If the weather has been the bane of MotoGP this year, then Saturday at Brno made up for an awful lot. The day started out with clear blue skies, and stayed that way just about all day. It was still bone dry and warm when we left the track as darkness began to fall, though the occasional cloud could be spotted here and there. It was a great day for racing motorcycles.
It was apparently also a great day for crashing motorcycles. In the first session of the day, 40 minutes of free practice for the Moto3 class, 15 riders crashed, all going down like skittles. Next up it was FP3 for MotoGP, and a further 7 riders hit the deck. Moto2 followed, and 6 more went down. By the end of the day, there had been a grand total of 48 falls.
To put that number into perspective: on Friday, in much dicier conditions, there were only 9 crashes. Over all three days of the 2014 event at Brno, there were 46 crashers. If there are three more crashes on Sunday – and it's race day, when risks offer better rewards – then the Automotodrom Brno will seen more crashes than in the previous seven years. They really were going down like flies.
KTM and the Ajo Moto2 team today announced that they had agreed to extend their collaboration in Moto2 for two more years. They also announced that the Moto2 rider line up of Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira will remain unchanged for 2018. The press release appears below:
Red Bull KTM Ajo extends Moto2 project for two more years
Pit Beirer and Aki Ajo sign renewal for Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto2 project for 2018 and 2019 seasons at the Automotodrom Brno.
08/05/2017 - Automotodrom Brno, Czech Republic
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class in Brno:
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class in Brno:
While the substantial crowd was getting a tan in a cloudless 28 degrees, the MotoGP grid turned its attention to the harder tyre option to deal with the 46 degrees on the track. Fairly familiar with the tyre after giving it several tries during the weekend, Marc Marquez blasted straight into the lead to post a strong set of mid 1:56s. The world championship leader remained unchallenged to the flag and will be hoping for the rainy Sunday forecast to turn into a heatwave.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class in Brno:
Clear blue sky awaited the intermediate class, which was slightly affected by the red flag in MotoGP, but the Moto2 riders proved a bit more able to keep aboard their bikes for the full length of the session.
Alex Marquez even made time to see the doctor for some leftover pain from his pre-holiday crash before rejoining the action and going straight to the top of the timesheets. His benchmark time remained unchallenged for the remaining of the session, confirming the Czech track to be one of the Spaniard’s favourites.
Beautiful sunshine did not mean lack of drama for the MotoGP boys. After the junior class opened proceedings with a festival of crashes, the big boys might have been more cautions but that did not stop Alvaro Bautista’s Ducati having a moment in turn ten in the first five minutes and looking like spitting some fluid on track. Right on cue, Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow tumbled into the same gravel trap, causing a red flag for the air fence to be repaired and the track to be checked.
The new fairing unveiled by Ducati yesterday was not entirely complete. On Saturday morning, the fairing fitted to Danilo Petrucci's Pramac Ducati revealed an added layer of complexity and variability. Below is the new fairing used by Jorge Lorenzo, and fitted to the bike yesterday:
From torrential rain on Friday to scorching sunshine on Saturday, Brno is offering a very diverse post-holiday menu. The lightweight class started the day in a pleasant 24 degrees with barely any clouds and perhaps with a little too much confidence on low grip, as plenty of crashes animated the first 15 minutes of the session, including John McPhee, Enea Bastianini, Niccolo Antonelli, Nicolo Bulega, Andrea Migno, Ayumu Sasaki, Jules Danilo or Phillip Oettl, who was leading the timesheets at the time.
Over a third of the grid joined that list soon after, which meant that Oettl kept the lead until the very last minute despite spending the rest of the session getting checked up, the riders discouraged from pushing too hard until the mini qualifying dummy run in the final five minutes. Ironically, it was Bulega who finally dethroned him, the Italian limping his way to the medical centre after a highside just ten minutes before taking the lead. Oettl kept second position, a tenth down on the Sky VR46 rider.
MotoGP is back, and so naturally, so is the rain. The weather continues to plague Grand Prix motorcycle racing, the weekend starting off in the pouring rain making for a wet FP1. Despite the heat, Brno is slow to dry, and so the MotoGP bikes started FP2 on a damp track with a dry line, the track ending the session almost completely dry. Hardly an ideal start to the weekend, if you are focused on finding the best setup possible for the race on Sunday.
Not everyone sees it that way, however. For Johann Zarco, it was nice to ease himself gently back up to speed. "Restarting the season in wet conditions was good for me," the Frenchman said. "This way we start the season slowly, and that's good for the feeling." It also reduced the advantage of the big teams who can eke out an advantage in stable conditions. "Also because we didn't do a test here, maybe it was better, because if we have a dry track for all the weekend, there are many teams which can work, work, work and be so strong at the end of the weekend. And for our situation as a rookie, it's good to have this tough weather."
The wet weather also made it a little easier on bodies which had not ridden a MotoGP bike for four weeks. "Especially it's difficult about physical condition," Valentino Rossi said on Friday. "Because it's one month without the bike, in the beginning you have some pain in the hands, in the legs. But it was not so hard to arrive to a good level, especially in the wet." The training he had been doing for the past couple of weeks – including running a VR46 Master Camp for Yamaha's riders in the WorldSSP 300 class – had helped him prepare. "It's a long break, but in the last weeks I train a lot on the bike, and sincerely, in the last ten days you always think about FP1. So you watch video, try to understand, try to remember the way to ride."
The intermediate class enjoyed the perks of a fully dry session and the usual suspects were springing up like mushrooms after the rain.
Case in point, Morbidelli put this morning’s crash behind him to lead the afternoon session early on by a mere hundredth of a second from compatriot Mattia Pasini. The Italtrans rider didn’t let that settle and got back in front in the final 15 minutes. While Morbidelli was edging ever closer to the lead once again, Pecco Bagnaia made a late jump into second position, splitting the two and making it an Italian top three. The Sky VR46 rider didn’t stop there, taking the lead soon after. Pasini caught the tail of a rapid Miguel Oliveira in the final minutes of the session and made the best of it to snatch back top position in the timesheets.