Brno, Czech Republic
MotoGP fans around the globe should be reminded that race day at Brno does not follow the normal schedule. The MotoGP race has been moved an hour earlier to avoid a clash with the Belgian F1 Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps, in accordance with the agreement F1 and MotoGP have to avoid schedule clashes.
This means that MotoGP race will start a 1pm local time in Brno, which is 12 noon in the UK, 7am Eastern, 4am Pacific time or 9pm AEST. To find the correct time for your time zone, check this time converter on the TimeAndDate.com website.
Moving the MotoGP race naturally has repercussions for the rest of the schedule. The Moto2 race is the first race of the day, and is also an hour earlier, starting at 11:20am Brno time. The Moto3 race becomes the last race of the day, starting at 2:30pm in the afternoon, 90 minutes after the start of the MotoGP race.
The warm up schedule is similarly affected, Moto2 kicking off the day at 9am, MotoGP following at 9:30am, then Moto3 at 10am.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying at Brno:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Brno:
Marc Marquez climbed to the top of the time sheet in the FP4 practice session. Again, less than a second separates the top eight riders.
Tito Rabat has signed a two-year deal to race for the Marc VDS Racing team in Moto2. Rabat will take the place of Scott Redding in the Marc VDS squad, whose move to the Gresini MotoGP squad is expected to be announced at Silverstone next week.
Rabat's move to join Marc VDS Racing is an interesting development for the Spaniard, given that he comes from the Tuenti HP 40 team of Sito Pons. Marc VDS and the Pons squad are the two top teams in Moto2, and both field the same Kalex chassis, and enjoy the same level of support from the German chassis company. However, Rabat's speed has sometimes caused him problems inside the Pons squad, which started the year focused on winning the Moto2 championship with Pol Espargaro. Rabat has regularly beaten Espargaro, sometimes taking valuable points from his teammate in Espargaro's quest to catch championship leader Scott Redding. Rabat will have undisputed number one rider status in the Marc VDS Racing team.
Takaaki Nakagami set a brutal pace in FP3 at the Brno Circuit Saturday with a 2'02.438 lap, the fastest lap thus far and four-tenths quicker than second-place Thomas Luthi. The Interwetten rider had led much of the practice before Nakagami put in a series of increasingly faster laps toward the end of the session. Indianapolis race winner Esteve Rabat took third, just two-thousandths of a second behind Luthi. Championship leader Scott Redding struggled with the 11th fastest lap and Pol Espargaro -- who is second in the championship -- was in at eighth fastest.
Cal Crutchlow pounced at the end of FP3 with a 1'56.156 lap, a full two-tenths faster than second-place Jorge Lorenzo who led most of the session. Marc Marquez, who led practice briefly, finished third, a tenth of a second ahead of Valentino Rossi. Repsol's Dan Pedrosa rounded out the top five, finishing a nearly half a second down on Crutchlow. The top 10 riders in FP3 move on to the final qualifying session (Q2) with riders at 11 (Andrea Iannone) though 25 (Lukas Pesek) taking place in an earlier qualifying session. The fastest two riders from Q1 will then join the top 10 riders for Q2.
So what can be learned from FP3? First, Crutchlow seems happy with the setup of his Tech 3 Yamaha and can put in a fast lap when needed. But a closer look at the timesheets shows two riders -- Lorenzo and Marquez - capable of putting in a long series of laps in the middle 1'56s with Rossi and Pedrosa not far off that race pace. In all, the top seven riders remain within a second of each other. The race forecast calls for possible rain.
Luis Salom ignored his foot and ankle injuries to set the fast lap with a 2'08.239 in the third free practice Saturday at the Brno circuit in the Czech Republic. Jack Miller, also riding injured, finished the session only three hundredths behind. Alex Rins, race winner in Indianapolis last week and the fast rider for much of the FP3, finished third at a scarce two thousandths of a second behind Miller. Lap times dropped slightly overall from FP2 as the day started cool and cloudy.
After visiting three Honda tracks in a row, MotoGP finally heads back to a Yamaha track. Brno is fast, flowing, with a multitude of left-right and right-left combinations which favor the agility and high corner speed of the Yamaha over the more stop-and-go Honda tracks. Here, it is the Yamaha's turn to shine.
Well, that was the theory. At the end of the first day of practice, it's the Honda of Stefan Bradl on top of the pile, ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow. That's Honda, Yamaha, Honda, Yamaha, Honda, Yamaha. So much for Yamaha domination. Then again, with just three tenths of a second separating Bradl in first from Crutchlow in sixth, Brno is hardly seeing the Hondas dominate either. There is very little to choose between any of them.
So how do you separate the leaders? It's hard to do. All six men are posting consistent runs of mid to high 1'56s, the only exceptions being Stefan Bradl, who only upped his pace at the end of FP2, and Dani Pedrosa, who had opted to go for shorter runs. Pedrosa was in more pain than expected, he said on Friday, and that had made it difficult to ride. He had not had much pain the previous couple of days, but back on the bike less than a week after the previous GP at Indianapolis and his collarbone was more painful than he had hoped. It didn't slow him at Indy, though, so he should be just as fast as at Brno.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Brno:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Brno: