One of Europe’s elite racing venues gave 140,000 fans a thoroughly enjoyable MotoGP race today. Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo put a heavy Ducati double-team on series leader Marc Marquez as all three ended up on the podium. Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow had their own little late-in-the-day war for fourth place, won by Vale. Marquez, who finds a way to win while losing, extends his season lead over Rossi to 49 points heading to Austria.

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Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo overcame the seemingly unbeatable Marc Marquez today. The margin was just 0.368 seconds between the three men on the podium.

Practice and Qualifying

Y’know how it is the first day back at work after vacay. Jet lagged, a little bloated, still catching up on sleep, thirsty all the time. After Friday’s two practice sessions the fastest rider on grid was one Dani Pedrosa, showing the crowd he hasn’t yet retired. This Alvaro Bautista guy was deeply in the mix again, ending the day with the third fastest time, trying desperately to win a 2019 ride that doesn’t appear to exist. And your boy Hafez Syahrin showed up in fourth place on Friday, looking as perplexed as the rest of us. It’s worth mentioning that Maverick Viñales was, after FP2, sitting comfortably in sixth place, apparently poised to rock and roll in FP3.

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He may be retiring but Dani Pedrosa still some left in the tank, topping the leaderboard in FP2.

As is generally the case, times on Saturday morning improved overall. A few riders and their crews, apparently having burned the midnight oil, figured out some serious stuff. Take Ducati enigma Jorge Lorenzo, please. He sliced almost two full seconds off his Friday best, jumping from 15th overall to third. Crutchlow, Rossi, Marquez and Andrea Iannone also found more than a second overnight. Alas, Messrs. Bautista, Syahrin and Viñales failed to hold onto their top ten perches and would have to fight their way through Q1. Methuselah, #46, would lead the way into Q2, looking quick despite his ongoing victory drought.

Viñales and Alex Rins made it through Q1 without much heartburn. Bautista gave it the old college try, as dad used to say, but crashed out on his last pass, forced to settle for the top of the fifth row on Sunday.

Q2 was the usual barn burner. Marquez laid down the first serious lap with four minutes gone. A minute later Lorenzo scorched Brno and repeated the feat again nine minutes later. With a minute left in the session, Marquez seized pole once again, but left the door open for the two alpha Italians. From seventh place starting the last lap, Dovizioso whipped his Ducati to pole, missing the 2016 track record by just over a tenth. Rossi, coming from 12th, worked his magic once again on the last lap, ending up in the middle of the front row, next to Marquez, who was relegated to third. Like he cared.

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Maverick Viñales started off the weekend well, but quickly fell off. Viñales announced he would part with crew chief Ramon Forcada – who won three MotoGP titles with Jorge Lorenzo – at the end of the season.

But it must be a comfort to the millions of Rossi fans across the globe that he has finally, six years on, figured out the 15-minute qualifying sessions. The race Sunday would start with the two Italians and Marquez on the front row, stalked by Lorenzo, Crutchlow and Danilo Petrucci on Row 2. Viñales, who showed some signs of life on Friday, showed very little on Saturday and would start from the back of the fourth row. Dude is living in perdition these days, at war with his crew chief, Ramon Forcada, while his teammate, not a care in the world, keeps hanging around up front, smiling and waving to the cameras.

A Pulsating Czech GP

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Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow were in the mix early in the race until the three podium finishers created some separation.

Unlike last year, when the race was pretty much over by Lap 7, today’s tilt went right down to the wire. After Valentino had taken the holeshot on the opening lap (for the first time since, like, Vietnam) the primary combatants featured the two factory Ducatis beneath Dovizioso and Lorenzo, Marquez and Crutchlow on Hondas, and Rossi on the unfortunate Yamaha M1. Lap times were surprisingly slow, and by Lap 18 it looked like any of the five could take the win. Suddenly, Lorenzo, riding hard front/hard rear and looking like the 2012 version of himself, went through on both Marquez and Dovizioso. He made the pass stick on Marquez but ran wide and had to let Dovi back through. As the race approached its finale, it was Marquez lurking behind the two Ducatis, waiting for something to happen.

Let’s take a brief timeout and remind one another that Brno is almost custom-designed for the Ducati Desmosedici. The flowing layout, fast turns, and inimitable Horsepower Hill (sorry, Austin) give the red machines a discernible advantage here.

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Brno is well suite for the Desmosedici but Marc Marquez was able to hang in there with his Honda.

Marquez, whose prospects entering the weekend were suboptimal, for him, found himself in the midst of a Ducati double-team for most of the second half of the day. At the end, he did manage a rather weak pass on Lorenzo, who came back three turns later and forced him to sit up, leading to the final finishing order, the tightest top three finish since Estoril 2006.

Our prediction that Marquez was likely to win today was based, in part, on the fact that a Ducati had not won here since Casey Stoner in 2007. The factory Yamaha team now resembles Mutt and Jeff – Rossi, second for the year, generally on or near the podium every time out. But Maverick Viñales is just lost. Qualified 12th after having had to come through Q1. At war with his crew chief. And fails to make it out of Lap 1 today, getting caught up with Stefan Bradl and Bradley Smith. Dovizioso snatched his 3rd place spot in the standings. All things being equal, it wouldn’t surprise me if he were to accidentally drop his phone in the toilet tonight.

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It was a much needed win for Andrea Dovizioso, his first since the season opener in Qatar.

Anyway, with the Ducati contingent not having been a factor for a decade and the factory Yamaha team in disarray, it appeared Marquez had an opportunity to pull off the win. When asked prior to the race who he most feared on the grid on Sunday, he unhesitatingly answered, “Dovi.” He was right. It was somewhat gratifying that he would win the race two days after MotoGP.com ran an article titled “What’s Happened to Dovi?”

Elsewhere on the Grid

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Pol Espargaro broke his collarbone in a crash during the morning warmup. He will return to Barcelona on Monday for further evaluation.

Pol Espargaro screwed the pooch in the morning warm-up today and is resting uncomfortably in a hospital somewhere with a broken left collarbone and chest contusions. He will be out for Red Bull Ring and perhaps Silverstone, too. With Bradley Smith having crashed out early in the race, it was another write-off weekend for KTM.

DNFs were recorded by Bradl and Viñales early on, and by Smith, Scott Redding and Tito Rabat later.

Meanwhile, the Author is now five-for-eight on breaking track records for the year… (sigh)…

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Count Scott Redding among those who did not finish. Redding said he didn’t like the feeling of the hard front tires, especially after releasing the brakes.

The Big Picture

Marquez now leads the series by 49 points. Dovi passed Viñales for third behind Rossi, while Lorenzo went through on Johann Zarco into a respectable fifth place for the year. Ask Marc Marquez how he would feel about Dovizioso and Lorenzo finishing one-two again next week in Austria and I think he would be fine with that. For now, Marc Marquez only has to worry that Valentino Rossi might stage some kind of Lazarus-ish comeback, win five in a row, and put the 2018 championship back on a competitive footing. For now, as he said in the post-race presser, all Marc Marquez needs to focus on is finishing each race until he clinches the title, just like we said last week. And Rossi, winless for over a year, would probably happily settle for a single win. Anywhere. The sooner the better.

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It wasn’t his best day but Marc Marquez still managed to reach the podium for the 71st time in his 100th career MotoGP race.

Tranching Getting Easier

Now that things are getting stretched out a little in the standings, putting the riders in their proper slots is getting a little easier.

Tranches After Sachsenring:

Tranche 1: Marquez
Tranche 2: Rossi, Viñales, Dovizioso, Lorenzo, Petrucci
Tranche 3: Bautista, Pedrosa, Zarco, Rins, Crutchlow, Iannone, P Espargaro
Tranche 4: Morbidelli, Syahrin, A Espargaro, Miller, Rabat, Smith
Tranche 5: Redding, Nakagami, Abraham, Luthi and Simeon

Tranches After Brno

Tranche 1: Marquez
Tranche 2: Rossi, Dovizioso, Lorenzo, Petrucci, Crutchlow
Tranche 3: Bautista, Pedrosa, Zarco, Rins, Iannone, P Espargaro, Viñales
Tranche 4: Morbidelli, Syahrin, A Espargaro, Miller, Rabat, Smith
Tranche 5: Redding, Nakagami, Abraham, Luthi and Simeon

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2018 MotoGP Brno Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse 41:07.728
2 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati Corse +0.178
3 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda +0.368
4 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha +2.902
5 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda Castrol +2.958
6 Danilo Petrucci Alma Pramac Ducati +3.768
7 Johann Zarco Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +6.159
8 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +7.479
9 Alvaro Bautista Angel Nieto Ducati +7.575
10 Andrea Iannone Suzuki Ecstar +8.326
11 Alex Rins Suzuki Ecstar +8.653
12 Jack Miller Alma Pramac Ducati +16.549
13 Franco Morbidelli Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +19.603
14 Hafizh Syahrin Monster Yamaha Tech3 +21.381
15 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia Gresini +23.159
16 Thomas Luthi Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +27.673
17 Takaaki Nakagami LCR Honda Idemitsu +28.311
18 Karel Abraham Angel Nieto Ducati +41.172
19 Sylvain Guintoli Suzuki Ecstar +42.411
20 Xavier Simeon Reale Avintia Ducati +50.941
Not Classified
DNF Tito Rabat Reale Avintia Ducati 13 Laps
DNF Scott Redding Aprilia Gresini 16 Laps
DNF Bradley Smith Red Bull KTM 20 Laps
DNF Maverick Viñales Movistar Yamaha
DNF Stefan Bradl HRC Honda
2018 MotoGP Top 10 Standings After 10 Rounds
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda 181
2 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha 132
3 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse 113
4 Maverick Viñales Movistar Yamaha 109
5 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati Corse 105
6 Johann Zarco Monster Yamaha Tech 3 97
7 Danilo Petrucci Alma Pramac Ducati 94
8 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda Castrol 90
9 Andrea Iannone Suzuki Ecstar 81
10 Jack Miller Alma Pramac Ducati 61