Tactical masterstroke: Marquez blitzes flag-to-flag at Brno
Reigning Champion plays his hand to perfection as rivals face a mad dash back through the field
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 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 for another lap 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 Crutchlow, 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 second.
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.
Lorenzo: “The bike wasn’t ready”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) made a stunner of a start in the Czech GP, pulling away in the lead in tricky damp conditions. Pitting from second soon after, the ‘Spartan’ then lost some time in the pit lane swapping bikes – and re-emerged much further down the order. Fighting back through into the points and bridging some big gaps, Lorenzo crossed the line in P15 – but there’s optimism for the next race in Austria, where Ducati won last year.
Jorge Lorenzo, P15: “Today’s race was a real shame. The weather was so unpredictable and it stopped raining when I was really fast on the damp track. I felt pretty good and I think we could have been able to fight for the win if the conditions had remained the same. Then we made an error with the bike change, because when the team signalled to me to return to the pits the bike wasn’t ready and we lost a bit of time, which ruined the rest of my race. For sure we’ll learn from this negative experience and won’t repeat the same error, but the positive thing from this weekend is that we were always competitive, both in the wet and the dry. Now we’re going to a circuit where we should be amongst the favourites, so we’ll do everything possible to demonstrate it in the race.”
Rossi: "It's always difficult in a flag-to-flag"
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) got a good start and was into the lead not long after at the Czech GP, but a quickly drying track saw the ‘Doctor’ then come in for a bike swap a little late – along with key title rival Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). Rossi was then charged with the task of moving back through the field from outside the top ten, but the number 46 kept his head down and managed just that – taking Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) for fourth on the final lap, damage limitation complete and only just off the podium.
The rider from Tavullia says the conditions - or the flag-to-flag races - are something he's struggled with, but is happy to have improved from the last one - and has more than kept himself in the title fight.
Valentino Rossi, P4: "It is always difficult in these conditions in a flag-to-flag. It for sure isn't our strongest point, this type of racing, but in the end the result is not so bad. We improved a lot from the last flag-to-flag and I finished fourth, but I think that before the end of my career we can defeat this flag-to-flag race situation! Anyway, I think that in a full dry or full wet race I can fight for the podium for sure. It remained a good weekend, because we worked well in the box. I felt good with the bike, that's important, and I was strong on the wet and on the dry. The race was very hard, I pushed from the beginning to the end. It's a shame that we could have taken more points and arrived on the podium, but it's like this and in this condition fourth place is not so bad."
“One lap too late” – but Pedrosa takes his 150th podium
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) took second at Brno, but it was more than simply the third podium in four races for the three-time World Champion: it was his 150th visit to the rostrum.
It was far from easy, with wet conditions on the grid drying much faster than anticipated and everything coming down to the tyre gamble. Coming in what he says was “one lap too late”, the number 26 wasn’t able to fight teammate Marquez for the win – but did cut into his 20 second lead by a good margin.
Comfortably clear of Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) in third, Pedrosa crossed the line to cut the gap in the title fight to Viñales, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), with only Marquez pulling away slightly after taking the win - now 31 points ahead of his teammate.
Dani Pedrosa, P2: “Afterwards it’s always easier to see things! I was expecting this kind of race, wet to dry, then it was raining all day, then stopping…so I thought it would be like this for the race, even when I was on the grid. It was a bit clearer but I thought it would rain again. Then on the Warm Up lap I could see it was going to be clear. I was trying to keep in touch in the first laps but I was surprised how quickly it dried – I was thinking about coming in but I decided to do one more lap, and unfortunately one lap too late to make the second half of the race easier! But I normally struggle in this kind of race and I was quite fast out the box with slicks and competitive all weekend, which is positive for me and my team. I’m positive about the result, and the bike was working well. I’m quite happy with the weekend.”
Viñales: "This podium is important for the Championship"
Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) says his podium in the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky was important for the Championship, and by the season finale in Valencia he may well be right. Coming home ahead of two key rivals - teammate Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) - and not far behind two more, Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez, the points could prove crucial.
Qualifying seventh and pitting a little late to switch to slicks, Viñales then charged back up through the field to secure a comfortable third - keeping himself second in the standings with his second half heroics.
Maverick Viñales, P3: “This weekend was very tough, then luckily on the grid the sun started to come out. On the rain tyre I was feeling good, but I was already thinking after two laps maybe I should go in but there were too many people, so maybe I went in a lap too late. Warming up the slicks was difficult but then the bike felt good again. I was feeling great in the last laps and I’m happy to have that back. It’s important to be back on the podium for confidence and motivation, and it’s important for the Championship. Today we recovered a lot of feelings and tomorrow the test will be important.”
Marquez: “I wanted to take a risk”
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) made a gamble on the grid in the Czech GP, changing from the harder wet tyres to the soft – planning to make a run for it and expecting the track to take longer to dry out.
When the sun began to come out, the softer tyre proved the wrong choice – so the number 93 headed straight into the pits to gamble again. This time, it was a perfect hand – with Marquez able to get back into his rhythm as the track dried out, eventually ending up with a 20 second lead once the pack had shuffled through the pits.
Genius, luck or both, it was another masterclass in flag-to-flag racing – and one of the risks he took certainly paid big.
Marc Marquez, P1: “Honestly, it was a difficult Sunday. First of all, a special Sunday. All the riders were riding for one legend that we lost and it was extra motivation. Today I felt like I wanted to take a risk to try and win the race. The first decision was on the grid, that time was the incorrect decision…I put on the soft tyre because my plan was to push for four or five laps and then go in. But it was the wrong decision, it was spinning and I lost many positions. That made me go into the box a bit earlier, but it was the only chance I had. When I came out on slicks I almost crashed three or four times, but then I started to calm down. Then one lap when I passed the pit board it said P1, plus 18 or 20 seconds and then everything was better, the sun came out! I normally struggle a lot at this circuit every year but the test we did here in summer break was really important. To leave Brno with 25 points gives me good confidence. Today, I don’t know why, I got up and said ‘I want to take a risk’. And I did in all ways, and in the end we have 25 points for the Championship. Now we’ll enjoy this victory, then there’s a test tomorrow to where we have to try some setups to understand better before the Red Bull Ring. Last year we struggled but we were there, not very far, so if we can improve a bit I think we can fight for the podium. But first we should enjoy the win, then on Friday after FP1 and FP2 I’ll let you know how we are!”