the likes of Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP 40) in fifth strike back? Find out in Brno from the 3rd to 5th August.
It’s been an up and down start to the 2018 Moto3™ World Championship and most of the key contenders have a form sheet full of bad luck, DNFs and high and lows thus far. But last time out Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) struck back to take back the momentum – scoring his second win in a row and his fifth of the season. So did the tides change at the Sachsenring?
Martin has been, undoubtedly, the fastest rider in the field so far – shown by his six poles out of nine races, plus another two P2 starts. But that’s not the whole story and those chasing him down – especially Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP) – have proved it’s true what they say: racing is more than simply being fastest. In a field of nearly 30 riders, there’s more to do on Sundays than simple laptimes.
So can those on the chase fight back? Although he took his first podium there in the wet in 2016, Martin didn’t race at Brno last season due to injury, something that could give heart to Bezzecchi, Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) and Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) behind him. With the gaps to the top ranging from the seven points for Bezzecchi to the 46 by which Bastianini is currently adrift, there’s an awful lot to play for and the task is a simple one: break Martin’s momentum.
There is a home hero to contend with, too: Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PruestelGP). The Czech veteran could be a force to be reckoned with on home turf, along with another few names with pace but little to lose in the Championship – like former Brno winner and Sachsenring podium finisher John McPhee (CIP – Green Power).
It’s the start of the final leg of the journey and a lot can hinge on who’s on a roll and who’s not. Will it be Martin once again converting his pace into his ace card? Or can the chasing pack strike back? Find out in the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky on the 5th August.