MotoGP Brno Preview 2018
Marquez Prepping to Czech Out at Brno
15 years ago, if you happened to find yourself in the lead late in a MotoGP race, the last person you wanted materializing on your rear tire was #46, Valentino Rossi. That was, at the time, a portent of almost certain doom – for you – as Rossi was king of the jungle, until impudents like Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo came along. Today, the guy you don’t want to see bearing down on you is Marc Marquez, all hunkered down on his Honda RC213V to where you can barely tell where he stops and the bike starts. Turning laps four tenths faster than you, with plenty of tire left.
Today in MotoGP this defines portent of doom. One of the few interesting questions around lately is how long – in years – will he maintain this stranglehold on the premier class? And who will be the next to take it from him? The first, last and only so far was Lorenzo in 2015. And this year is looking bad. Bad, as in there will be nothing on the line for the last few races if current trends continue. This is the point at which one of you often feels compelled to remind me that this is racing and anything can happen blah blah blah. That’s cool. If something happens and Marquez fails to win you can say you told me so. If it doesn’t, and he does, I may have to at least remind some readers about this exchange. (BTW, we conceded the title to #93 after Jerez. Just sayin’.) One more thing. If Marquez were to go down for a few rounds, I would definitely double down on my under wager on the 298 point over/under marker.
Recent History at Brno
The 2015 Brno race gave the crowd of 138,000 a rather disappointing high-speed parade; six of the top eight starters crossed the line in the same position they started. One of these was polesitter Jorge 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. At this point, 2015 was looking like a grand season.
2016: 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. Marc 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 Valentino Rossi and Marquez, who set another new track record. Cosmic justice prevailed – the biggest day in modern British motoracing history had virtually no impact on the 2016 season standings.
The 2017 Czech Motorcycle Grand Prix, after much weather-related pre-race drama, turned out to be a nice six-lap affair, after which many of the attendees flagellated themselves for blowing all that money on such a crummy race. Series leader Marc Marquez, with the best weather guy of any crew, pitted at the end of Lap 2 and changed from soft rain tires to slicks before the thought occurred to many of his competitors. He summarily seized the lead on Lap 6 and never looked back. This was another example of how his crew had the #2 bike properly fitted the way the rider wanted without any communication from him. Pretty awesome crew. “For us, the intermediate tire does not exist.”
So, Hondas have taken the last two races here. Rossi and Maverick Viñales probably like this track. The top Ducatis last year were Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci in 6th and 7th. In 2016, Ducati Corse owned half of the top ten spots without all the fuss and bother of a podium. This looks to be a Lorenzo-friendly layout, and Marquez, last I heard, will be in the house, making him a threat to run and hide on Sunday. As one of our brilliant readers wrote recently, bet the house on Lorenzo winning the first half of the race anyway. And Alex Rins, who got skittled out of his race at The Sachsenring just as his credibility was on the rise, once again finds himself needing to prove he belongs. Such is life in the tall grass, running with the big dogs.
This Track Record Stuff is Kind of Fun
Even with the season looking like a bit of a rout, we can still enjoy the lottery to see whether the track record – in this case set by Marc Marquez in 2016 – will fall this weekend. The bogey is 1:54.596. I think the long layout and flowing turns of Brno lend themselves to another assault on the record this week. All of the top four brands will have riders winding up and firing at it during FP3 and Q2.
At 5-for-7 for the season, we are pulling for them. And any track record more than a year old is in jeopardy.
Petronas SIC Yamaha Rider #2
About Monsieur Fabio Quartararo. He had a 10th and a 13th place finish in two seasons in Moto3 sans podiums. Last year he finished 13th in Moto2. He was again headed nowhere this year until rumors started flying about him joining Franco Morbidelli on the new Petronas SIC Yamaha team for 2019, whereupon he won at Montmelo and finished second at Assen. Dude has a fairly thin resume, although he is ridiculously (currently 19) young. I get the feeling he is either Annointed or Hooked Up.
How does this guy get a premier class ride before, let’s see, Lorenzo Baldassarri, Xavi Vierge, or even Jorge Martin, currently leading in Moto3? Either he has a major sponsor or two in his pocket, or he was tagged at age 10 as having something “special,” or both. In any case, should he turn out to be the designee – when Dani Pedrosa retired I was expecting it’d be Alvaro Bautista – one must defer to the judgment of the people on the ground. Maybe he’ll be great. Maybe he’ll be Scott Redding.
Your Weekend Forecast
The long-range forecast for the greater Brno environs calls for hot, clear conditions all weekend. What we in the trade refer to as Honda conditions ain’t nobody want or need around here around now. We need intermittent showers, gusty winds and scudding clouds, give the place some sense of drama. Think Channel Islands.
As for qualifying and the race, I expect Marquez to win from pole, as does anyone remotely involved in this sport. I also expect him to keep his composure if events conspire to see him finish fifth. At the midpoint of the season, the pressure is on everyone but Marquez. If the race turns out to be low-hanging fruit right there in his face, he should go ahead and take the win. But if there are a couple of determined, quick contenders not backing down or making eye contact, finishing in the top five is an excellent outcome on one of those days when you don’t own the joint. The dumb thing would be to press and slide off, conceding the full 25 points. The 2013 iteration of Marc Marquez might have given that some serious thought. The 2018 version understands it’s the championship, not a race, that is his goal.
You read it here first: Marc Marquez will not crash out of another race until after he clinches the 2018 title.
We will have results and analysis here Sunday afternoon, once the fog burns off amongst the smart set in Toronto.
More by Bruce Allen