REIGNING world champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) delivered a master-class victory in changeable conditions when the second half of the 2017 MotoGP saga throttled up in the Czech Republic at the fast and flowing 5.3km Automotodrom Brno.
The 22-lap race was declared wet and all riders started the event on Michelin rain tyres. Pole man Marquez, the only rider to choose the soft compound option rear tyre which he paired with a medium front, led into the first corner, but was passed by Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team).
But with the sun bursting out and the track drying quickly, Marquez was the first rider to take the decision to enter the pits and switch to a bike fitted with slicks. It was a race-winning call not without its risks.
He immediately started slicing back through the field, taking back the lead on lap six, opening a 20-second gap as others followed his change to slick dry-weather rubber.
The daring early call to go to slicks handed Marquez control the race from the front, and the Spaniard crossed the line to take his third victory the season, and extending his lead in the championship to 14 points.
“When I re-joined the race, honestly it was still too damp in some parts and I nearly crashed during the first lap out,” said Marquez afterwards. “When you go out for the flag-to-flag, it’s so difficult to get the feeling with the bike again, but I tried to quickly understand the grip.
"Honestly, today I took some risks but it was one of those days when you just have to do it. After pulling a great gap, I just tried to manage, to ride well, and to finish the race. I’m really very happy with the result. It’s a track I normally struggle at, one I worry about every year, and getting 25 points was very important.”
Teammate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) made his way through the field – after re-joining in eighth – to take second place.
Third went to a hard-charging Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). Thirteenth after his pit-stop, he pushed hard up to third, rounding out the podium with Spaniards.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was one of the last riders to come in and change bikes, dropping back to 14th before starting a fight back with impressive overtaking as he pushed his way to fourth at the chequered flag. Rossi had started second on the grid.
Five different winners in nine MotoGPs tells the story of a tight season with no-one grabbing a big advantage.
Ducati’s Lorenzo introduced a new fairing at Brno. It must be effective because it is sure as hell ugly. Lorenzo actually lifted in qualifying, ending up sixth quickest, but still a couple of places behind teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who stuck with the old fairing. The race story was different again, Dovi taking sixth, and Lorenzo fading to 15th.
Jack Miller struggled with a recalcitrant Honda on Friday. But he lifted on Saturday, qualifying 15th, finishing 14th in Sunday’s race.
At Brno, Moto3 championship leader Joan Mir continued his demoralising rout of his main rival Romano Fenati, a cleverly strategised late surge landing him his sixth victory from 10 races this year.
A rain-interrupted Moto2 GP presented riders with a frantic six-lap sprint to the flag. An opportunistic Thomas Luthi, win-less since Phillip Island, charged from the third row to power away to an easy victory while championship leader Franco Morbidelli was mugged, beaten up and left back in the pack. The Italian’s massive title lead, after his modest eighth-place finish, is now reduced to 17 points.
Further back, Remy Gardner’s hitherto miserable weekend took a handy turn for the better, the Australian picking off rider after rider on the greasy track to finish right on Morbidelli’s tail in a career-best ninth.