The Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky was the kind of procession that gives MotoGP a bad name. Marc Marquez led wire-to-wire without breaking a sweat for his 50th premier class win and a 63-point lead heading to Austria. A bit of a scramble behind him left Ducati pilots Andrea Dovizioso and Jack Miller on the side steps of the podium. Golden Boy Fabio Quartararo finished in P7, finally showing some respect for his elders. The season grinds on.

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With his 76th career grand prix win, Marc Marquez ties Mike Hailwood for fourth all time, trailing only Angel Nieto (90), Valentino Rossi (115) and Giacomo Agostini (122).

Practice and Qualifying

FP1 was its usual misleading self on Friday, as evidenced by, among other things, the presence of Miguel Oliveira (KTM) and 37-year-old Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki) in the top five. Further evidence came in the form of rookie sensation Quartararo (Yamaha) sitting 18th and the hapless Johann Zarco (KTM) 23rd and last. Dovizioso, Marquez and Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales were “row one” but the track was slow, with rain in the forecast for Saturday. The MotoGP equivalent of Where’s Waldo? – Where’s Valentino? – found Rossi tenth after the first session, alive and well.

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Found him.

The riders approached FP2 as if it were a qualifying session, since the forecast and gathering clouds promised a wet track on Saturday morning, and a semblance of order was restored. Quartararo, Marquez and Jack Miller (Ducati) topped the sheet, followed in close order by Dovizioso, Viñales and Alex Rins. Waldo was sitting, all Cheshire cat-like, in P9, praying for rain. Only #20 and #93 broke 1:56, but there were another 13 riders who broke 1:57.

Sure enough, it was a wet, drying track for FP3, and Marquez dominated; riders who had previously prayed for rain as a way to slow down the Catalan Cruiser abandoned those prayers. The results from FP2 would stand, leaving names like Joan Mir (Suzuki), Zarco, Pol Espargaro (KTM) and rookie Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) on the outside looking in. That pesky old Sylvain Guintoli showed up again in the wet but would have to come through Q1 anyway.

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Johann Zarco led teammate Pol Espargaro for a one-two KTM finish in Q1.

For the first time ever, two KTMs advanced through Q1, Zarco uncharacteristically leading Pol Espargaro. Q2 was staged on a damp drying track, with a thunderstorm tossed in for the last three minutes. Toward the end of the session riders were out on wet tires and slicks, mediums and softs, something for every taste and budget. Marquez, as is his wont, switched to slicks before everyone else, went out, dodged the larger puddles, and stuck his Repsol Honda on pole again, this time by 2½ seconds. On his two final laps, on slicks, he skated through turns 13 and 14 in a downpour on his way to one of the ballsiest pole performances of all time. Pinch me – KTMs would start Sunday from P3 and P5; Petronas Yamahas from P10 and P12, not having things their way in eastern Europe. Rossi would start within striking distance from P7. His teammate Maverick Viñales, suffered in P9 and looked unlikely to make big noise on Sunday.

The Race Failed to Inspire

Looking at the results, it was The Usual Suspects everywhere you turned. Nine of the top ten riders for the season finished in the top ten today, Pol Espargaro having fallen to P11 after starting from P5 and fading slowly all day. Rossi started 7th, fought like hell to get as high as 5th, and finished 6th, right about where he belongs at this stage of his career. Viñales started from P9 and showed absolutely nothing all day on his way to finishing 10th. Rins flirted with the podium most of the day before his rear tire turned to jelly, settling for fourth. Your boy Cal Crutchlow made P5 lemonade out of a P11 start. Zarco wasted his impressive P3 start by clattering both Mir and Franco Morbidelli out of the race early without having the decency to DNF himself, earning two points along the way. Not cool.

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Johann Zarco was blamed for causing the first-lap crash that took out Franco Morbidelli and Joan Mir.

MotoGP is most entertaining when the unexpected occurs; today delivered a bunch of credible performances but few surprises. Since Qatar, only Marquez and Quartararo have secured poles. Although five riders have won races this year, four of them – Viñales, Dovizioso, Rins and Petrucci – are tied for second with a single win each. For the year, we will concede the title to Marquez. We look forward to watching Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci and Rins slug it out for second. Viñales, Rossi, Miller, Crutchlow and Quartararo look ready to fight over fifth place. Beyond that, the only people who care about what happens are sponsors and bookies. Such is life, as one of our readers likes to observe, amongst the yachting class.

For the record, Marquez’ track record from 2016 remained unchallenged.

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Honda’s Marc Marquez was joined on the podium by a pair of Ducatis in Andrea Dovizioso and Jack Miller.

The Big Picture

Time for a little sloppy statistical analysis. With a cushion of 63 points after 10 races, Marquez is adding an average of 6.3 points to his lead each week. Meaningful magic numbers for clinching the championship start showing up around Buriram. Here is a straight-line projection of where these two columns intersect:

The race announcers today were speculating that Marquez could clinch as soon as Aragon, presuming everything on earth were to go perfectly for Marquez and terribly for his pursuers. I think the smart money will be on Motegi once again this year.

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Alex Marquez won the Moto2 race, increasing his championship lead over Thomas Luthi to 33 points.

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Tranches

After Sachsenring:

Tranche 1: Marc Marquez
Tranche 2: Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Franco Morbidelli, Maverick Viñales, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, Fabio Quartararo, Cal Crutchlow
Tranche 3: Valentino Rossi, Aleix Espargaro, Pol Espargaro, Joan Mir, Takaa Nakagami
Tranche 4: Jorge Lorenzo, Johann Zarco, Miguel Oliveira, Pecco Bagnaia
Tranche 5: Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat, Andrea Iannone

After Brno:

Tranche 1: Marc Marquez
Tranche 2: Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Franco Morbidelli, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, Fabio Quartararo, Cal Crutchlow, Valentino Rossi
Tranche 3: Maverick Viñales, Aleix Espargaro, Pol Espargaro, Joan Mir, Takaa Nakagami
Tranche 4: Jorge Lorenzo, Johann Zarco, Miguel Oliveira, Pecco Bagnaia
Tranche 5: Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat, Andrea Iannone

Next Stop: Spielberg

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Aron Canet won a close-fought Moto3 race, beating Lorenzo Dalla Porta and Tony Arbolino, with just 0.217 seconds separating the three podium finishes.

KTM’s home crib will again host Round 11 at the Red Bull Ring, MotoGP’s version of Daytona. Red Bull Ring has a total of ten turns; The Circuit of the Americas has 11 right-handers (and nine lefts). Despite being KTM’s home, the track is designed perfectly for the Ducati, which still prefers going straight to all that curvy stuff. I expect if Gigi Dall’Igna had his way Dorna would schedule a round at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Just a 45 mile drag race. A turn in the middle so everyone doesn’t end up wandering around the desert.

Glancing a little bit farther into the future, the 2020 calendar will be the longest ever, with 20 rounds on the schedule courtesy of the addition of the Grand Prix of Finland. It is also reasonable to expect that the 2020 silly season, jockeying for seats in 2021-22, will be hectic, with a host of rider contracts expiring at the end of 2020 and a number of quick Moto2 and Moto3 riders bucking for promotions. Plenty of stuff to look forward to, even if not knowing who will take the title for the next few seasons isn’t one of them.