Motorsport

Motorsport Monday: Czech MotoGP

Pictured: South Africa’s greatest motorsport hero since Jody Sheckter

Circuit: Brno


Journey Of The Jackass 2020, Chapter 3: Czech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

It had been 2 weeks since Jerez, and we had yet another development on Marc Marquez – He intended to make a comeback in Brno, but suffered yet another setback, with the titanium plate in his right arm bending due to “Stress accumulation”, putting him on the sidelines for another race, and for who knows how much longer.

Suffice to say, with 0 points through 3 races, you can scratch a line through Marquez winning his fifth title in a row…. coming back early was brave and all, but right now it’s looking pretty stupid.

Despite being primed for a bounce back after what Yamaha did to them at Jerez, the factory Ducatis, who have had recent success in Brno, were nowhere near it in Practice, with two reasons being put down to Michelin’s 2020 rear tyre not hooking up with the GP20, and the bumpy surface of Brno, which resembled a Soviet-era highway.

In a further blow for the Dukes, Jack Miller’s Pramac teammate Pecco Bagnaia suffered a bad accident at Turn 1 during FP1, and was flown to hospital, where he was diagnosed with a broken tibia, ruling him out of not only this race, but both the Austrian races over the next fortnight.

What a disappointment for Pecco, especially after showing genuine improvement at the Jerez double-header.


Qualifying


With the conditions bringing the Top 13 bikes within half a second of each other in FP3, the likes of Aleix Espagaro on the Aprillia, and Johann Zarco on the Avintia Ducati, were able to surprise everyone and go straight into Q2, as did Cal Crutchlow with his fractured wrist, while summing up Ducati’s problems, Jack Miller would have to appear in Q1 for the first time since Catalunya last year, and joining him was Andrea Dovizioso, who was comfortably out-paced by Danilo Petrucci, while Alex Rins once again appeared in Q1, which was understandable with his fractured shoulder.

There was nothing between the Top 4 riders, but it was Rins who would progress, while Takaaki Nakagami was due to join him, but he had his final lap deleted for exceeding track limits, pushing Brad Binder through to Q2 and dropping Taka to 17th, while Jack would have to start a disappointing 14th, and Dovi could only start 18th, and to cap it off, he was the slowest Ducati (Yep, even Tito Rabat was quicker), a serious worry for a rider still negotiating a new contract with the factory team.

It didn’t seem like much at the time, but what a moment Nakagami’s deleted lap turned out to be, considering it allowed Binder into Q2.

As the second session progressed, the next shock of the weekend was the pace of Zarco on the 2019 Ducati, who backed up his 3rd best time in FP3, by storming to the top of the timesheets with a 1.55.687, a full 3-tenths better than anyone, even the one-lap wizard Quartararo!

The sight of the 2019 Ducati out-performing the 2020 edition…. The top brass from Bologna were simultaneously elated and annoyed.

Quartararo had a final shot at scoring his 5th consecutive pole position, but he was always 1-2 tenths behind, and would ultimately slide out at Horsepower Hill/Turn 13, confirming his compatriot Zarco would start on pole for the first time since Malaysia 2018, when he was on a Tech3 Yamaha!

Reale Avintina, with the smallest budget of any team on the grid, with a year-old Ducati, were on pole position thanks to a crazy Frenchman who walked out on KTM last year.

What a cracking result.

With Fabio starting 2nd, Franco Morbidelli 3rd, and Aleix Espagaro starting 4th on his Aprillia, it was the first time in the MotoGP era that the first 4 grid positions were filled by independent teams, and the first time two Frenchmen had started 1-2 in the premier class since pole positions were first recorded in 1973-74.

Pol Espagaro was 6th, after also getting his last time deleted for track limits when he was on to start 3rd, and without Marc there to cover their arses, Repsol Honda were last and second last….

They haven’t been in a position this dire since Valentino Rossi left them after 2003.

You just hate to see it.


Race (21 Laps)


With the hot conditions and the slippery, bumpy surface, there was so much focus on tyre life, with the race certain to be just as tricky as Jerez, with all riders taking the Hard front tyre, with the Medium being the preferred rear tyre, with some taking the risk of the Soft rear, including Jack Miller.

Quartararo was trying to join Kenny Roberts in 1980 as the only Yamaha riders to win the first 3 races of a season, and at the jump, the Petronas Yamahas took over as Zarco was unsurprisingly mugged, and Aleix Espagaro got a nice start to bump himself into 2nd after the opening lap, as Morbidelli, in pursuit of his first MotoGP win & podium, took control with his Hard Front/Soft Rear combination.

Miller had climbed up to 12th thanks to that Ducati holeshot, but went very wide at Turn 3 on the next lap, dropping down to 16th, as Dovi and Nakagami were flying through the midfield, having made 6 places each.

Of the big losers, Vinales fell from 5th to 8th, and Crutchlow was dumped from 12th to 19th.

Morbidelli opened up a 1 second lead after the opening lap, and Brad Binder, who was quick without success in Spain, was showing his Moto2 form, rounding his KTM teammate Pol at Turn 3 for 3rd place, leaving the Espagaro brothers to briefly race each other, while Zarco slowly recovered to 4th, being the only Ducati in the Top 10.

The first fallers were Joan Mir and Iker Lecuona, who collided at Turn 13 on Lap 4, after Lecuona lined up a pass and lost the front end, wiping out the Suzuki in the process.

At 1/3 distance, Morbidelli’s lead was consistent at a second, as Quartararo and Binder were racing wheel to wheel, Pol Espagaro finally cleared Zarco to go to 4th, and immediately started lapping 4 tenths faster than his teammate, as KTM were putting themselves in a position for their first dry podium in MotoGP.

Meantime, Miller had recovered slightly, but was still a mile off the leading pack in 13th, in an unseen tussle with Danilo Petrucci and Dovi to be the 2nd best Ducati, which was a fair reflection of where the GP20 was at this weekend.

Binder made the move on Quartararo at Turn 2 on Lap 9, putting the championship leader in a KTM sandwich – Which is a national dish in Austria – Espagaro also passed Quatararo at Turn 13 on the same lap, putting both factory KTMs on the podium, but the Spaniard ran wide at the pit entry and lost the place.

That wasn’t the end of it.

In a disaster for KTM, Espagaro went wide again at Turn 1 to start Lap 10, and in merging back on to the racing line, made contact with Zarco and fell from 5th place, sparking another blame game, which the FIM somehow agreed with Espagaro that it was Zarco’s fault, giving him a long lap penalty, probably because he’s French and he hit a Spaniard.

How the hell could the officials pin THAT on Zarco, when he didn’t move an inch off the racing line, and Pol was the one who went wide and rejoined the racing line straight into the path of the Ducati, when he expected nobody to be there.

What hell did they expect Zarco to do – Gift Pol 3rd for making another error?

It was a textbook racing incident… pack of dickheads.

So another KTM was gone, and at half-race distance, Quartararo was clearly struggling for grip, which was so evident that Zarco got him easily at Turn 1 on Lap 11.

In yet another wildly unpredictable MotoGP race, Binder began chasing down Morbidelli, and further down the pack, Nakagami passed Vinales to claim 9th, leaving a struggling Top Gun a sitting duck to the Ducatis, as the Top 2 riders in the Championship were both free falling.

Out in front, Morbidelli’s pace was seriously dropping, losing 6-tenths to a very confident Binder on Lap 12, and on Lap 13, Binder fired down the inside at Schwantz Corner/Turn 10, and THE ROOKIE LED THE GRAND PRIX ON A KTM!

Those of us who had watched Moto2 in recent years would know a performance like this was no fluke!

At the same time, Zarco would have to serve his long lap penalty, to the annoyance of Ducati, leaving him vulnerable to Quartararo again, but instead of losing 2-3 seconds, Zarco took the absolute piss and hugged the white line like a boss, losing only 1.2 seconds and staying ahead of the Yamaha.

I haven’t seen a penalty served that well since Rossi at Phillip Island in 2003.

Now free as a bird, Binder had put 1.2 seconds on Morbidelli, while Quartararo was now being hurried by Alex Rins, who nearly came to blows with the Yamaha on Lap 16, which allowed Valentino Rossi to latch on to the rear of the pair, which was buying Zarco more time in 3rd place.

Rins lined up the Yamaha at Turn 3 on Lap 17, and in a blast down to Turn 4, the Suzuki took 4th place, and Rossi joined in a few corners later, and surprisingly, Miguel Olivera on the Tech 3 KTM made light work of the Frenchman to start Lap 18, dumping him to 7th.

On another note, that was a very neat performance by Oliveira – He was one of only 3 riders who never posted a lap time over 2 minutes… The other two were Binder and Rins.

In further pain for Yamaha, Vinales had fallen to 12th, and good news for us Aussies was that Jack had passed Dovi to move in to 10th place.

Binder had built his lead to 2.5 seconds, and with 4 laps to go, all he had to do was stay upright to join the history books, and Zarco’s podium was now under serious threat from the Suzuki, who had so much more rear grip than the Ducati!

Out in front though, Binder HAD DONE IT, claiming his and KTM’s first MotoGP win!

Another fantastic moment for MotoGP – Binder in his 3rd race becoming the first rookie to win in the premier class since Marc Marquez in 2013, also becoming the first South African to win a premier class race, the first non-European winner since Jack Miller at Assen in 2016, and KTM, after so much success in Moto2 and Moto3, finally striking gold after 3 years of development on their MotoGP bike, thanks in no small part to Dani Pedrosa’s godly test riding.

I suppose the sad irony for KTM is that it wasn’t Pol who got the win, considering he’s been part of their MotoGP program since the dark old days of 2017.

We can’t also forget Morbidelli claimed his first MotoGP podium with a fantastic 2nd, Zarco held on for dear life to take 3rd from Rins (With one working shoulder), forming the most wholesome podium of the year, and completing this wild finish, a 41-year-old Rossi was 5th, and Miguel Oliveira was a career-best 6th.

It was only briefly shown on the world feed, but Miller got Aleix Espagaro right on the line to finish 9th, which was a decent recovery from Jack on a disappointing weekend.

capping off his shocking afternoon, Maverick Vinales finished 14th, managing to lose ground to Quartararo in the championship on a day where Fabio finished a ‘Lowly’ 7th.

Matt Birt said it perfectly on the commentary – Top Gun was shooting blanks today.


Post Race

I best end this week with Casey Stoner’s thoughts on the Zarco penalty, not because it’s Casey Stoner’s opinion, but because of his interesting use of grammar…

I agree Case.

It was DISCRASFUL.

I had to look up the word discrasful to see if it was real… apparently it’s just how they spell disgraceful in Queensland.


Moto2: The Remy Rollercoaster

In a throwback to Qatar, it was the American Joe Roberts, after struggling in Jerez, who was back on pole position with his Evel Knievel tribute helmet, ahead of the Brit Sam Lowes and Andalucia winner Enea Bastianini, while our Remy Gardner had an awful session, qualifying way down in 22nd place, just behind Championship leader Tetsuta Nagashima, who was about to kiss his lead goodbye, thanks to starting in 21st.

When it came to the race though, Lowes and Roberts had no answer for the Italian, who used the holeshot device to fly off the line and pass them both into Turn 1, and after that, ‘The Beast’ Bastianini looked every bit like his nickname, because he never had anyone ahead of him at any point in the race.

Despite a very game late challenge from Lowes, who closed to within half a second on the last lap, Bastianini claimed consecutive wins to take the championship lead, Lowes took his first podium in 4 years, and Roberts, managing his soft front tyre well, would finish a comfortable 3rd to take his first Grand Prix podium, and the first by an American rider in the intermediate class since John Kocinski at the 1993 Dutch TT.

In fact, he was the first American to actually score a Grand Prix podium since Ben Spies won the 2011 MotoGP Dutch TT on a factory Yamaha.

It is fitting that former Suzuki rider John Hopkins is mentoring Roberts, because Joe gave a wheelie celebration that reminded of one ‘Hopper’ pulled after he finished on the podium at Misano in 2007.

Meantime, Remy did make a decent recovery through the field, making up 9 spots in his charge through the field, and he did have the chance to claim 12th in a last lap contest with Xavi Vierge, but the Spaniard would nab him right on the line.

Still, that’s 4 consecutive races in which Gardner has scored points, which is the first time he’s achieved that in his Grand Prix career.

Still, given what KTM achieved this weekend in the premier class, I’m thinking Remy might be regretting not taking up that interest of a MotoGP contract last year.


So A Red Bull-sponsored driver wearing Number 33 wins in Formula 1, a Red Bull-sponsored rider wearing Number 33 wins in MotoGP, and a Number 33 wins in Moto2.

Next Up: A double header in Austria, beginning this weekend!

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