MotoGP: 23 Things We Learned at Brno

© Bruce Allen

MotoGP gave its fans a memorable Sunday in the Czech Republic today. The Moto3 race was the usual fire drill, featuring a 10-man lead group, before Dennis Foggia led Albert Arenas and Ai Ogura across the finish line in another great example of how racing is supposed to work.

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Over at Moto2, the race itself was a parade, but its implications  were important. The win by Enea Bastiannini established him as an early favorite to become The Next Big MotoGP Rider. Sudden Sam Lowes finished in second, his first appearance on a podium of any kind since, like, 2016. And Joe Roberts, The Great American Hope, took third after starting from pole, delivering the first grand prix podium of his career. As one of the few Americans to give a rip about MotoGP, I feel great for Joe Roberts and his team.

The main event in MotoGP offered more “first ever” accomplishments than I can remember in a motorcycle race; I’m counting at least seven off the top of my head. Eighth on that list belongs to my moto-friend Sayyed Bashir, who has been yelling at me in DISQUS for three years about how KTM is on their way; today must have been joyous for him. Before getting to that list, let’s note that Brad Binder won on a KTM RC-16, Franco Morbidelli took second on an SRT Yamaha, and Johann Zarco, resurrected on the Ducati GP19, held off Alex Rins for third place. Imagine appearing on the podium almost exactly a year after bolting on KTM, thinking his grand prix racing career was over. It’s not.

Rather than dragging you through our usual format, we present a list of bullet points, takeaways from Round 3 (or 4, depending) as the grid prepares to descend upon the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria for a couple of weeks in the salt flats. Nine turns–I have more than that between my bedroom and the kitchen in a small house. Whatever; at a minimum, it should help Ducati get back in the constructor’s championship race.

Let’s start with the MotoGP race:

  • First ever South African to win a premier class race in MotoGP.
  • Franco Morbidelli’s first ever premier class podium.
  • First ever podium for the Team Formerly Known as Avintia Racing Ducati.
  • First ever win in MotoGP for the KTM factory.
  • First ever win in the premier class for Brad Binder, in his third race.
  • First rookie to win a premier class race since Marc Marquez in 2013.
  • First time since they started keeping records of these things in 1973 that Frenchmen started 1-2 in a premier class race.

Pity that Pol Espargaro, hip-checked out of the race by Zarco, could not have been KTM’s first dry race winner, as he has paid his dues many times over.

  • Zarco’s hip check, in which his front tire was behind Espargaro’s, was very lightly penalized. His long lap penalty cost him exactly zero grid spots. That one called for a ride-through; no way Zarco should end up on the podium after putting another rider out of the race.
  • Yamaha, despite leading the team and constructor championships, has issues with rear tire grip, especially late in the race, as well as engine durability. Vinales, for example, has already used all five of his engines, with #2 blown to smithereens earlier in the season. A pit lane start lies in his future. A MotoGP championship in 2020 does not. Either he had remarkably bad tire issues–usually, at least in part, the fault of the rider–or he simply took today off, secure in the knowledge that he would still be in second place for the year heading to Austria, regardless.
  • Karel Abraham, Sr. needs to cough up the bucks to get the track here re-surfaced if he wants to keep the race. No Czech rider on the grid, and lots of venues banging to be let on the calendar, for whatever reason.
  • “I hear Portimao is nice in late November,” he lied.
  • The last American to appear on an intermediate class podium was Joe Kocinski in 1993. Yes, I have access to Wikipedia.
  • The top four riders in Moto3 are separated by 26 points; it’s anybody’s season right now, but Albert Arenas seems to be the best of the lot.
  • In Moto2, the top three riders, led by Bastiannini, are separated by a mere 18 points. Luca Marini in third appears to be a bigger threat to The Beast than Nagashima in second. There are some owners in MotoGP looking carefully at the big Italian, though where he might fit is a mystery.
  • Valentino Rossi had to work his ass of to finish fifth today. Most of his problems, aside from issues with the bike itself, are on Saturdays.
  • Andrea Dovizioso, his qualifying 18th possibly being a signal of where things stand regarding his next contract, managed to salvage five points at a track where he should have had things his way. Other than Zarco’s flukey podium, Round 3 was a washout for Ducati Corse.
  • Ducati, it appears, recognized that Zarco would be effective on the Ducati at tracks that are friendly to the Big Red Machine. Tracks like Brno and Red Bull Ring. Zarco could have himself a nice August.
  • With Pecco Bagnaia (broken leg) and Marc Marquez (broken arm) out of the race, a few people moved up from their usual neighborhoods. Alex Rins, who should probably be recovering from shoulder surgery, surprised most people today with a solid fourth place finish.
  • Romano Fenati will probably spend the rest of his career in Moto3. I thought he was going to be a star a few years ago. Nope.
  • KTM owes a big thank-you to Dani Pedrosa, whose input, one imagines, has been key in helping KTM get their prodigious power from the engine to the ground. This has been the big difference in the Austrian factory this year. I couldn’t understand why they would want a test rider who weighs 120 pounds; now I do.
  • Please to report that Alex Rins finally got rid of his terrible haircut.
  • After starting the race like a house on fire, Aleix Espargaro ended up settling for a nice top ten finish, putting a hurt on little brother Pol. Before Pol got knocked out, it looked like KTM was going to put three riders in the top ten. Miguel Oliveira’s tidy sixth-place finish had to be satisfying, perhaps as much as the word that this season’s last race will be held at his home track at Portimao.
  • Repsol Hondas started the day in P20 and P21. Try to look up the last time that happened.

We’ll be back again next with more. With Marquez and Bagnaia out for the foreseeable future, the championship is wide open, as open as I’ve seen it in a dozen years. This is fun. Even without the brolly girls.

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Maria Herrera with her brolly guy, from better days

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15 Responses to “MotoGP: 23 Things We Learned at Brno”

  1. Mad4TheCrest Says:

    Zarco may have wrongly hip-checked Pol, but my guess for the reason the penalty was light was that Pol was riding very aggressively too. Rushing up on Zarc in corners, pushing the front and running wide, then trying again at the next corner. He was very ragged, and looked like an incident waiting to happen. I think they divided the fault between them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mad4TheCrest Says:

      Forgot to add, “Way to Go, Joe Roberts!”

      Plus a minor correction – Bruce it was ‘John’ Kocinski …

      Liked by 1 person

    • Starmag Says:

      I thought this was rare bad call by RD. I’m not really a Zarc fan, but he was cleanly inside and Pol ran into him and payed the price of doing so. Zarc hilariously made the best of the drive through penalty.

      This was a great race, not as good as Assen 2018, but great none the less. Who could have picked Binder for the win before the race? With satellites #2 and #3? He dominated in Antman fashion but not so soon it made the race boring. Very high fives to rookie Brad. KTM gained a notch of confidence here it’s unlikely they will lose.

      This would have been better still with Antman in the mix, with his magic front end saves, but still very entertaining.

      As for the Yamahas, Fab and Mav have had consistency issues and still do. They are out front in points at this stage, but there are six contenders not far behind, including Methusalah and Nakagami(!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mad4TheCrest Says:

        Bruce is right that Sayyed will be unbearably joyful and full of “I told you so’s” about Binder’s win. I am ok with it since I picked BB to finish somewhere in three top three in an informal pool with my friends, and I have been very smug about it, tempered only by how badly I got it wrong about Maverick (that putz).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Starmag Says:

          Yeah, he mighty be a bit unbearable if this article makes it’s way to MO.

          Mav is still second, but yeah, he has his ups and downs.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Old MOron Says:

            The Austrian track favors horsepower. Last year Ducati and Honda were 1 and 2. But Yamaha finished in P3,4,5 and 10. I’m guessing that without the fast sweepers, Yamaha was able to preserve its tires, but they couldn’t make up for their lack of power. This year should be about the same.

            Last year Dovi and Marquez finished 1 and 2. But Marquez is out and Dovi seems to be nowhere. Fabio finished 3rd last year, so if Dovi and Marq and non-factors, Fabio stands a good chance of winning.

            Except the KTM is very strong this year, and Austria is their home track. With Binder, Espargaro and Oliveira, they could lock out the podium!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Buzz Says:

    The Zarco deal looked like a racing incident to me. His eyes are looking through the corner. I don’t think he had an idea Pol was there and what was he supposed to do? Chop the throttle?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Vrooom Says:

    Man, I haven’t seen the race yet, now I just want to leave work and watch it. Can’t believe Binder took a win, fantastic for KTM, and still shocking for me. I thought they had at least another year of development before that happened, but the usual suspects were missing from the podium. Joe Roberts, hope he has a long career ahead of him, that would be exciting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Old MOron Says:

    Oh man, that was fun. What a great day of racing. I’ve always been a fan of Zarco and Binder. Great podium for my team.

    As for Zarco and Pol, I put a lot of weight in Simon Crafar’s analysis. It’s up to the overtaking rider to make it clean. That means he has to get his wheel in front. As a former club racer I think it’s a little more subtle than that. When you make a mistake and go off line, you have to rejoin in a safe manner. So I think Pol shares some responsibility for trying to barge his way back on line. Even if Zarco didn’t quite get his wheel in front, Pol must have known Zarco was there. Pol tried to force things, as he had been doing the entire race.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Old MOron Says:

    Too bad Joe Roberts is 44 points behind the Beast. That seems like a big deficit to overcome. But hooray for his first podium, and may there be many more this season.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Starmag Says:

    The irony of this race is that Zarco took 3rd and was looking up at the top podium spot that held the race winner Binder, who got there on the bike Zarco rejected as impossible to win on. LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Old MOron Says:

    Hooray for Dovi and his break with Ducati. Ducati are ruthless bastards, and there’s no point in Dovi waiting around to see what they want to do.

    I suppose all teams are ruthless, but Ducati seem to take it to another level. Now that Dovi has freed himself, he is riding better. I hope he keeps it going.


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