With the start of this year’s calendar either put on hold or cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky is one of only a few races that has retained its scheduled date, but instead of being the twelfth race of the season, it is now the third following the double-header at Jerez last month.
Situated approximately 200km from the country’s capital Prague, the location of the circuit – high in the hills outside of Brno and set in a forested area – means it can be subjected to wet weather. That means Michelin will have to be ready with wets but forecasts are for fine and sunny weather with temperatures around 20-degrees. Slick compounds will be matched to work at an optimum with the medium abrasive track and will see the front slicks in soft, medium and hard in a symmetric design, whilst the new construction rears with have an asymmetric finish with a harder right-hand side.
It’s been a clean sweep for Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) so far, with the young Frenchman on a maximum 50-points as we return to race in the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky. His two races in Jerez were pitch perfect and within tenths of each other, his gap at the front comfortable – at least in terms of margin – and he’s most definitely the man to beat as we arrive at Brno.
“This week at home has been good to think about and enjoy the first two GPs of the season. Brno is a track that I really like. We know from last year that we can be fast there and that we have the performance, even if it is not the best place for our bike. There are a lot of great corners that make up the circuit but the last corner is one of the best. You have to go in with a lot of corner speed but also prepare to take the perfect line for the straight. It’s great to be going there after taking two wins and we’re looking at fighting for the podium this weekend. Our expectations are high and I can’t wait!”
A broken humerus in a dramatic Spanish GP put paid to Marc Marquez’ (Repsol Honda Team) first two chances to score points in 2020, despite a some would say silly effort in a couple of sessions in the Andalucia GP to come back and salvage some points. The defending champion has also managed to damage the plate in his arm and had to undergo further surgery overnight to replace the plate and has now been ruled out of this weekends proceedings where he will be replaced by Stefan Bradl.
Looking at the last few Czech GPs, the man third overall – Dovizioso – should allow himself a spring in his step on the return to Brno. A win in 2018 and second place last year speak well of his chances, and something that may well be crucial to the likes of ‘Undaunted Dovi’ is the familiar territory we’re returning to. Although everyone knows Jerez, no one knew Jerez in the 40 degree heat of July. Everyone knows Brno in August.
Yamaha’s last win at the track came in 2015 as now-test rider Jorge Lorenzo put in a lights-to-flag special. On the one hand, five years seems a long time but on the other, it was four in Jerez since Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) took Yamaha’s last win there… and Quartararo felled that with something that looked like ease, twice in a succession that was most definitely quick. Add that to the fact that five of the six places on the podiums in Jerez were filled by YZR-M1 machinery, and Yamaha were 1-2-3 in the Brno test last year, which is the last time we were on track at the venue. But then what about their engines used so far? And top speed deficit to some?
Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) had his problems in Spain but Rossi was back on the box and knows a fair few things about Brno… and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) had a barnstormer of an Andalucia GP to keep the ‘Doctor’ honest, the Japanese rider crossing the line in fourth only a few bike lengths behind Rossi, the 28-year-old is now fourth in the championship standings to boot!
Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) has serious speed and will want to unleash that after a crash last time out, and his team-mate Francesco Bagnaia looked set for a first podium in the Andalucia GP too before seeing it snatched away by a technical problem. Miller has 13-points to his name and will be aiming to keep racking up the tally as there are now 12premier class races left in 2020, with another Grand Prix in Europe just added, thus Quartararo’s handy early lead is far from unassailable. And Jack was on the podium at Brno last year…
And what about KTM? The Austrian factory showed awesome speed in Jerez over both race weekends, and although there was some bad luck and trouble for them on Sunday, Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is fifth overall. And his rookie team-mate, Brad Binder, had stunning pace. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) too. So what can they do in Brno? On the lead up to two home GPs back-to-back at the Red Bull Ring right after this one, they’ll want a few more points in Czechia – and to confirm their speed.
Marc Marquez will sit this one out, but two more riders will still be suffering through the pain barrier, although both managed to finish the Andalucia GP. 2016 Czech GP winner Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), with more recovery time for his scaphoid, will want to be able to go the distance a little better, and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins, with a dislocated shoulder compounded by a small fracture, will be aiming to take a step forward too. The Spaniard took a hard-grafted tenth place last time out, but after Suzuki’s incredible pre-season showing he’ll want to recover more ground and score as quickly as possible. The good news for Suzuki in the second race in Jerez though was Joan Mir, with the number 36 putting a crash in the season opener behind him to take fifth and get some reward for his speed. He’ll be even more keen to conquer Brno too, as the Czech track was the scene of his huge crash in testing last season that sidelined him for two races.
Finally, there’s also the fight for Rookie of the Year to keep an eye on. Quartararo has Independent Team rider standings sewn up so far, but the Rookie fight is closer than the points would have us believe. Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) put in an impressive ride to eighth in the Andalucia GP and has avoided mistakes on race day, but Brad Binder – he of the aforementioned stunning pace – will be looking to fight back after losing out on a bigger points haul, and Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) will want in. Brno is a good track for Alex Marquez though, so the Spaniard will be keen to keep that nice nine-point cushion accrued on home turf…
Fast, undulating corners cut through the forested hillsides the Automotodrom Brno calls home, and they are ready to host the FIM MotoGP World Championship.
Monster Energy Grand Prix České Republiky Schedule
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