The 2015 bwin Grand Prix České republiky gave the amped-up crowd of 138,000 a somewhat disappointing high-speed parade, with six of the top 8 starters crossing the line in the same position they started. One of these was polesitter Jorge Lorenzo, who drove his Yamaha YZR-M1 to the fastest lap ever recorded on two wheels in qualifying on Saturday. Leading unassailed from wire to wire, Lorenzo pulled into a tie with teammate Valentino Rossi for the 2015 world championship and, holding the tiebreaker, punched Rossi out of the lead for the first time this year.
Rossi pulled a rabbit out of his hat in the final minute of qualifying on Saturday afternoon, putting himself on the front row (third position) for only the 16th time in his last 100 outings. Resurgent world champion Marc Marquez, coming off two consecutive wins, qualified second, giving the world what the announcers referred to, over and over again, as a Dream Front Row. With Lorenzo and Marquez escaping at the start, and Rossi getting swamped back into 5th place, the dream ended in the first turn.
Lorenzo simply had another of those piston-like days where he appeared to coast to the win, never challenged, cool as a cucumber, while those behind him were sweating their asymmetric rears off trying to keep up. Marquez spent the day in second place, looking like he might be biding his time as he did in Indianapolis, until around Lap 8, when his tires dropped. Trailing by only 4/10ths at the end of Lap 6, he would end the day 4.5 seconds down, with Rossi six seconds farther back. A thorough, convincing beatdown at a track perfectly suited to Jorge Lorenzo. I’m surprised he doesn’t win here every year and that they don’t rename the track LorenzoLand.
As we’ve observed here before, Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa has the hardest luck and a pair of the biggest cojones on the grid. His chances for a first premier class title in 2015 were ruined in March when he had to undergo a complicated surgery to deal with his chronic arm pump issue, causing him to sit out rounds 2 through 4. He returned to action at Le Mans, barely, and was making steady progress back into contention when a mechanical issue in FP2 on Friday sent him flying over the handlebars and re-injured a left ankle that already contained a good deal of titanium from previous misadventures. Despite a visible limp, he managed to qualify ninth, getting pushed back to 10th at the end of Lap 1.
Once he settled in, Pedrosa wove his way through the field until the middle of the race when, sitting in sixth place, he found himself running behind a pair of factory Ducatis, Andreas Iannone and Dovizioso intransigent in their refusal to get out of his way. With his adrenaline spike having subsided, along with the painkillers in his ankle, Pedrosa gritted his teeth and took on Dovizioso in a battle for fifth place that lasted from roughly Lap 13 until the final turn of Lap 22, at which point Pedrosa emerged in front of Dovizioso in the run to the wire. And though the result was a rather meaningless fifth place in a lost season, it provided another glimpse of the man within the man who is Dani Pedrosa, the Rodney Dangerfield of MotoGP, who doesn’t get nearly the respect he deserves from folks like me.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Tech 3 Brit Bradley Smith, still without a contract for next year, put his satellite Yamaha in the middle of row two in qualifying and managed another respectable seventh place finish today. With the factory Ducatis having received upgraded engines, they had an easier time at Brno than they have of late, probably costing Smith a spot or two in the final standings. Smith’s Tech 3 teammate Pol Espargaro, 2016 contract in hand, qualified and finished eighth, and now trails the Brit by 25 points heading to the 2/3 mark of the season.
It was a case of trading places today on the factory Suzuki Ecstar team. Rookie-of-the-Year lock Maverick Vinales qualified seventh and was on the way to his 11th consecutive finish in the points when he crashed out on Lap 17. Teammate Aleix Espargaro, who has found the going very rough over the past several rounds, completed his worst qualifying session of the year on Saturday in 15th place, but managed to pull things together sufficiently during the race to finish ninth, despite trailing his brother by 20 seconds, enough time for Pol to enjoy a cream cheese kolache in pit lane waiting for big brother to show up.
Pramac Ducati stalwart Danilo Petrucci, who, like Avintia Racing’s Mike di Meglio has to shave, like, three times a day, was unable to recreate his qualifying magic in Indianapolis, where he started fifth, beginning the day’s action down in 13th position. He kept things together sufficiently to finish tenth, as Vinales and Crutchlow crashed out in front of him and Hector Barbera fell to 16th place.
Perhaps the saddest statement of the day came from announcer Nick Harris, who was so busy applauding the efforts of Loris Baz cutting into Barbera’s lead for the open class championship that he forgot that Baz’s season is probably over, due to the criminal issues surrounding the Forward Racing team’s owner. Baz is probably the latest victim of the old adage that it’s difficult to soar with eagles when you work with turkeys.
Finally, lest I be accused of un-American activities, Nicky Hayden started 21st and finished 17th, a minute and two seconds behind Lorenzo. Were he a mechanic instead of a rider, his work today would be referred to as “turning wrenches.” And while the ever-upbeat Hayden claims to still enjoy his job, the numbers argue otherwise. How much fun can it be for a former world champion to finish behind the likes of Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera?
The Big Picture
While the Movistar Yamaha teammates are ostensibly tied in the standings, Lorenzo holds the tiebreaker as well as the advantage heading into Round 12 at Silverstone. Rossi has not been a factor in the British Grand Prix for a decade, since it was run at Donington Park. Lorenzo has three wins and a second in Britain over the last five years. Rossi was quoted this week as saying that if he expects to win the title this year he needs to start winning races again, his last win having come at Assen back in June.
Marquez told a little bit of a white lie today after the race, stating that his goal for the weekend was to cut into Rossi’s advantage over him. (I suspect his real goal was to watch both factory Yamahas go pinwheeling into the tire barriers while he ran away from the field for an easy third consecutive win.) True, he is now only 52 points out of the lead for the year, whereas he was 56 points out yesterday. Marquez had absolutely no impact on today’s race, other than putting a smidge of pressure on Lorenzo during the first six laps. One can only say that as regards equipment, riders and race management, Team Yamaha is superior to Team Honda in 2015. A few more performances like we saw from Jorge Lorenzo today will earn him his third premier class title and cement his place in racing history.
There is no taking of prisoners in LorenzoLand.
|2015 MotoGP Brno Top 10 Results|
|1||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||–|
|2||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||+4.462|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||+10.397|
|4||Andrea Iannone||Ducati Corse||+13.071|
|5||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+15.650|
|6||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Corse||+15.725|
|7||Bradley Smith||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+21.821|
|8||Pol Espargaro||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+23.240|
|9||Aleix Espargaro||Suzuki Estar||+43.784|
|10||Danilo Petrucci||Octo Pramac Ducati||+45.261|
|2015 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 11 Rounds|