Posts Tagged ‘Czech Grand Prix’

MotoGP Brno Results

August 5, 2018

© Bruce Allen     Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Andrea-DoviziosoDovizioso, Lorenzo Lead Czech Charge 

One of Europe’s elite racing venues gave 140,000 fans a thoroughly enjoyable MotoGP race today. Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo put a heavy Ducati double-team on series leader Marc Marquez as all three ended up on the podium. Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow had their own little late-in-the-day war for fourth place, won by Vale. Marquez, who finds a way to win while losing, extends his season lead over Rossi to 49 points heading to Austria. 

Practice and Qualifying 

Y’know how it is the first day back at work after vacay. Jetlagged, a little boated, still catching up on sleep, thirsty all the time. After Friday’s two practice sessions the fastest rider on grid was one Dani Pedrosa, showing the crowd he hasn’t yet retired. This Alvaro Bautista guy was deeply in the mix again, ending the day with the third fastest time, trying desperately to win a 2019 ride that doesn’t appear to exist. And your boy Hafez Syahrin showed up in fourth place on Friday, looking as perplexed as the rest of us. It’s worth mentioning that Maverick Viñales was, after FP2, sitting comfortably in sixth place, apparently poised to rock and roll in FP3.

As is generally the case, times on Saturday morning improved overall. A few riders and their crews, apparently having burned the midnight oil, figured out some serious stuff. Take Ducati enigma Jorge Lorenzo, please. He sliced almost two full seconds off his Friday best, jumping from 15th overall to third. Crutchlow, Rossi, Marquez and Iannone also found more than a second overnight. Alas, Messrs. Bautista, Syahrin and Viñales failed to hold onto their top ten perches and would have to fight their way through Q1. Methuselah, #46, would lead the way into Q2, looking quick despite his ongoing victory drought.

Viñales and Rins made it through Q1 without much heartburn. Alvaro Bautista gave it the old college try, as dad used to say, but crashed out on his last pass, forced to settle for the top of the fifth row on Sunday.

Q2 was the usual barnburner. Marquez laid down the first serious lap with four minutes gone. A minute later Jorge Lorenzo scorched Brno and repeated the feat again nine minutes later. With a minute left in the session, Marquez seized pole once again, but left the door open for the two alpha Italians. From seventh place starting the last lap, Andrea Dovizioso whipped his Ducati to pole, missing the 2016 track record by just over a tenth. Rossi, coming from 12th, worked his magic once again on the last lap, ending up in the middle of the front row, next to Marquez, who was relegated to third. Like he cared.

But it must be a comfort to the millions of Rossi fans across the globe that he has finally, six years on, figured out the 15-minute qualifying sessions. The race Sunday would start with the two Italians and Marquez on the front row, stalked by Lorenzo, Cal Crutchlow and Danilo Petrucci on Row 2. Maverick Viñales, who showed some signs of life on Friday, showed very little on Saturday and would start from the back of the fourth row. Dude is living in perdition these days, at war with his crew chief, while his teammate, not a care in the world, keeps hanging around up front, smiling and waving to the cameras.

A Pulsating Czech GP

Unlike last year, when the race was pretty much over by Lap 7, today’s tilt went right down to the wire. After Valentino had taken the holeshot on the opening lap (for the first time since, like, Viet Nam) the primary combatants featured the two factory Ducatis beneath Dovizioso and Lorenzo, Marquez and Crutchlow on Hondas, and Rossi on the unfortunate Yamaha M1. Lap times were surprisingly slow, and by Lap 18 it looked like any of the five could take the win. Suddenly, Lorenzo, riding hard front/hard rear and looking like the 2012 version of himself, went through on both Marquez and Dovizioso. He made the pass stick on Marquez but ran wide and had to let Dovi back through. As the race approached its finale, it was Marquez lurking behind the two Ducatis, waiting for something to happen.

Let’s take a brief timeout and remind one another that Brno is almost custom-designed for the Ducati Desmosedici. The flowing layout, fast turns, and inimitable Horsepower Hill (sorry, Austin) give the red machines a discernible advantage here.

Marquez, whose prospects entering the weekend were suboptimal, for him, found himself in the midst of a Ducati doubleteam for most of the second half of the day. At the end, he did manage a rather weak pass on Lorenzo, who came back three turns later and forced him to sit up, leading to the final finishing order, the tightest top three finish since Estoril 2006.

Our prediction that Marquez was likely to win today was based, in part, on the fact that a Ducati had not won here since Casey Stoner in 2007. The factory Yamaha team now resembles Mutt and Jeff—Rossi, second for the year, generally on or near the podium every time out. But Maverick Viñales is just lost. Qualified 12th after having had to come through Q1. At war with his crew chief. And fails to make it out of Lap 1 today, getting caught up with Stefan Bradl and Bradley Smith. Dovizioso snatched his 3rd place spot in the standings. All things being equal, it wouldn’t surprise me if he were to accidentally drop his phone in the toilet night.

Anyway, with the Ducati contingent not having been a factor for a decade and the factory Yamaha team in disarray, it appeared Marquez had an opportunity to pull off the win. When asked prior to the race who he most feared on the grid on Sunday, he unhesitatingly answered, “Dovi.” He was right. It was somewhat gratifying that he would win the race two days after MotoGP.com ran an article titled “What’s Happened to Dovi?”

Elsewhere on the Grid

Pol Espargaro screwed the pooch in the morning warm-up today and is resting uncomfortably in a hospital somewhere in Spain with a broken left collarbone and chest contusions. He will be out for Red Bull Ring and perhaps Silverstone, too… With Smith having crashed out early in the race, it was another write-off weekend for KTM… Alvaro Bautista, blowing me away these days, managed another top ten finish, something that can’t be said of Alex Rins or Jack Miller… DNFs were recorded by Bradl and Viñales early on, and by Smith, Scott Redding and Tito Rabat later… Author is now five-for-eight on breaking track records for the year…(sigh)…

The Big Picture 

Marquez now leads the series by 49 points. Dovi passed Viñales for third behind Rossi, while Lorenzo went through on Zarco into a respectable fifth place for the year. Ask Marc Marquez how he would feel about Dovizioso and Lorenzo finishing one-two again next week in Austria and I think he would be fine with that. For now, Marc Marquez only has to worry that Valentino Rossi might stage some kind of Lazarus-ish comeback, win five in a row, and put the 2018 championship back on a competitive footing. For now, as he said in the post-race presser, all Marc Marquez needs to focus on is finishing each race until he clinches the title, just like we said last week. And Rossi, winless for over a year, would probably happily settle for a single win. Anywhere. The sooner the better.

Tranching Getting Easier

Now that things are getting stretched out a little in the standings, putting the riders in their proper slots is getting a little easier.

Tranches After Sachsenring

Tranche 1:   Marquez

Tranche 2:   Rossi, Viñales, Dovizioso, Lorenzo, Petrucci

Tranche 3:   Bautista, Pedrosa, Zarco, Rins, Crutchlow, Iannone, P Espargaro

Tranche 4:   Morbidelli, Syahrin, A Espargaro, Miller, Rabat, Smith

Tranche 5:   Redding, Nakagami, Abraham, Luthi and Simeon

Tranches After Brno

Tranche 1:   Marquez

Tranche 2:   Rossi, Dovizioso, Lorenzo, Petrucci, Crutchlow

Tranche 3:   Bautista, Pedrosa, Zarco, Rins, Iannone, P Espargaro, Viñales

Tranche 4:   Morbidelli, Syahrin, A Espargaro, Miller, Rabat, Smith

Tranche 5:   Redding, Nakagami, Abraham, Luthi and Simeon

MotoGP 2012 Brno Results

August 26, 2012

An edited version of this article can be found at Motorcycle.com.

Pedrosa Captures Last Lap Thriller; Race Tightens Again

Last week we suggested that Brno is one of the Yamaha-friendly tracks on the MotoGP circuit, and that factory stud Jorge Lorenzo might well add to his lead in the 2012 championship this weekend.  The top of the practice sheets during the run-up to the race reminded me of a bad 60’s rock-and-roll band—Dani and the Yamahas.  In the end, Repsol Honda mighty mite Pedrosa held off Lorenzo in a stirring last lap to venture within 13 points of the lead for the 2012 title.

With teammate Casey Stoner missing in action due to the ankle injury he suffered at Indianapolis, Pedrosa carried the hopes and expectations of the entire Honda nation into the Czech Republic.  In FP1, he recorded the fastest time, with the next four going to Yamahas.  In FP2, it was pretty much the same story, with Ben Spies falling to eighth.  FP3 virtually duplicated FP1.  During qualifying, Pedrosa crashed early, and had to resort to his #2 bike to finish the session.  Although he struggled somewhat, he eventually captured the last spot on the front row, wedged in between Yamaha stalwarts Lorenzo, Cal Crutchlow, Spies, and Andrea Dovizioso.

In 2010 and 2011 we watched week after week as Jorge Lorenzo would get double-teamed by Hondas—Pedrosa, Stoner, Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli all taking turns making life difficult for the Mallorcan.  Though Lorenzo prevailed in 2010, the numbers last year were too much to overcome, as Stoner rode his RC213V to the title.  As today’s race began, I was thinking it wasn’t going to be Pedrosa’s day, going one-on-four with Yamaha M1s well-suited to the flowing layout of Brno.

Brno 2012:  One for the Pedrosa Family Scrapbook

The race started predictably enough, with Pedrosa sandwiched in between Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow’s Tech 3 Yamaha.  Once everyone’s tires were warm, Lorenzo and Pedrosa went off alone to do their business, with Crutchlow and his teammate Dovizioso falling back to 3rd and 4th.  Valentino Rossi, who had started from the six hole, his best start of a miserable year, materialized in fifth place, although his GP12 was smoking like a ’62 Rambler.  Satellite Honda dudes Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl trailed Rossi, but not by much and not for long.

For the first half of the race, the only real action was the battle for 5th, as rookie Bradl, looking exceptionally Aryan, went through Bautista on Lap 5 and Rossi on Lap 9.  Pedrosa, who had spent 12 laps admiring his reflection in Lorenzo’s chrome, passed him cleanly on Lap 13 but was unable to get away, the hunter having become the hunted.  Things would remain this way until the last lap of the race.

On Lap 22, Lorenzo, who had been hoping to pressure Pedrosa into a mistake for nine laps, took matters into his own hands and went through on Pedrosa with half a lap left in the race.  Pedrosa, who in past years might have surrendered at this point, stiffened and, in an impressive display of mental strength, bike and balls, seized the lead back from Lorenzo in the last few turns to win by 2/10ths of a second, leaving the fans and the announcers gasping for air.

When Dani Pedrosa’s racing career is over, he will undoubtedly look back at this race as one of his finest hours.  Severely outnumbered, on a track favoring his opponents, and with no room to fall farther back from the championship lead, he held his ground, ran an exceptionally smart race, and snatched victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat.  He has now won three of the last five races after going oh-for-7 at the beginning of the season.  And if he ends up winning the 2012 title, a prospect I find dubious, history may decide that he took the first, or perhaps second, step at Brno.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Cal Crutchlow, newly re-signed on a one year deal with Herve Poncharal’s Tech 3 Yamaha team, spent the day by himself in 3rd place, capturing the first podium for a British rider since one Jeremy McWilliams at Donington in 2000.  Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who, during the week, finally signed his two year contract with Ducati, celebrated by finishing off the podium for only the second time in the last six rounds.  Riding for Ducati for the next two years, there’s no point in getting too used to the champagne celebrations, I guess.

Rookie of the Year Stefan Bradl finished the day in 5th place, another superb result for the young German, trailed by underachiever Alvaro Bautista on the San Carlo Gresini Honda.  There is a lot of chatter these days regarding the prototype seat on Fausto Gresini’s team for next season, with Ben Spies among those riders rumored to be taking Bautista’s job.  Were it not for Marc Marquez, Bradl might have been a contender to join Pedrosa on the Repsol factory team next season.  As it is, he will have to wait another two years, at least.

Spots seven through ten were captured, in order, by Rossi, Randy de Puniet, Karel Abraham and Aleix Espargaro.  Teammates RDP and Espargaro would, in a perfect world, be candidates for prototype bikes next year, as they are clearly the cream of the CRT crop.  Alas, the Yamahas and Hondas are all pretty well allocated for 2013, with the possible exception of the San Carlo Honda.  If given the choice between staying with their current team or saddling up a satellite Ducati next season, I’m not sure how they would go.  Their ART bikes seem to give them an equal chance of finishing in the top ten, with far less chance of getting launched into a low Earth orbit by the demonic Desmosedici.

Three Final Thoughts

Without wishing to take anything away from Dani Pedrosa’s glittering 2012 season, we should not lose sight of the fact that, were it not for Alvaro Bautista’s boneheaded move at Assen, which removed Jorge Lorenzo from the proceedings, Pedrosa could easily trail Lorenzo by 33 points today, rather than 13.  Yeah, I know, luck figures heavily in this sport, you gotta take the good with the bad, etc., etc.  But Pedrosa has been pretty fortunate this year, perhaps a cosmic payback for some of the bad luck he’s had during his career, in the form of brake failures, Marco Simoncelli and more.

The six engine rule may play a part in the final third of the season.  Lorenzo was racing his fifth engine today, while Pedrosa was still working his fourth.  With a third of the season yet to come, and Lorenzo having blown one in the collision with Bautista in Holland, things could get a little tight for Lorenzo at the end of the season.  It’s hard to imagine the governing body of any major motorsport agreeing to a completely arbitrary rule that could have a material outcome on one of their championships.  Yet that’s exactly what we might have in store for in 2012.

Finally, the super slo-mo cameras that MotoGP is using this year, at 2500 frames per second, give a completely different view of this sport than that seen by fans at the track.  Through these cameras, you can watch the frames of the bikes flexing, and see the rear tires turning faster than the front, constantly spinning.  You also get the clear impression that the rider and the machine are bonded into a single unit, a completely different aspect from any form of auto racing.  It’s a shame that motorcycle racing in the United States is a fringe sport, while auto racing is a big deal.  At 2500 frames per second, there is no comparison.