MotoGP has been cleared for landing at historic Brno, nestled in the rolling Moravian region of the Czech Republic and host to the most widely-attended GP on the calendar. Five riders have formed the first group, tight as ticks, but the next two races favor the Yamahas and Ducatis. If Marc Marquez can hold serve this week and next, his chances of a title in 2017 will take a great leap forward. Chápeš? ¿Entiendes?

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MotoGP is back from its mid-summer break with the Czech Grand Prix at Brno.

Recent History at Brno

Brno was 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 Dani Pedrosa’s first win in 10 months, his last having come at Sepang in 2013, edging Jorge Lorenzo by a few tenths and Valentino Rossi by five seconds. Those were the days when Marquez routinely rode out of control, and we saw none of that at Brno.

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After a record-setting run to start the 2014 season, Marc Marquez settled for a mere fourth place at Brno.

The 2015 race 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  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.

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Valentino Rossi doesn’t usually like losing but he was genuinely happy for Cal Crutchlow’s first career MotoGP victory.

Last year: With three wet/dry races in the previous four rounds, MotoGP fans had been getting accustomed to strange results. Aussie Jack Miller came out of nowhere to win at Assen on his satellite Honda. Marquez held serve at The Sachsenring joined on the podium by Cal Crutchlow and Ducati pilot Andrea Dovizioso. At Brno, the abrasive #CalCulator won his first ever premier class race ahead of Yamaha icon Rossi and Marquez. Cosmic justice prevailed – the biggest day in modern British racing history had virtually no impact on the 2016 season series. It did allow Crutchlow’s inclusion in the following chart:

Better second half than first half. It should be noted that Marquez had the sandbox to himself in 2014 and 2016 and had no need to push during the second half of those seasons.

If Dovi finishes ahead of Rossi this year it will be a passing of the torch. Not necessarily to Dovi, but surely from Rossi. Vale, I fear, will be enticed to keep racing a year or two past his sell date. Perhaps schooling some Italian Moto2 grad on his own Sky VR46 team (a Suzuki satellite team perhaps?) without having to get out of the saddle. Until the student starts schooling the teacher. Paging Pecco Bagnaia. (BTW, Dovi’s second half has been worse than the first in three of the last four years. Rossi will probably beat him. Just sayin’.)

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Valentino Rossi trails Andrea Dovizioso by just four points heading into Brno.

Pedrosa’s best days, too, are behind him. Andrea Iannone needs a different bike. It’s too early to say for Alex Rins. Lorenzo looks lost. Talk of Danilo Petrucci replacing Lorenzo in 2018 is rampant. #09 is a hot ticket these days.

Silly Season in Motion

Alex Marquez and Joan Mir will team up together next season in Moto2 with Estrella Galicia Marc VDS. Should be formidable from jump street. Franco Morbidelli takes over for Tito Rabat at Marc VDS’ MotoGP squad, Rabat said to be negotiating a contract with Avintia or Aspar Ducati, whatever. Same with Miller, now signed with Pramac, moving Scott Redding along. It appears Loris Baz is toast, as Johann Zarco is the new and improved token Frenchman. Taka Nakagami, moving up from Moto2, may be a done deal as the number two Honda rider for LCR alongside Crutchlow. Nakagami’s results have been so-so, but his nationality is perfect.

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Taka Nakagami has reportedly been on LCR’s radar for a seat next season. Nakagami is currently seventh in Moto2 with three podiums.

Herve Poncharal stands pat at Tech 3 Yamaha – who wouldn’t – as does Lin Jarvis at the factory Yamaha team and Livio Suppo at Repsol Honda. LCR keeps Crutchlow and adds Nakagami. Marc VDS drops Rabat, Honda shows Miller the door, and the team adds Morbidelli plus one more. Most every other team either has an opening for next season or appears willing to create one if the right rider comes along. This includes the factory Ducati team which, it is said, covets Petrucci in the worst way. Possibly enough to pay JLo to go away. Ahem… Enough to buy JLo out of his current contract. That’s better.

The answer, in my opinion, is for Lorenzo and Petrucci to switch teams for 2018, both keeping their current contracts and crews. Petrucci is able to give much better data than Lorenzo, and Ducati would have its competitive all-Italian team of Dovi and Petrux in place, finally. Lorenzo will come around or he won’t before leaving for greener pastures in 2019.

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Danilo Petrucci leads Jorge Lorenzo by a single point.

Alvaro Bautista looking credible at mid-season, will stay with Aspar in 2018. The excitable Romano Fenati moves up to Moto2 looking super-fast, highly volatile, and very special. Redding is in the wind, feelings bruised. Rabat is lining up a new deal. Barbera and Baz are hoping. Aprilia looks to stay put, as will KTM. Iannone must be gone at Suzuki, to be replaced by someone from Moto2; Rins stays. Lorenzo spends another year with Ducati in purgatory as Dovi fights for titles. The candidate to succeed Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda team will soon emerge; it is no longer Miller. It could conceivably be Mir or little brother #73 Alex Marquez, who is finally getting Moto2 figured out. One of the wildcards for 2018 is Rins, who could be nothing or could be, on a faster bike, a top ten threat.

Your Weekend Forecast

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Johann Zarco and teammate Jonas Folger have impressed this season but can they deliver Tech 3 Yamaha’s first MotoGP victory?

I can’t fully believe I’m saying this, but this could be the week Tech 3 gets its first MotoGP win. This is a good track for the team, and Folger came pretty close to winning in Germany. No meteorological weirdness to juggle the outcome.

This part of the world is in the midst of a prolonged hot, dry spell, and the long range weather forecast is for those conditions to continue, to the delight of the Honda contingent. The top four – Marquez, Vinales, Dovizioso and Rossi – should be rated more-or-less evenly heading into the race. They’ve all won, they’ve all crashed, they’ve all led the 2017 season, and they all REALLY need to avoid a bad start to the back nine. Plenty of pressure to go around. Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow like it hot on their Hondas.

Bring it on. The race goes off early AM on the US east coast, and we’ll have results here as soon as the fog clears for our weekend editor.

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Marc Marquez leads Maverick Viñales by five points but Andrea Dovizioso, Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa are well within the title picture.
  • Old MOron

    You say the Maniac Joe must be gone at Suzuki. Who could replace him? I can’t think of anyone beside Morbidelli who is ready to step up from Moto 2, and Morbidelli is already contracted to VDS Honda. What about Lorenzo? Could he be enticed away from Ducati?

    On the one hand, I can’t see that Jorge would quit early. Valentino did two years of purgatory with Ducati, and Jorge would want to prove that he can handle the same sort of adversity.

    On the other hand, if Suzuki do not score any podia this year, they will regain the concessions they had before: unlimited testing, nine engines, etc. Under those conditions Lorenzo could really develop the bike. He might like to emulate the challenge that Vale took in 2004 with Yamaha.

    • I have no idea who would replace Iannone; that’s their problem. I just don’t think Suzuki can afford the rest of this season and all of next year with a guy whose riding style is so wrong for the bike. And who seems to be going through the motions, playing things safe.

      • Old MOron

        Ideally they need someone with Moto GP experience, someone who can give them direction. I think their best bet is to try to get Aleix Espargaro back. He has experience with the Yamaha from a few years ago and he’s doing a good job with Aprilia. Unfortunately they burned a bridge with him, the way they dismissed him last year.

        So their best option is probably Scott Redding. He has Moto GP experience with both Honda and Ducati. He should be able to contribute some perspective.

        • spiff

          You may be correct about Redding, but I just don’t like the guy.

  • Starmag

    Thankfully the summer break is over with and the points are close. Bring it.

  • JMDGT

    I think you are right about Rossi riding past his sell date. May the best rider win at Brno. It is a great track.

    • spiff

      That is why I root for Rossi. He is supposed to be out to pasture. I always respected him and his career, but the fact he rebounded from Ducati is why I back him. Mentally that was a huge accomplishment. Champions shouldn’t be judged by how they deal with victoy, but how they deal with defeat. Now Lorenzo gets a chance to impress me. (We have all seen Lorenzo deal with victory.)

      • JMDGT

        I have been a Rossi fan since day one. At one time it seemed like he could do no wrong. When he did he made the best of it and moved forward. Go Rossi end transmission.

        • spiff

          Right.

  • Prakasit

    I will, forever, be mixing up Folger’s and Zarco’s identities. Who is Jonas and who is Johann? Who is French and who is German?

    • Dude. MotoGP.com – Teams and Riders–MotoGP. That’s your homework for tomorrow. You are responsible for informing the group as to the correct names and nationalities of the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, as well as the name and nationality of the team principal and Chief Cheddar.

      • Prakasit

        Chief Cheddar, he’s British.

  • Kos

    Bring it. Still rooting for Rossi, as I fear this may be his last chance.

  • hasty hughie

    Bruce, tight as ticks? ok , better write up, didn’t get too ticky, on track. thanks, hasty.

    • Due to my advanced age and my father’s proclivities, I can recall clichés dating back to the late 19th century. Thanks for noticing how the quality of my reports continues to improve. Next time you post–is this the first time?–why don’t you take the entire 30 seconds to share your thoughts? :^P

      • hasty hughie

        Bruce, considering that my literary style is as if tristram shandy was writing a commentary on beelzebub’s tales to his grandson after ingesting too much cusha, all I can say is that any clarity I could add would only increase the chaos. be well, hh

  • john phyyt

    Bruce says.
    “but surely from Rossi. Vale, I fear, will be enticed to keep racing a year or two past his sell date”

    It is a given that when Mr Allen makes a prediction it is nothing short of a challenge to the gods to prove him wrong.
    These words alone should give Rossi at least two more Moto GP titles.

  • Old MOron

    Hmm, bit of a crazy practice order. Let’s look at the analysis: http://resources.motogp.com/files/results/2017/CZE/MotoGP/FP2/Analysis.pdf
    Some (most?) guys put soft tires in for their final run. But based solely on this practice, the race pace looks to be in the low to mid 1’57 range. I think all of the usual suspects should be able to manage that, plus a few more maybe. I’m optimistic for a great race.

    PS: in Moto 2, hooray for Tech 3 in third position.

    PPS: Sunday’s forecast is for much cooler temps, with a 50% chance of rain. Wow!

  • Old MOron

    Valentino Rossi: “We have to work, especially the balance of the bike is not OK, but the feeling is quite good.”

    LOL, I don’t know how the balance can be bad and the feeling can be good, but that’s why he’s the GOAT.

  • Old MOron

    Oh man, the stage is set for a fantastic race tomorrow. All of the championship leaders are there or thereabouts.

    Brave ride from Bruce’s pet, Crutchlow! He put it on the 2nd row while nursing a back injury. He might not even be allowed to ride tomorrow!

    The only other question mark is – dan dan dan: the weather!
    https://www.wunderground.com/q/zmw:00000.3.11723

    • spiff

      Rain or shine, it should be good, except that the factory Yamahas aren’t mudders this year.

      • Old MOron

        Yeah, but Vale got as many laps as anybody in the 2’05 during the wet practice yesterday. I think he could have a good wet race. http://resources.motogp.com/files/results/2017/CZE/MotoGP/FP1/Analysis.pdf

        What’s going to be interesting is that only about 1/10 of and inch is predicted to fall (last time I checked). I don’t think the track will be wet, but variable. This really gives things a wildcard factor. There could be some great racing, and some great heartbreak, too.