Honda Racing took a turn slapping the competition around at Brno. This week, in a country synonymous with mountains, beer halls, and alarming political geneses, Ducati Corse gets its chance. The Track with Only Nine Turns hosts Round 11 of the 2017 MotoGP championship on Sunday. Andrea Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci and Jorge Lorenzo need to make hay while the sun shines, because Honda man-child Marc Marquez is pulling away from the field.

One of the truths of racing in general is that, on any given weekend, your chances of kicking away a possible championship exceed your chances of seizing it by the throat. Marc Marquez, the exception to many rules, could crash in Turn 1 of Lap 1 this week and still be in the heart of the chase, if somewhat humbled. But for his four chasers – teammate Dani Pedrosa, Yamaha bros Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi, and Ducati rep Dovizioso – crashing out of the points at this stage could spell the end of their year. For Marquez, this is Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. For his pursuers, it is already Game 6, and they’re behind.

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Maverick Viñales only trails Marc Marquez by 14 points but a mistake in Austria would be costly.

Overlooked Details from Brno

The announcers and I missed the fact that rookie Jonas Folger, one of the year’s great surprises on the Tech 3 Yamaha, could have podiumed on Sunday had his crew not been asleep at the switch. Starting 14th, Folger was right behind Marquez entering the pits at the end of Lap 2. Whether Marquez’ early stop had been planned or not (probably had), Folger’s was completely spontaneous and completely correct. Had his #2 bike been ready, he could have followed Marquez around all day and perhaps had a second consecutive silver. Or a maiden premier class win.

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Marc Marquez’s decision to swap bikes after just two laps at Brno proved to be a wise choice. Unlike Jonas Folger’s Tech 3 crew, the Repsol Honda team was ready for a quick change.

His crew, with the bike not yet set up for the dry, waved him off, causing him to have to take, in effect, a voluntary ridethrough penalty. He pitted again after Lap 3, changed bikes, and fought his way to a respectable 10th place finish. Another example of how the Repsol Honda crew dominates their competition, an aspect of racing that goes largely unnoticed. The other teams are WAY behind the factory Honda bunch.

One more thing: Pol Espargaro (9th) scored KTM’s first premier class top-ten finish on Sunday. We trust it won’t be their last.

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Pol Espargaro earned KTM its first top 10 finish at Brno. The team will hope to build on that momentum entering its home track.

Recent History at Red Bull Ring

A number of writers would, gratuitously, try to summarize this segment of the preview in a single sentence. In its debut season, last year’s Austrian round saw Ducati pilots Andrea Iannone and Dovi lead the factory Yamahas on a merry chase through the bucolic Teutonic countryside, followed by everyone else. Stunts like this could explain why we have difficulty securing pressbox credentials for most races.

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Jorge Lorenzo joined Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso on the podium last year. Now riding in Iannone’s place with Ducati, Jorge Lorenzo will look to make further progress this weekend.

Mental Exercise, Austria-Style

Just for grins, imagine the following (okay, unlikely) scenario for this weekend’s race: Marquez gets a DNF. Pedrosa somehow wins with Dovizioso second. Rossi snakes Viñales for third. The standings going into Round 12 would look like the this.

Stranger things have happened, just not in this present life cycle.

Caution: Re-Tranching in Process

Comparing the rankings after Rounds 9 and 10:

After Round 9:

Tranche 1: Viñales, Marquez, Dovizioso, Rossi
Tranche 2: Zarco, Petrucci, Folger, Bautista, Pedrosa, Crutchlow
Tranche 3: Lorenzo, Barbera, Miller, A Espargaro
Tranche 4: Redding, Baz, Abraham, P Espargaro, Iannone
Tranche 5: Rabat, Smith, Lowes, Rins

After Round 10:

Tranche 1: Viñales, Marquez, Dovizioso, Rossi, Pedrosa ↑
Tranche 2: Zarco, Petrucci, Folger, Crutchlow, A Espargaro ↑
Tranche 3: Barbera, Miller, Bautista↓, Baz ↑, Rins ↑↑
Tranche 4: Abraham, P Espargaro, Iannone, Lorenzo↓
Tranche 5: Redding ↓, Rabat, Smith, Lowes

Four riders moving up, three moving down. This thing should not change that much, meaning I am probably placing too much emphasis on Brno. However, Pedrosa has proven he is still a tier one rider in the right conditions. Aleix Espargaro could have easily finished sixth on Sunday. Loris Baz qualified for Q2, crashed out of 14th place. I am itching to drop Jack Miller like a bad habit now that he has checked out with Honda. I suspect he will make that task easy for me in the weeks and months to come.

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Suzuki hasn’t made as much progress as it had hoped this season, in large part because of injuries that have kept Alex Rins out of action for five rounds. Now healthy, Rins will try to salvage the second half of the season.

Alex Rins missed a top ten finish in his first real return to health on the Suzuki by 5/100ths of a second, causing him to jump two levels. And Lonesome Jorge Lorenzo has now worked himself back into Tranche 4, a measure of the difficulty of changing one’s world championship riding style. It appears muscle memory, once attained, takes a long time to forget. Like Iannone, he is trying to re-program his lizard brain, which has mutated in response to years of Yamaha inputs. Thought he could do what Rossi couldn’t; the sin of pride. Be humble or get humbled, I say.

Brain Dump

Much is made of the Autodromo’s nickname, The Czech Adrenaline Factory. It is compared to that of Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, The Horsepower Rodeo. Totally unaware that these tracks even had mottos and nicknames, I came up with some ideas for other venues that may lack a snappy moniker:

  • The Sachsenring: Ve Have Vays
  • Assen: Roll with Us at Assen
  • Rio Hondo: Nowhere → 1000km
  • Sepang: Bungle in the Jungle
  • Silverstone: Next Year in Ebbw Vale!
  • Valencia: Let Valencia Decide

Readers with other ideas are welcome to submit them below in the Comments section. Good luck coming up with something funnier than Argentina.

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“Red Bull Ring” is already a pretty colorful name, but can you give it a better one?

It’s Official

Finland is on the MotoGP calendar beginning in 2019. Dorna’s expansion plans are becoming very Wide World of Sports-ish – “the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, spanning the globe,” from the steaming tarmac of Malaysia to the frozen tundra of Finland, imposing unbelievable strains on our teams in pursuit of the almighty euro.

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Set to join the MotoGP tour in 2019, Finland’s Kymi Ring is 2.86 miles long with 18 turns.

Thailand and Indonesia are banging on the door, demanding to be let in, presaging two Pacific flyaways. With the global motorcycle and scooter markets booming, most notably in the Asia Pacific region, the calendar, like everything else, follows the money. Must be true in Finland, too.

A 20-round calendar can’t be far away.

Your Weekend Forecast

Weather conditions for the weekend should provide something for every taste and budget. Friday is forecast to be wet, Saturday less so, and Sunday clear, cool and breezy. Wet practice sessions leading up to a dry race can be a problem for the riders and teams early in the season. At this point, they’ve all been there, done that. If there is a salient point somewhere in here, it’s that the temps are not expected to be warm enough Sunday to help the Hondas overcome the built-in strengths of the Ducati GP17 on a simple layout like this.

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Ducati says both Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso will use the new fairing design in Austria.

Which in turn means that the smart money will be on Ducatis on Sunday, notably Dovi and Petrucci. Marquez is bound to be a factor; Pedrosa, who will likely have trouble getting his tires up to temperature, not so much. The factory Yamahas, based upon last year’s race, will battle for the third podium spot; my money is on Viñales.

The races go off early Sunday morning again in the U.S. Look for results and analysis right here Sunday afternoon.

  • Gruf Rude

    Still not sure why wings with an over-wrap aren’t illegal. I suspect if the hated Lorenzo storms to victory this week with the new fairing, Dorna will be under intense pressure to ban the Duc’s winged look . . .

    • You gotta talk to some guy named Danny.

    • spiff

      I kind of hope the new fairings prove mediocre, and teams spend their resources somewhere else.

    • Kos

      Because nothing much is going to help Lorenzo at this point in the season, so who cares?

      • Gruf Rude

        ’cause if the wings can suddenly make 99 competitive on a Ducati, they are clearly an unfair advantage . . ;<).

    • That Ducati fairing looks like it might hurt if it hit someone.

  • spiff

    Didn’t realize Folger came in with Marquez. Good on him, not so much the team, but let’s face it. Catching everyone with their pants down was Honda’s goal.

    So, I hope Marquez fouls a plug, Rossi (hopefully second) and the gang run up front, with Petrucci on the top step.

    (Edit) just remembered Folger was on soft tires as well, he needed to come in.

    • spiff

      Or Rossi could win, either way.

  • spiff

    Go Rossi!!! End transmission.

  • Old MOron

    Oh, what fun! I love nicknames. Let me try, too.

    The Sachsenring: A donkey in Saxony is a professor in Rome
    Assen:………………Hup, Doctor, hup!
    Rio Hondo:………..Where’s the beef?!
    Sepang:……………Teh tarik, anyone?
    Silverstone:……….Araf deg mae mynd ymhell
    Valencia:……………Let Valenthia Dethide

    • This is like being in high school, where you get the answers to the test questions right only to discover that you had misread the instructions at the beginning. I don’t even GET half of these, but they’re better than mine were. I was hoping…sniff…for ideas for the OTHER circuits. BTW, Valencia killed me.

      • Old MOron

        Only half of them came out of my head. The other three, I had to google around for ideas. But you’re right. We MOronic readers should be doing the other circuits.

      • Old MOron

        Losail: Can you break away from your alibis?
        ………..Can you make a play? Will you meet me in the dark?

        COTA: Y’all turn right?!

        Jerez: flamenco, sherry, horses, and motorcycles

        Le Mans: When Life gives you lemons, wait for Zarco.

        Mugello: Don’t cha wish your hometown was Tuscany

        • It’s so rare that I get to play editor. Except for COTA, which is great, they’re all too long. Top of my head:

          Losail: Sand and Jetlag Under the Lights
          Jerez: Italians Stay Out
          Le Mans: Home of Johann and Loris
          Mugello: Spagnoli Soggiornano Fuori dai Coglioni

  • Starmag

    Rot Tafelspitzring Current odds:

    Andrea Dovizioso9/5

    Marc Marquez11/4

    Valentino Rossi5

    Jorge Lorenzo13/2

    Maverick Vinales8

    Go Dovi, let’s mix up those standings.

  • Old MOron

    Hmm, Aprilia are reportedly trading one tranche-fiver for another.
    I wondered if Suzuki might want to give Redding a try.
    Looks like Aprilia are going to do it.

  • Old MOron

    Oh man, JMD’s prediction has me spooked now. The Hondas are struggling, except for Marquez. He’s been flying all weekend and took a pretty comfortable pole.