After getting schooled by the Dueling Andreas of the factory Ducati team in Austria, the fast movers at Movistar Yamaha and Repsol Honda look to get even this week in The Czech Republic. These ambitions appear justified, in that the Automotodrom Brno has a healthy number of what are called “turns,” whereas the Red Bull Ring is more of a long straight with a couple of kinks in it. It will take a heroic effort from the Ducs to convince the racing world that Sunday’s historic result wasn’t an outlier.

Don’t get too used to seeing the Desmosedicis at the front.

Despite this rather sour outlook, the stock of the Ducati program jumped this past weekend. Series leader Marc Marquez this week shared his opinion with the media that the Andreas Dovizioso and Iannone will be a force to be dealt with for the rest of 2016 and beyond. Ducati will be fronting Jorge Lorenzo in 2017 and 2018, which will raise the team’s prospects yet another notch. Ducati should also be competitive at three of the fast circuits left on the 2016 calendar – Brno, Silverstone and Sepang. Only their execrable start to the season appears to stand between them and Alien status.

Recent History at Brno

In 2013 rookie Marc Marquez, suddenly the blessed heir apparent, won at Brno for a fourth straight victory, edging teammate Dani Pedrosa by 3/10ths with Lorenzo another two seconds back. Marquez ended the day leading Pedrosa by 26 points and Lorenzo by 44 with seven rounds left.

It was at Brno that people began to believe that a rookie like Marc Marquez could win the MotoGP championship.

An anxious Lorenzo got off early from the five hole, hoping to blitz the field, but the Hondas gradually reeled him in, Marquez going through on Lap 16 and Pedrosa three laps later. Valentino Rossi, gradually rounding into form on the Yamaha after two years in red, pipped pretender Alvaro Bautista at the flag for 13 points but still trailed Lorenzo by 26. It was at this point of the season that many people began getting comfortable with the idea, previously unthinkable, that rookie Marquez would take the title that year.

Brno was the site where Marquez’ amazing 2014 win streak came to a curious halt at 10 by way of a fourth place finish that was utterly mystifying. #93 led most of the practice sessions and qualified on pole. Again. Having watched the race pretty carefully, it appeared to me that he just wasn’t that into it, that he let himself be beaten rather than trying to extend a streak that tested belief. It was Pedrosa’s first win in 10 months, his last having come at Sepang in 2013, edging Lorenzo by a few tenths and Rossi by five seconds. Those were the days where Marquez routinely rode out of control, and we saw none of that at Brno.

The 2014 Brno podium was remarkable for who was not on it.

The “anyone but Marquez” mentality that had gradually descended upon the grid was in full force that day. It was Andrea Iannone on the Pramac Ducati who tangled with Marquez twice early, with Rossi assigned to keep the rookie at bay later in the race. Not that it mattered, as the 2014 championship had been decided well before then. Marquez would head to Silverstone leading Pedrosa by 77 points and Lorenzo by 90, what we in Indiana refer to as “a country mile.” I suppose if you ask Aliens whether they ride for titles or records they will usually choose titles; records can be broken, taken away. Titles, not so much.

The 2015 bwin Grand Prix České republiky gave the crowd of 138,000 a rather disappointing high-speed parade; six of the top 8 starters crossed the line in the same position they started. One of these was polesitter Lorenzo, who flogged his Yamaha YZR-M1 to the fastest lap ever recorded at Brno on two wheels in qualifying on Saturday. Leading, as if on rails, from wire to wire, Lorenzo pulled into a tie with teammate Valentino Rossi for the 2015 world championship and, holding the tiebreaker, pushed Rossi out of the lead for the first time that year. Marquez and Rossi joined Lorenzo on the podium that day.

Marc Marquez was back on the podium last year but more importantly, Jorge Lorenzo’s win gave him the lead in the championship.

With Marquez wrestling his 2015 RC213V to a draw most of the season, the Rossi/Lorenzo rivalry would keep growing until the first round of the Pacific flyaway in Sepang, when Marquez and Rossi tangled for the second time, the first having come at Assen. The wheels proceeded to come off the championship chase, so to speak, in a firestorm of hard feelings and bad sportsmanship, culminating in an ugly season finale in Valencia in which Rossi was forced to endure a last row start after some highly unbecoming behavior in Japan.

Irrational Exuberance

Paraphrasing the words of ex-Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan, most of the riders in the premier class grid can be accused of being overly optimistic about their prospects on a given weekend. Nicky Hayden, now competing in World Superbike, was perhaps the most prominent example of this thinking. Having won his only world championship during the down year of 2006, with but three premier class wins to his name during a 13-year career, The Kentucky Kid was generally convincing when describing his chances at any race, other than those few in which he was injured, as being good. His usual take – “Well, we’ll wind it up, try to stay with the front group, look for some opportunities to steal a spot or two, and see what happens. The reason they run these danged things is on account of you never know who might win.” All this, during his last five seasons, generally on his way to 12th place and four points.

Dani Pedrosa is looking for, well, just about anything to pull him out of this slump.

Now, suddenly, Dani Pedrosa is sounding an awful lot like Hayden. His last three outings have produced a total of 23 points. In the midst of what has arguably been his least productive premier class season ever, the following words came out of his cake hole yesterday: “It’s very wide, with some very fast corners, and you must be able to hit the best lines to set good lap times, as it doesn’t forgive the smallest mistake.” He continued, “I just hope that the weather is stable so we can use all the practice time and try to build up some more confidence and speed.”

Finally, he adds: “In this second part of the season, we should find some more suitable tracks for us. Of course Brno has some long straights that can be demanding for us, but it’s a track that I’ve liked since I started racing, and I always have a good feeling there.” The headline which accompanied this soliloquy read “Pedrosa upbeat on Brno prospects.” Jeesh.

Your Weekend Forecast

Weather conditions in the greater Brno area are expected to deteriorate as Sunday approaches. The best chance of rain appears to be on Sunday, with a weather system moving in on Saturday night. I’m starting to sound like Al Roker. Practice sessions should be dry, but Sunday could give us another hilarious flag-to-flag event. Both Moto3 and Moto2 could have a red flag in their future on Sunday morning.

Expect Marc Marquez to bounce back at Brno.

As to the podium, I am leaning toward Marquez, Lorenzo and Rossi. #93 is a fast healer and will want to get back in the mix after the problems he experienced in Austria. Lorenzo and Rossi count Brno among their favorite tracks, assuming the weather cooperates. I would like to see a Ducati or two on the podium, but fear Iannone and Dovizioso may still be nursing hangovers from last time out, in addition to a little irrational exuberance. Those two will be praying for rain.

We’ll have results and analysis right here later on Sunday.

  • Starmag

    “Rossi was forced to endure a last row start after some highly unbecoming behavior in Japan.” That should bring out the MM haters. Spanish conspiracy! etc.

    Dovi and T-Bone will have to stand on the top spot a lot more frequently for me to consider them aliens, although it’s always great to see someone up there other than The Three. I hope they do and I’d love to see a Suzuki podium as well. Maybe T-Bone can take them to the Promised Land next year.

    Re-signing Pedro seems like a mistake at this point but who knows what Honda’s options were at the point of re-signing.

    I think you might be too harsh on the Nickster. I would have had less respect for him and his career would be over instantly if he said ‘Well, the team I ride for doesn’t have a clue and won’t until the team manager is fired so the bike is un-rideable unless you’re CS and willing to risk the career ending high-sides by steering with the rear end hung out. Plus I’ve only won three times so don’t expect much”. Always gracious, I’d take him over The Grumbler any day.

    • Old MOron

      I used to laugh at Nicky, but as I observed his grace and sportsmanship all that time he was stuck at Ducati, I came to respect him. Still do.

      • Bruce Allen

        OK, he’s a world champion. Can’t take that away from him. I was mostly thinking about how optimistic ALL the riders are, even when their chances for top ten finishes are nil. Probably something in the standard rider contract. I met Nicky at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in 2010 and he was gracious and generous with his time. Still a fan, but had enough with the ruminating about his chances of winning years ago.

        • Old MOron

          “Probably something in the standard rider contract.”

          More like something in the standard racer psyche.
          Good luck to each one of them this weekend.

  • JMDonald

    At Brno they just want to be free. Free to ride their machines and not be hassled by the man. Here’s to good weather and all riders and bikes performing at their optimum.

  • Old MOron

    Good observations re titles versus records. You sent me to my dictionary for “execrable”. Thanks, Brucey?

    Any news on the fate of Romano Fenati?

    • Bruce Allen


      • Old MOron

        Aw shucks, I hope he learns to keep his cool.

        • Gruf Rude

          He’s been fired by Sky. Hard to imagine another team taking on a ‘problem child’ at this point in the season.

  • Vrooom

    Pedrosa doesn’t seem to have much fun riding anymore, that picture is perfect. Rossi is older, but he seems to enjoy himself. Of course if I was paid millions of dollars to ride motorcycles I wouldn’t quit my job without some serious pressure either.

    • spiff

      I agree, the tires are not to his liking, and the bike is built around Marquez. I was hoping Pedrosa would go to Suzuki. They would have built a bike for him.

  • spiff

    I’m going to pay attention this weekend. Watched the race last weekend, but no practice, and watched zero the race before. Granted I was busy with stuff, but the summer break is to long.

    Go Rossi!!! End transmission.

  • Old MOron

    Based on today’s afternoon practice, I’d say the race pace is in the low 1’56 range.
    The usual suspects are all there.

    They should go faster tomorrow. Let’s see who can keep up.

    • Gruf Rude

      Incredible pole/record lap by Marquez, particularly since he finished it in traffic. Depending on tires, it looks like Yamaha, Honda and Ducati will all be in the mix for the podium.

      • Bruce Allen

        Looked like he was racing at the end. “Pardon me , Senor Rossi.” :)

        • Gruf Rude

          Qualifying is a big part of racing; checking up for Rossi and losing front row/pole was apparently not in the plan.

  • Old MOron

    Woo-hoo! Can’t wait to see how Brucey writes his report for THIS race.

  • spiff

    So todays race report might be a little late. Word on the street is Bruce saw a pig fly, and his head exploded.

    Got to admit, he passed a lot of guys today. Maybe not the norm, but it wasn’t a fluc either. He earned it.