MotoGP Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) is in good shape heading into the second half of 2019. The reigning Champion has 58 points in his... Monster Energy GP of the Czech Republic, Brno – Weekend preview: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3

MotoGP

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) is in good shape heading into the second half of 2019. The reigning Champion has 58 points in his pocket, he’s won more than half the races so far and there’s been little sign of many chinks in his armour since his crash out the lead at the Circuit of the Americas. But this is MotoGP™ and the course of racing rarely did run smooth, with Brno next up – the circuit that ended his omnipotent run in 2014 – and there is still a maximum of 250 points up for grabs in the remaining ten races. Can his rivals reset, bounce back and start taking the fight to the number 93?

His closest challenger remains Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) despite a couple of more difficult races for the Italian, and the good news for him is that he won in the Czech Republic last year, in some style. So it’s a good track to begin his assault on the second half of the season, with confidence and good memories nothing to be sniffed at when glory and defeat can be thousandths apart. But Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci is now pretty hot on his heels, only six points back, and he could complicate life for the now two-time runner up in the Championship. And ‘Petrux’ knows the bike he’s now on took a 1-2 at Brno last year. Will it repeat the feat in 2019? And if so, in which order?

Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), meanwhile, is the man looking for a little more redemption. After two DNFs in a row, both from near the front, the Suzuki man went into summer on the back foot despite having some serious speed at both races. He’s now 84 points off Marquez and fourth in the Championship, but the upside is Rins now races with much less pressure. He’ll simply want to win and win as much as possible in the remaining ten rounds. He’s already taken a MotoGP™ victory, so why not again?

That’s also true of Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and nine-time World Champion teammate Valentino Rossi, although they arrive the second half of 2019 with very different recent runs of form. Viñales opened his victory account for the year at Assen and then followed it up with a podium, heading into summer looking like a serious threat. Can he start back up where he left off? If yes, it’ll be the first time he’s taken three premier class podiums in a row. For Rossi, it’s the opposite – with three DNFs prefacing an eighth place in Germany, the ‘Doctor’ needs to bounce back and turn it around. But his CV at Brno is a good one, with a win in every category he’s raced there – including five in the premier class. After such a stellar start to the season, can Rossi come back out swinging for round two?

Then there’s the fight for top Independent Team rider. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) currently leads it by virtue of consistency and that impressive podium earlier in the year, but he’s only three points ahead of rookie sensation Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). The Frenchman is another looking to bounce back at Brno but only from one mistake in Germany – incredibly, his first DNF caused by a crash – and if his form so far in 2019 hasn’t been quite ominous enough, he’ll now be much more recovered from the arm pump surgery that nevertheless didn’t hold him back from the podium. At full power, Quartararo will doubtless be bothering the field for more than the accolade of top Independent Team rider or Rookie of the Year. Brno, beware.

Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), however, will want to be one of those making that as difficult as possible. The Brit is equal on points with Quartararo and his unforgettable first win came at Brno in 2016 as Crutchlow was impeccable in difficult conditions – so he’s another for whom the Czech venue holds good memories. He also took his second podium of the season in Germany despite recovering from a cycling mishap and is another who will be in much better shape heading into the second half. A podium contender? Don’t doubt it.

The fight throughout the top ten has been tight this year and the likes of Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) will all be gunning to remain key presences in the battle, with all having taken some top finishes in 2019 so far. And what of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and teammate Andrea Iannone? And they’ll also have someone else to contend with: Stefan Bradl, Honda test rider, who replaces the absent and recovering Jorge Lorenzo at the Repsol Honda Team. The German has put in some solid rides and could cause the odd headache in the fight for Q2 and good points.

Moto2

For the first part of 2019, Moto2™ seemed like it was going to be the most unpredictable Championship this season. But then came Alex Marquez’ (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) roll of indomitable form, winning every race since – and including – the French GP, with the sole exception of crashing out the lead in Assen through no fault of his own. And despite that drama, as well as a P24 in Jerez, again through no fault of his own, the number 73 sits eight points clear as we head into the second part of the Championship. “Shoulda woulda coulda” is often something to avoid in racing, but this is a case where it merits the question: how big could that gap have been?

The bad news for the competition is that Marquez has a good record at Brno and has had since he got a first glimpse at the podium fight in his rookie year in the intermediate class. The good news is that no one is ever unbeatable, and he’s never won there. Even more good news for key challenger Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) is that the Swiss rider has. It may have been a shortened race in the wet, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless and the veteran’s CV at the venue doesn’t stop there.

The next man up is Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) and he could be a key threat, with his incredible step forward in 2019 making it hard to rule him out of a challenge at the front. And he’s now ahead of teammate Lorenzo Baldassarri in the standings, so the man who dominated early on this season has some bouncing back to do. Jorge Navarro (HDR Heidrun Speed Up) will want to be back on the podium and knocking on the door to that first win too, as will Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP), and Mattia Pasini comes in from Brno at Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2…can the veteran Italian get in the mix? And then, finally, what of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo)? The South African had a tough start to the year but it appears the Austrian factory are back on track. Will he be a force to be reckoned with at Brno?

Moto3

Germany was a pivotal race in the Moto3™ title fight, with Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) taking over at the top from Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), but it remains tight: just two points separate the two as we head into part two of the year. Can Canet strike back and make it continue to see-saw? Or can one of them start to pull clear at Brno?

Canet has podium form at the Czech track, but Dalla Porta is the man on a consistent run. Bar his mechanical retirement from the race in Barcelona, the Italian has been on the podium in every race since France. The Spaniard, meanwhile, has had a couple of blips: a seventh and a 12th; not the form he’ll want to continue in as the pressure amps up and the races tick down…

Then there are the rivals: John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) is a winner at Brno and a winner already in 2019, as is Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse), currently third in the Championship, on both counts. Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) has a couple of solid finishes at the track, and Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) is a man who’s taken a big step forward this season. They’re sure to make sure the race, at least, is far from Dalla Porta vs Canet.

There’s also local hero Filip Salac (Redox PrüstelGP) who’ll be aiming to make a mark, and two wildcards: former Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup Champion Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Moto3™ Junior World Championship and Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup challenger Yuki Kunii (Asia Talent Team).