The writing was on the wall, really. When Jorge Lorenzo has his Movistar Yamaha humming in practice and qualifying, he rarely fails to bring that form into the main game. And so it was at Brno on August 16 when he produced a towering performance in front of 138,000 spectators, leading from the start and then eventually breaking world champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) with 14 laps to go. It was classic Lorenzo: he doesn't win with pyrotechnics, but in a grinding, methodical manner.
It was not only Lorenzo's fifth win of the season, and he now joins teammate Valentino Rossi on 211pts at the pointy end of the MotoGP standings. And — for what it's worth with seven rounds still remaining — he now leads the championship because he has two more wins than Rossi.
"I pushed so much at the beginning of the race and I gave my maximum to escape from Marc, who stayed behind me for a lot of laps," said Lorenzo. "I expected the race to be a little bit quicker at the beginning. Luckily for me after a few laps I started to brake better with less fuel in the tank and enter corners faster than before. I improved my times only by one tenth of a second, but it gave me a 0.6s advantage in one lap and that went up to one second and I was able to get away little by little and win the race."
The final margin was 4.462s over Marquez, with Rossi finishing in third position ahead of Ducati Team's Andrea Iannone and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda). Australia's Jack Miller (CWM LCR Honda) was 19th.
Marquez, who had won the last two GPs, said his second position "was good" considering the difficulties he had over the weekend.
"Today Jorge rode a very good race. We knew we were not far off him, but we were not close enough and we tried to stick with him, at least at the beginning of the race," said Marquez. "After six or seven laps I began to lose performance and he was able maintain his pace.
"That's where the difference was made. We achieved the goal we had for today: to try and open a gap to Valentino and the others from the start so I’m happy about that."
Rossi, for his part, said he simply didn't have enough rhythm to maintain the same pace as Lorenzo and Marquez, but he was still good enough to maintain his 100 percent podium finishing record in 2015.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was as high as third on lap one before drifting back to his eventual finishing spot of sixth position, with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 pair Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro in seventh and eighth ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Ecstar Suzuki) and Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing Ducati).
Elsewhere, both Aprilia factory bikes (Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl) finished in the points for the first time this year, and Frenchman Loris Baz (Forward Racing) was the first Open class bike home in 15th position. Among those to crash were Cal Crutchlow (CWM LCR Honda) and Maverick Vinales (Ecstar Suzuki), who was running well inside the top 10 at the time.
Miller did well not to go down himself when Eugene Laverty (Aspar MotoGP Team) crashed in front of him on lap five, but after running wide and returning to the track he quickly recovered the lost ground.
“I didn't have the best start but I was getting into a rhythm when Eugene crashed… and I had to avoid him," said Miller. "I really pushed to try and close the gap to Baz and once I got past (Mike) Di Meglio I was really doing it. I started putting together a good race rhythm but after I pushed for five or six laps the bike started to feel a bit shaky.
“It was spinning up a lot so I had to back off and bring it home. I couldn't do anything to stop Di Meglio coming back past me, as the bike was wheelying on the straight and I couldn't brake how I wanted."
Marquez (159pts) has tightened his third grip on third spot in the standings, ahead of Iannone (142), Smith (106), Dovizioso (104), Pedrosa (91) and Pol Espargaro (81). Miller is 18th on 12pts.
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Movistar Yamaha, 41m55.371s
2. Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, +4.462s
3. Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha, +10.397s
19. Jack Miller, CWM LCR Honda, +1.11:407
Pole position: Jorge Lorenzo, 1:54.989 = 169.1km/h
Fastest lap: Marquez, 1:56.048 = 167.6km/h
Championship top 3
Lorenzo 211 • Rossi 211 • Marquez 159
Lorenzo's not the only rider who knows how to lead a motorcycle race and hold his nerve — German Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) was just as sublime at Brno as he led the whole way to extend his championship lead out to 79pts over world champion Tito Rabat (EG 0,0 Marc VDS).
Rabat kept Zarco in his vision but was never really able to reduce the gap to within 'striking distance', while Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40) withstood some heavy pressure from Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) to finish in third position. Sam Lowes (Speed Up Racing) carved through the field from a lowly qualifying position to finish in fifth.
But the day was about Zarco's speed and ability to meter his lead to precision.
“This weekend I had a good feeling from the start. I felt comfortable on the bike at all times, riding well with both a full and empty fuel tank," said Zarco. "The race was not easy, as I had a lead of between six tenths and one second, which is a good advantage but far from definitive.
"I had to be very focused and on the final laps I was able to extend the gap to take the victory. I am very happy with the win and for having extended the lead in the standings, which is very important to me. I do not look at the statistics because I am fortunate to have a team behind me who make me concentrate on what really matters. I want to thank them, and now we will focus on Silverstone."
Jonas Folger (AGR Team), Tom Luthi (Derendinger Racing Interwetten) and Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) completed the top eight.
Australia's Ant West (QMMF Racing) finished in 21st position.
1. Johann Zarco, Ajo Motorsport, 41m02.500s
2. Tito Rabat, EG 0,0 Marc VDS, +1.421s
3. Alex Rins, Paginas Amarillas HP40, +1.785s
21. Anthony West, QMMF Racing, +39.425s
Pole position: Zarco, 2:01.614 = 159.9km/h
Fastest lap: Thomas Luthi, 2:02.422 = 158.8km/h
Championship top 3
Zarco 224 • Rabat 145 • Rins 144
Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda) took his first GP victory in a restarted 12-lap race ahead of Enea Bastianini (Saxoprint RTG) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), while Australia's Remy Gardner (CIP Mahindra) was 17th.
The first attempt at the race was red-flagged after two separate four-bike incidences on lap one, so the restart was always going to be frenetic with the distance shortened by seven laps — and a number of riders taking the softer tyre options. The top nine riders flashed across the finish line separate by just 1.420s, with Antonelli putting up the shutters on the final 5.403km circuit. He said: “The first victory is a great emotion for me; I am really happy! I knew I was fast but I didn't expect to take victory. I really want to thank the team; we have been great and we worked well. Now we have to improve again and be in the front in all the races."
Leopard Racing’s Efren Vazquez (+0.540s) crossed the line in fourth, ahead of the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda of Jorge Navarro (+0.560s). Romano Fenati (+0.821s) on the SKY Racing Team VR46 KTM was sixth, while championship leader Danny Kent (Leopard Racing) looked like he was managing the race superbly from the middle of the leading group. However, contact with Navarro on the penultimate lap knocked the British rider out of his rhythm and he could only manage to finish in seventh.
Gardner was delighted with his performance.
"I’ve finished just one second behind the 14th position after battling in the second race group during the race," he said. "My pace was not so bad but it’s been difficult to keep close to first riders of my group. This is the second race in a row battling for the points and this shows our consistency and progression. Let’s keep working on this way."
Kent (199pts) still tops the Moto3 standings but his lead over Bastianini (154) has been reduced with seven races remaining. Fenati remains in third with 122pts.
1. Niccolo Antonelli, Ongetta-Rivacold, 25m56.866s
2. Enea Bastianini, Saxoprint RTG +0.152s
3. Brad Binder, Red Bull KTM Ajo, +0.376s
17. Remy Gardner, CIP, +7.702s
Pole position: Antonelli, 2:07.667 = 152.3km/h
Fastest lap: Miguel Oliveira, 2:08.466 = 151.4km/h
Championship top 3
Kent 199 • Bastianini 154 • Romano Fenati 122