Valentino Rossi is on the cusp of MotoGP™ history at a Czech Grand Prix where Fabio Quartararo will once again aim to be the rider making the most of Marc Marquez's continued absence.
Marquez's broken right arm sustained in a crash at the season-opening race ultimately ruled him out of the second part of the double-header in Jerez a week later, despite a remarkable attempt to make the grid.
The Repsol Honda rider - who could reportedly miss the next three races - eventually pulled out in qualifying after feeling pain around his elbow and this week underwent a second surgery because a titanium plate that was inserted sustained damage as a result of stress accumulation.
With the world champion still absent there is a huge opportunity for Quartararo, winner of the first two races, to pile on more points, although Maverick Vinales and the rest of the chasing pack will also want to seize their chance in Brno.
LAST TIME OUT
It was a decidedly easier victory for Quartararo than in the action-packed opener, which marked his first win in the premier class.
Indeed, most of the drama happened behind him, where Vinales eventually scored a scarcely deserved second place in an error-strewn race.
The Spaniard benefitted from Jack Miller crashing and engine problems for Franco Morbidelli and Francesco Bagnaia, before passing Monster Energy Yamaha team-mate Rossi late on.
Speaking of Rossi…
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN BRNO
That third place for Rossi marked an astonishing 199th podium and he can now become the first rider to make it to the steps 200 times in the top category.
He will need to end a barren run in Brno having last made the top three there in 2016 and doing so will be no easy feat if the evidence of the Andalusia Grand Prix is anything to go by.
Quartararo's rivals may be fearful of the dominance he showed in Jerez and Vinales particularly needs to cut out the errors if he is going to rein in the Frenchman.
Bagnaia was superb in Spain and it was a real disappointment when the Pramac Racing rider smoked up with six laps to go. His frustration at trackside was understandable but surely a maiden podium is not far away.
The same can be said for Morbidelli, whose luck at a scorching hot Jerez track was out with nine laps remaining.
And there is also a return for Stefan Bradl this weekend as a replacement for Marquez. It will be his 10th MotoGP™ appearance since losing his full-time ride with Aprilia in 2016.
TOP FIVE STATS
Rossi to rediscover Brno touch? - Rossi is the MotoGP™ rider with the most podiums at the Czech Republic Grand Prix (11). However, he has failed to reach the podium in the past three races at Brno and has only once gone longer without a top-three finish there (four appearances from 2010 to 2013).
Fabio poles apart - Quartararo has taken pole position for the previous four races and could equal Christian Sarron as the only French rider to get five straight in the top category (five in 1988).
Marquez misery - It is the first time in his eight MotoGP™ seasons Marquez failed to collect points point in the opening two races of the season.
Maverick aiming for a MotoGP™ first - Vinales has reached the podium in six of his past 10 MotoGP™ races and is looking to get three in a row for the first time in the top category.
A rare three-peat? - Quartararo has won the opening two MotoGP™ races this season, the first time a rider has done so since Vinales in 2017. The same person has not won the opening three grands prix of a season since Marquez in 2014.
- Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha) 50
- Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) 40
- Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 26
- Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) 19
- Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM) 19
- Petronas Yamaha 61
- Monster Energy Yamaha 56
- Ducati 33
- LCR Honda 22
- Pramac Racing 22