Brisk racing at Brno

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Photos: MotoGP

BRNO, Czech Republic – Well, the pressure is off Marc Marquez to run a perfect season, as the Spanish wunderkind finally did not win a Moto GP, ending his string at 10 on the trot. That’s something only Giacomo Agostini and Mick Doohan have done before. Instead, 138,000 fans saw the win go to his Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, his first victory since Sepang in Malaysia in 2013.

The Spaniard said, “I am very happy to have won this race! This year … we have an amazing rival in Marc, who has had great performances at every round so far. Maybe today wasn’t his best day, but I think that we also worked very well this weekend. Bringing home the win for the team feels fantastic”

Pedrosa was followed to the flag by the Yamaha duo of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, the latter after a hard scrap with Marquez, who finished fourth. Marquez said, “Today was one of those Sundays in which I neither felt completely comfortable, nor had found the best setup for the bike. It wasn’t down to a mistake by me or by the team, it was simply that we didn’t have the same feeling as on other Sundays. In a way it’s taken a weight off my shoulders, as now people won’t be asking me if I can win every race anymore!”

Lorenzo rode a strong race, leading early, losing first spot to an on-fire Pedrosa, then nearly catching him up again at the end. Pedrosa was the only one of the front-runners to use the softer option rear tire, and team manager Wilco Zeelenberg figured the sun coming out and warming the track during the middle of the race hurt Lorenzo’s front grip during the time that Pedrosa extended his lead.

Rossi rode the race under painkillers, as he'd injured his hand in practice.
Rossi rode the race under painkillers, as he’d injured his hand in practice.

Rossi, riding under painkillers after damaging a finger in a scary high-speed crash in the last practice session before qualifying, was ecstatic at being on the podium again, even if it wasn’t the top step. “I’m very happy about this result, because it was a difficult weekend. Yesterday I crashed and injured my finger. This morning it was very bad when checking the setting also with pain making it difficult to ride  … Unfortunately I lost a bit of time on the first laps … but after I found the rhythm and then it was a great pleasure to beat Marc. He was sliding and had a problem so he wasn’t fast enough. Of course we tried to arrive more in front but the third place was not so bad in Brno because Dani and Jorge rode a very strong race.”

Ducati had a bit of a mixed day, with Andrea Ianonne and Andrea Dovizioso grabbing the next two spots, while poor Cal Crutchlow had a crash because “I made a mistake in the braking in turn 3, had to avoid Aleix Espargarò in front of me and swerved off the track.” He pulled something in his shoulder in trying to save the bike. He managed to restart, but the Ducati got its electronics scrambled after being turned off and on. The bike couldn’t locate itself via the track timing loops, so was supplying the wrong engine power maps everywhere. Very dangerous, and the second time this has happened to Crutchlow, who found the unrideable bike and the pain too much and soon retired.

Dovizioso and Iannone finished close together in fifth and sixth, but Cal Crutchlow managed to screw up his shoulder, and his bike's electronics, going off-track, and had to retire.
Dovizioso and Iannone finished close together in fifth and sixth, but Cal Crutchlow managed to screw up his shoulder, and his bike’s electronics, going off-track, and had to retire.

The rest of the top 10 was filled out by Stefan Bradl, Aleix Espargaro, Bradley Smith (bitterly disappointed at the result after qualifying fourth), and Alvaro Bautista.

Marquez still has a huge lead in the championship chase, of course. After his team debrief, he told the press, “We took 13 points that are important for the world championship and we have a big advantage. What matters is who wins the title, not who wins the most races.” He’s already got the second one sewed up, and certainly seems like a lock on the first as well.

Tito Rabat took Moto2 easily.
Tito Rabat took Moto2 easily.

Moto 2

The Moto 2 race was oddly processional and lacking in interest. Tito Rabat grabbed pole and simply cleared off from the start, eventually heading his Marc VDS team-mate Mika Kallio by a comfortable 3+ seconds. Third went to German Sandro Cortese, his first Moto 2 podium, and a well-earned one at that.

The best racing up front was actually for fourth and fifth, with Swiss rider Tom Luthi making a welcome return to the sharp end of the grid and dicing with countryman Domique Aegeter nearly the entire race. Behind them, Maverick Vinales (rumoured to be joining the Suzuki Moto GP team next year) made a fantastic charge to sixth from qualifying 17th; he was seventh after two laps! He challenged the two Swiss riders in the late laps, but was unable to pass despite several eye-watering attempts.

Moto3 was the closest race, as usual.
Moto3 was the closest race, as usual.

Moto 3

As is the norm, the Moto 3 race was the highlight of the day, with an unbelievable train of 16 bikes in the draft for the lead up to the last lap. The gap from first to 15th at the flag was under two seconds, the closest-ever top 15 in the history of Grand Prix racing.

Alexis Masbou, who won his first GP race ever, was eighth at the start of the final lap and only grabbed the lead on the last corner. He was followed home by Enea Bastianini and Danny Kent after a seriously dramatic final go-around strongly resembling the proverbial axe-murderer’s convention. Bastianini’s result was particularly noteworthy because the young Italian has a broken heel, and had to be carried to the victory celebrations.

Alex Marquez ruined his race by celebrating too early after forgetting which lap he was on.
Alex Marquez ruined his race by celebrating too early after forgetting which lap he was on.

Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) just missed the podium in fourth having led on several laps, while his teammate Alex Rins finished ninth, making the huge mistake of thinking the race was over a lap early – he was leading, slowed as he crossed the line and waved his arms before realizing his mistake. It was very lucky that no one hit him.

Championship leader Jack Miller – rumoured to be heading directly to Moto GP in 2015 with the LCR Honda team – took fifth after leading on the last lap, still increasing his championship lead to 23 points over Marquez.

Championship standings after 11 of 18 races

Moto GP

1. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 263 points
2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 186
3. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha Factory Racing, 173
4. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Movistar Yamaha Factory Racing, 137
5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 118
6. Aleix Espargaro, Spain, NGM Forward Racing Yamaha, 85
7. Pol Espargaro, Spain, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 78
8. Andrea Iannone, Italy, Pramac Ducati, 739. TIE, Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda / Bradley Smith, U.K., Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 65

Moto 2

1. Esteve Rabat, Spain, Marc VDS Racing Kalex, 208 points
2. Mika Kallio, Finland, Marc VDS Racing Kalex, 196
3. Maverick Vinales, Spain, Paginas Amarillas HP 40 Kalex, 150
4. Dominique Aegerter, Switzerland, Technomag carXpert Suter, 123
5. Simone Corsi, Italy, NGM Forward Racing Kalex, 100

Moto 3 championship standings after 11 of 18 races

1. Jack Miller, Australia, Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM,169 points
2. Alex Marquez, Spain, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, 146
3. Efren Vazquez, SaxoPrint-RTG Honda, 145
4. Romano Fenati, Italy, SKY Racing Team VR46 KTM, 135
5. Alex Rins, Spain, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda,125

Next race,= August 31, Silverstone, U.K.


GALLERY

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