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.
MotoGP Race Results
1 – Marc Márquez (SPA – Honda) 44’15.974
2 – Dani Pedrosa (SPA – Honda) +12.438
3 – Maverick Viñales (SPA – Yamaha) + 18.135
1st Independent Team Rider:
Pos 5 Cal Crutchlow (GBR – Honda) + 20.892