Every MotoGP round has a lot going on, too much to capture on a Sunday night. But the Brno round of MotoGP was even worse than usual, with ten times the usual surprises, and a month’s worth of stories and intrigue.
On Sunday, I covered Brad Binder’s win, KTM’s journey, the state of the championship, Yamaha’s engine situation, and Ducati’s problems since the start of the season. Below is a round up of things I didn’t get around to writing about.
It goes without saying that Brad Binder’s victory was the biggest story to come out of the MotoGP race at Brno.
Episode 157 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and this one is a doubleheader, as we see both paddock crews on the mics.
Covering the Czech GP at Brno, we have David Emmett and Neil Morrison on the microphones, while Steve English and Gordon Ritchie bring us an update from the WorldSBK paddock at Portimão.
If ever there were a day where qualifying and practice told two very different stories, it was Saturday at Brno. The tales were linked and related, interwoven in many ways, but the differences outweighed the common threads.
The grid tells a tale of heroism, surprises, and the cruel application of sensible rules. Practice is a story of dark foreboding, of the grim war of attrition that awaits on Sunday afternoon. Qualifying was tough; the race is going to be much, much tougher.
Qualifying is always the highlight of Saturday afternoon, though the final free practice session, FP4, is what matters most. With nothing on the line but race setup, and conditions close to what they will face at race time on Sunday afternoon, teams and riders show what they are really capable of.
Even then, the story told is not in the overall result, but tucked away in the analysis timesheets, where teams send out riders on old tires, to see how they hold up once they get a lot of laps on them.
The MotoGP paddock has its first confirmed case of COVID-19.
A cameraman, employed by Dorna but assigned to work with the French broadcaster Canal+ tested positive for the disease during a routine test taken during the Brno round of MotoGP, in preparation for the Austrian race at Spielberg next weekend.
Fortunately, the cameraman has no symptoms of the disease at the moment.
What did we learn from the first day of practice at Brno? Not much, but that in itself is valuable. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that the Automotodrom Brno circuit has not seen much action, so there is very little rubber on the track.
The circuit has always been fairly low grip, but it is much worse now than it has ever been. It needs rubber down on it before any conclusions can be drawn.
That makes figuring out what is going on rather tricky. The track is changing session to session, as bikes deposit a thin smear of Dunlop and Michelin rubber on the surface of the track and in the crevices between the grit particles used in the aggregate.
That leads to big changes in grip levels: Fabio Quartararo’s fastest time in FP2 was over eight tenths faster than the best lap set by Takaaki Nakagami in the morning session. Quartararo’s best time from Friday was nearly three quarters of a second slower than the best time at the end of the first day in 2019.
With the times so far off the pace – Quartararo’s time is two whole seconds off Marc Márquez’ outright lap record, and half a second slower than the race lap record – and grip still changing, conditions were just to inscrutable to draw any conclusions from, or at least any conclusions which might last beyond Saturday morning.
Trying to work out which tire will work best was almost possible on Friday. There are still too many unknowns.
With MotoGP heading to Brno for the first of three races, a new chapter opens for the championship. The two season openers at Jerez were somehow anachronistic, races out of time, and out of place.
The searing heat of an Andalusian summer turned the Circuito de Jerez into an alien space, the searing heat punishing riders, bikes, and tires. It proved costly, too, Yamaha losing three engines to the heat in two races, Ducati losing one, that of Pecco Bagnaia.
Those lost engines are likely to have long-term consequences for Yamaha, though it seems as if Ducati have escape a little more lightly.
With Marc Marquez going back into surgery yesterday, and being held for 48 hours in the hospital afterwards, the Spaniard’s participation in the upcoming Czech GP this weekend was certainly put into doubt.
And now, we know the reality, as Repsol Honda has announced that test rider Stefan Bradl will ride in the factory-backed MotoGP team for the race in Brno in Marquez’s place.
After withdrawing from the Andalucia GP, Marc Marquez was back under the surgeon’s knife today, tending to his right humerus bone that he broke during the race at the Spanish GP just two weeks ago.
After plating the humerus bone, Marquez had entered the Andalucia GP with the hopes of salvaging his title hopes, but the Repsol Honda rider failed to qualify, as he returned to the pits after his out-lap during the qualifying session.
Now, it has become clear that Marquez’s race weekend was hampered by the fact that titanium plate on his arm had been damaged, due to stress accumulation.
It was a busy day at the Dexeus clinic in Barcelona, as both Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow went under the knife to fix injuries picked up at the opening round of the season at Jerez.
Marquez broke his right humerus in a fast crash at Turn 3 during the race, while Crutchlow fractured his left scaphoid in a crash during warm up. Surgery was successful for both riders, with no complications reported.
Episode 112 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see Neil Morrison and David Emmett come together on the microphones, as we discuss the happenings at the Czech GP at Brno.
In this episode, we talk quite a bit Marc Marquez, as the Spaniard continues his dominance in the MotoGP Championship standings. Of course, this begs the question whether Marquez’s success is hurting MotoGP.
When a dry line formed during Q1, we knew that there would be riders who would gamble on slicks in Q2. We could even fill in the names: Jack Miller would obviously take a shot on slicks.
Marc Márquez might have a go, but then again, why would he risk it? He leads the championship by 58 points, and a starting position on the first two rows would be more than sufficient. But Marc Márquez is Marc Márquez, so of course he is going to take a shot on slicks.
Who else? Anyone who fancied taking a gamble. Maverick Viñales rolled the dice on slicks after setting a time on wets. After a little contretemps with Márquez – more on that later – Alex Rins decided to try slicks.
Seeing so many other riders out on slicks already, Danilo Petrucci and his team decided to take a chance on slick tires as well. Fabio Quartararo, Franco Morbidelli, Cal Crutchlow, all stuck slicks on for their last run. If you could get the slicks to work, they would give you a clear advantage.
Getting them to work is not easy, however. “We know the slicks can work in damp conditions,” Michelin’s Piero Taramasso said on Saturday evening. “If there is standing water, they won’t work, but if it is damp, and the rubber is up to temperature, you can use the slicks. But it’s not easy.”