World Champion Marc Marquez’s mastery of tactics, speed, determination and guile in tricky flag-to-flag races again came to the fore with a brilliant victory at Brno ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Maverick Vinales in an all-Spanish podium.
Marquez’s third win of the year and his 58th in total came in a ‘wet’ race but on a track that was mostly dry with a few damp patches.
After starting from pole position with a soft rear tyre, the Spaniard quickly fell down the order before he became the first rider to enter the pits to swap bikes.
Eventually all riders would make the same move to slick-laden second machines, but Marquez’s early move on his Repsol Honda proved to be decisive as he found himself well in front – by over 20 seconds at one stage – as the pack settled back down.
From there Marquez only had to play it safe as he crossed the finish line just over 12 seconds ahead of teammate Pedrosa, with Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) another six seconds behind in third.
Marquez has now extended his Championship lead to 14 points (154 to 140) over Vinales after 10 of 18 rounds, followed by Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team, 133), Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha, 132), Pedrosa (123) and rookie Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 88).
“This was a very challenging race. On the grid, I took the risk to use the soft rear tyre because I thought it would give me extra grip for five laps before pitting to change bikes, but it didn’t go like that,” said Marquez.
“I soon started to struggle a lot and lost many positions. When I saw that, I decided to immediately get in and take the risk of the slicks.
“When I rejoined the race, it was still too damp in some parts and I nearly crashed during the first lap out. When you go out for the flag-to-flag, it’s so difficult to get the feeling with the bike again, but I tried to quickly understand the grip.
“Today I took some risks but it was one of those days when you just have to do it. After pulling a great gap, I just tried to manage, to ride well, and to finish the race.
“We did the correct strategy during the summer break, coming here to test, and we arrived here prepared.
“We’re improving step by step. The Championship is still very, very tight; we must be able to be fast in every condition.”
Meanwhile, Rossi continued circulated on wet-weather tyres long after Marquez had made his move into the pits, but he still managed to finish in fourth position after passing Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) on the final lap.
Dovizioso was sixth from Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3).
Australia’s Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) was 14th, just ahead of early leader Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team).
Miller was one of the first to pit, but a slow stop and then rear grip issues did not allow him to maximise his race strategy.
“I lost some valuable seconds in the pit stop waiting for my second bike to be ready, but still thought I had a chance of a top 10 position,” said Miller.
“But then I found we did not have similar rear grip compared to practice when I could easily do 1:57s on an old tyre, but in the race I could not match those times.
“The front felt really good but I had no rear grip and could not take advantage of my strategy.
“I tried to ride a smart race but a series of unfortunate issues cost me valuable points today.”
Miller remains 12th in the standings, on 43 points.
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, 44:15.974
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda, +12.438s
Maverick Vinales, Movistar Yamaha, +18.135s
14. Jack Miller, EG 0,0 Marc VDS, +38.062s
Pole position: Marquez, 1:54.981 = 169.1km/h
Fastest lap: Vinales, 1:57.502 = 166.1km/h
Championship top 3
- Marquez 154
- Vinales 140
- Dovizioso 133
It was Swiss precision at Brno as Tom Luthi (CarXpert Interwetten) won a shortened six-lap sprint after he made a sensational holeshot from the third row of the grid and was never headed.
Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completed the podium, with Championship leader Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) coming home in eighth – just ahead of barnstorming Aussie Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing).
The first attempt at the race was red flagged because of rain, and in the restart Luthi stole the limelight as he made a superb start.
Marquez slotted into second before drama hit when polesitter Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) slid out, bringing his 200th GP start to a premature end.
Alone at the front, it was near-perfection from Luthi, who simply disappeared into the distance to cross the line almost five seconds clear. He's now only 17 points behind Morbidelli in the title chase.
Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) and Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) were fourth and fifth, while Gardner made up amazing 17 spots in six laps to finish in ninth.
“Today was positive. I gained places in both starts but in the restart I felt much stronger from the get-go and used my head to get my best ever GP finish,” said Gardner.
“I’m extremely happy and already looking forward to getting back on my Tech3 Mistral in Austria next week.”
- Tom Luthi, CarXpert Interwetten, 13:39.036
- Alex Marquez, EG 0,0 Marc VDS, +4.991s
- Miguel Oliveira, Red Bull KtM Ajo, +6.983s
9. Remy Gardner, Tech 3 Racing, +19.843s
Pole position: Mattia Pasini, Italtrans Racing Team, 2:02.611 = 158.6km/h
Fastest lap: Franco Morbidelli, EG 0,0 Marc VDS, 2:03.194 = 157.8km/h
Championship top 3
- Morbidelli 182
- Luthi 165
- Oliveira, Marquez 133
Championship leader Joan Mir (Leopard Racing Honda) just held off closest rival Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers Honda) in a tight finish, while the podium was completed by the fast-finishing Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda).
Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Juanfran Guevara (RBA BOE Racing Team KTM), who did most of the leading before Mir and Fenati took control, finished in fourth and fifth respectively, ahead of John McPhee (British Talent Team Honda).
- Joan Mir, Leopard Racing Honda, 44:41.314
- Romano Fenati, Marinelli Rivacold Snipers Honda, +0.350s
- Aron Canet, EG 0,0 Honda, +3.078s
Pole position: Gabriel Rodrigo, RBA BOE Racing Team KTM, 2:08.571 = 151.2km/h
Fastest lap: Mir, 2:16.520 = 151.3km/h
Championship top 3
- Mir 190
- Fenati 149
- Canet 126
Next round: Red Bull Ring, Austria, August 11-13.