It is hot at Brno. It was hot at Assen, it was hot at the Sachsenring, and it is positively scorching at Brno. Air temperatures are at a relatively bearable 34°C, but the asphalt tentatively broke the 50°C during FP2.
That is officially what is known colloquially as a scorcher, testing riders, teams, and above all, tires on the first day of practice at Brno. Where last year, the riders concentrated on the soft and the medium Michelins, on Friday, the MotoGP riders spent their time assessing the medium and the hard.
The downside of forcing Michelin to choose tires for the entire season back in February is that sometimes, their crystal ball fails them, and the weather deviates wildly from what might reasonably be expected. The heatwave which has Europe in a vice-like grip is just such a case.
There are upsides to the heat, though they are perhaps unexpected. There were just four fallers at Brno on Friday across all three classes, less than half the number from last year, a third of the number in 2016, and a massive five and a half times fewer than the 22 crashers in 2015. It’s hot and dry, so the tires will definitely grip.
There are modern tracks on the MotoGP calendar, and there are old tracks. The modern tracks offer plenty of run off and nice wide tarmac, but are usually too tight and convoluted to give free rein to a MotoGP bike.
The old tracks are fast, flowing, offer plenty of overtaking opportunities, and are a real challenge, but they also tend to be narrow, and, frankly, dangerously lacking in run off. The riders find the new tracks irritating, but enjoy the safety, and they love the old tracks, but fear the consequences of a bad mistake.
The Automotodrom Brno seems like the perfect compromise. Fast and flowing, challenging, and big enough to give a MotoGP bike its legs. But also wide, with plenty of run off in most places, and plenty of grip from the track.
It has a stadium section, giving fans the chance to follow the action through a section of track. But it also flows up and down a hill, and through the woods, a ribbon of tarmac snaking through a beautiful natural setting, high on a hill above the city of Brno.
That location offers its own challenges. Up on the hill, it is usually a little cooler than down in the town. The woods exhale oxygen which gives the bikes a little power boost.
But they also hold moisture, the combination of high hills and thick woods raising the possibility of rain. Fortunately, the track retains its grip in the wet, though the rain can still shake up a race.
The future of the Brno round of MotoGP has been secured for the foreseeable future. On Monday, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta signed a contract with the “Spolek pro GP ?R v Brno”, an association set up to promote the Czech Grand Prix, to host the race at the Masarykring in Brno from 2016 until 2020.
MotoGP at Brno has been shrouded in doubt for the past few years. An ongoing dispute between the Masarykring circuit, or Automotodrom Brno, and regional authorities left the circuit in debt to Dorna after failing to pay the sanctioning fee demanded.
The circuit owner Karel Abraham Sr. and Ivana Ulmanova, the circuit manager, were caught in a power struggle with the city council of Brno and Michal Hašek, the president of the South Moravia region.
Dorna had threatened to take the race off the calendar unless all of the monies owed to the circuit were paid, and a long-term solution was found to prevent further problems. A compromise has now been found to settle the dispute.
Marc Marquez was fastest in a crash-landed FP2 session.
Jorge Lorenzo set the pace in boiling conditions in Brno.
Andrea Dovizioso finished Day 1 in 5th place on his Ducati.
This year’s Brno round of MotoGP looks to be under severe threat. Ticket sales on the circuit’s official website for the event have been suspended as of this afternoon, after talks with Brno city council and the regional government broke down over funding of the race.
The message on the Brno circuit website reads:
With an immediate effect, Automotodrom Brno suspends the sale of tickets for the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic 2015 due to insufficient funding for the event.
The final decision on the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic 2015 will be published on 29 June. In case of cancellation of the event, all paid tickets will be refunded.
The times are certainly tough race circuits right now. On the MotoGP roster the Hungarian Balatonring has become almost the unicorn of the paddock, while the Jerez de la Frontera Circuit is in financial crisis. Similarly back home in the United States, New Jersey Motorsports Park is going through a bankruptcy proceeding that should see the track come out unscathed, but frames the picture nicely none-the-less (not counting the increasingly popular Motorland Aragon).
Add to this list now the Automotodrom Brno, as the Czech track is facing financial concerns of its own. While the Brno round is secure for the 2011 season, talk is beginning if the track can operate in the 2012 season without national support. While the Czech GP brings in substantial revenue for the area surrounding it and the Czech Republic as a whole, the latter entity gives virtually no support to the racing event.