2019 MotoGP – Round 10 – Brno
Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) is in good shape heading into the second half of 2019. The reigning Champion has a 58-points lead, he’s won more than half the races so far, and there’s been little sign of many chinks in his armour since his crash out the lead at the Circuit of the Americas.
“I am very excited to get back on the bike. Summer break is always nice to relax a little bit, but soon you miss the team and the bike! I am ready to get back to work and Brno is a fun circuit to ride. We finished the first half of the season in a very strong way and now we must keep our focus to continue this. Brno is a circuit where lots of riders are often strong so we can’t take anything for granted. I hope Jorge’s recovery is going well and we will soon have him back in the team.”
But this is MotoGP and the course of racing rarely did run smooth, with Brno next up – the circuit that ended his omnipotent run in 2014 – and there is still a maximum of 250-points up for grabs in the remaining ten races. Can his rivals reset, bounce back and start taking the fight to the number 93?
His closest challenger remains Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), despite a couple of more difficult races for the Italian, and the good news for him is that he won in the Czech Republic last year, in some style.
So it’s a good track to begin his assault on the second half of the season, with confidence and good memories nothing to be sniffed at when glory and defeat can be thousandths apart.
But Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci is now pretty hot on his heels, only six points back, and he could complicate life for the now two-time runner up in the Championship. And ‘Petrux’ knows the bike he’s now on took a 1-2 at Brno last year. Will it repeat the feat in 2019? And if so, in which order?
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), meanwhile, is the man looking for a little more redemption. After two DNFs in a row, both from near the front, the Suzuki man went into summer on the back foot despite having some serious speed at both races. He’s now 84-points off Marquez and fourth in the Championship, but the upside is Rins now races with much less pressure. He’ll simply want to win and win as much as possible in the remaining ten rounds. He’s already taken a MotoGP victory, so why not again?
That’s also true of Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and nine-time World Champion teammate Valentino Rossi, although they arrive the second half of 2019 with very different recent runs of form. Viñales opened his victory account for the year at Assen and then followed it up with a podium, heading into summer looking like a serious threat. Can he start back up where he left off? If yes, it’ll be the first time he’s taken three premier class podiums in a row.
“We‘re starting the second part of the championship in a very positive mood. After the victory in Assen and the second place at Sachsenring we went on holiday feeling very happy, with the conviction that we‘re on the right track and with the peace of mind that you get after a job well done. We have been able to rest a little bit during the summer break, but it was also helpful to complete a lot of training in order to arrive at this GP feeling physically and mentally strong. The next two rounds are held at two tracks that I like a lot but where we‘ll have to work hard to obtain positive results. I think that I can show all my potential there and confirm that we are working in the right direction. Brno is one of my favourite circuits, so I‘ll give it my 100% to continue improving step by step.”
For Rossi, it’s the opposite – with three DNFs prefacing an eighth place in Germany, the ‘Doctor’ needs to bounce back and turn it around. But his CV at Brno is a good one, with a win in every category he’s raced there – including five in the premier class. After such a stellar start to the season, can Rossi come back out swinging for round two?
“During this summer break it was important to take some time off after the first part of the season and rest a bit. But now I can’t wait to be back on track, back aboard my M1, and concentrate on this second part. We will have two consecutive GPs where it will be necessary to work well and get the best possible results. It will be an important second half of the season because we need to improve, and we’ll also begin preparing for 2020, starting with Monday’s test. Brno is a track that I’ve always liked. I want to work well with my team to make it a nice weekend. We need a good result, so we’ll do our best.”
Then there’s the fight for top Independent Team rider. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) currently leads it by virtue of consistency and that impressive podium earlier in the year, but he’s only three-points ahead of rookie sensation Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT).
Quartararo is another looking to bounce back at Brno but only from one mistake in Germany – incredibly, his first DNF caused by a crash – and if his form so far in 2019 hasn’t been quite ominous enough, he’ll now be much more recovered from the arm pump surgery that nevertheless didn’t hold him back from the podium. At full power, Quartararo will doubtless be bothering the field for more than the accolade of top Independent Team rider or Rookie of the Year. Brno, beware.
“Brno is a track I really like, because it’s fast, it has fun uphill changes of direction, and not so many straights. I’ve been able to have some rest over the break to help to heal my arm and shoulder, and I’ve also been training hard ready for the rest of the season. My arm and shoulder feels good now, and I’ve been doing some motocross to confirm it. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it’ll be during a race weekend again. My expectation will be the same as in the past few races, inside the top eight. We also know that we can be really fast in qualifying, so we can expect even better from that.”
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), however, will want to be one of those making that as difficult as possible. The Brit is equal on points with Quartararo and his unforgettable first win came at Brno in 2016 as Crutchlow was impeccable in difficult conditions – so he’s another for whom the Czech venue holds good memories. He also took his second podium of the season in Germany despite recovering from a cycling mishap and is another who will be in much better shape heading into the second half. A podium contender? Don’t doubt it.
The fight throughout the top ten has been tight this year and the likes of Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) will all be gunning to remain key presences in the battle, with all having taken some top finishes in 2019 so far.
And what of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and teammate Andrea Iannone? And they’ll also have someone else to contend with: Stefan Bradl, Honda test rider, who replaces the absent and recovering Jorge Lorenzo at the Repsol Honda Team. The German has put in some solid rides and could cause the odd headache in the fight for Q2 and good points.
Red Bull KTM Tech3 with Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin are eager to restart the season and can’t wait to develop the new project further in the latter half of season 2019.
Hervé Poncharal – Red Bull KTM Tech3 Team Manager
“With the Czech Grand Prix coming up, we at Red Bull KTM Tech3 are ready to open the second chapter of the 2019 MotoGP season. I believe and I have checked with our riders and our staff, that everybody seems to feel well rested and has made a very good use of this summer break. If we restart on the level we were in Germany, where Miguel was very strong – although he had unfortunate crash at start – I believe we can be quite competitive. I also know that KTM did some tests with test team and hopefully we could have an even more competitive bike. These two GPs back to back in Czech Republic and of course more important for us the Austrian GP, plus the test on Monday in Brno are a busy, but important moment of the season. We are really eager and impatient to arrive there! Brno is a great circuit and has a nice layout, fitting well to riders and machines. Although the break was more than welcome after Germany and a tough first part of the year, we are ready to come back and see our level compared to the rest of the field. We want to give the best possibilities to Miguel and also Hafizh, who at the moment has an uncertain future due to the official announcement that we will have Brad Binder with us next year. We just can’t wait to be reunited all together at Tech3, chat about our summer break and focus on the restart of the very important second part of the 2019 season.”
As we head for Brno for the 50th time, we’re back in business for 2019, with ten races remaining and 250 points on the table. Healed, reset and fired up to go racing again, the field is deep and gunning for glory…with everything far from decided. Another twist could be just around the corner….
MotoGP Schedule (AEST)
MotoGP Championship Standings
For the first part of 2019, Moto2 seemed like it was going to be the most unpredictable Championship this season. But then came Alex Marquez’ (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) roll of indomitable form, winning every race since – and including – the French GP, with the sole exception of crashing out the lead in Assen through no fault of his own.
And despite that drama, as well as a P24 in Jerez, again through no fault of his own, the number 73 sits eight points clear as we head into the second part of the Championship. “Shoulda woulda coulda” is often something to avoid in racing, but this is a case where it merits the question: how big could that gap have been?’
The bad news for the competition is that Marquez has a good record at Brno and has had since he got a first glimpse at the podium fight in his rookie year in the intermediate class. The good news is that no one is ever unbeatable, and he’s never won there. Even more good news for key challenger Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) is that the Swiss rider has. It may have been a shortened race in the wet, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless and the veteran’s CV at the venue doesn’t stop there.
The next man up is Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) and he could be a key threat, with his incredible step forward in 2019 making it hard to rule him out of a challenge at the front. And he’s now ahead of teammate Lorenzo Baldassarri in the standings, so the man who dominated early on this season has some bouncing back to do.
Jorge Navarro (HDR Heidrun Speed Up) will want to be back on the podium and knocking on the door to that first win too, as will Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP), and Mattia Pasini comes in from Brno at Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2…can the veteran Italian get in the mix?
Will the Brno be the site of Remy Gardner’s ascension to the top of the podium?
And then, finally, what of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo)? The South African had a tough start to the year but it appears the Austrian factory are back on track. Will he be a force to be reckoned with at Brno?
Moto2 Championship standings
|5||Jorge NAVARRO||Speed Up||SPA||97|
|14||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||Speed Up||ITA||37|
|19||Dominique AEGERTER||MV Agusta||SWI||12|
|20||Stefano MANZI||MV Agusta||ITA||10|
|29||Khairul Idham PAWI||Kalex||MAL||3|
|35||Dimas EKKY PRATAMA||Kalex||INA||0|
|36||Gabriele RUIU||MV Agusta||ITA||0|
Germany was a pivotal race in the Moto3 title fight, with Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) taking over at the top from Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), but it remains tight: just two points separate the two as we head into part two of the year. Can Canet strike back and make it continue to see-saw? Or can one of them start to pull clear at Brno?
Canet has podium form at the Czech track, but Dalla Porta is the man on a consistent run. Bar his mechanical retirement from the race in Barcelona, the Italian has been on the podium in every race since France. The Spaniard, meanwhile, has had a couple of blips: a seventh and a 12th; not the form he’ll want to continue in as the pressure amps up and the races tick down…
Then there are the rivals: John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) is a winner at Brno and a winner already in 2019, as is Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse), currently third in the Championship, on both counts. Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) has a couple of solid finishes at the track, and Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) is a man who’s taken a big step forward this season. They’re sure to make sure the race, at least, is far from Dalla Porta vs Canet.
There’s also local hero Filip Salac (Redox PrüstelGP) who’ll be aiming to make a mark, and two wildcards: former Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup Champion Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Moto3 Junior World Championship and Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup challenger Yuki Kunii (Asia Talent Team).
Moto3 Championship standings
|1||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA||Honda||ITA||125|
|35||Ryan VAN DE LAGEMAAT||KTM||NED||0|