After he and his teammate Jorge Lorenzo had looked well in control of proceedings after the first day of practice at Brno, Valentino Rossi warned the media against drawing premature conclusions. "I think it's just Friday, it's a long way to Sunday," he said. We in the media ignored his warnings, of course, and painted a technicolor picture of a race where the Movistar Yamaha riders took back a hefty bunch of points from Marc Márquez, reigniting the championship.
Then Saturday happened, and Valentino Rossi turned out to be right again (and not for the first time, I might add). Friday had been just Friday. It was indeed still a long way to Sunday. Saturday, a stepping stone on the way to Sunday, helped turn a lot of things around. Jorge Lorenzo is still fast. So is Valentino Rossi, though not quite as fast as he had hoped. Andrea Iannone is a genuine threat for the podium, or even his second win in a row. Maverick Viñales could still get up front and complicate things, though he has a hill to climb after a problem with the brakes saw him qualify on the third row of the grid.
But any illusions the Movistar Yamaha men had of clawing back points from Marc Márquez will have to be shelved. Not only will the Repsol Honda rider start from pole on Sunday, but he also has the race pace which was missing on Friday. All thanks to a breathtaking lap of Brno, and a large set of wings which helped cure some of the worst problems with the Honda RC213V.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class in Brno:
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class in Brno:
Probably the most indicative session of the weekend got started as predicted, with Andrea Iannone and Jorge Lorenzo taking turns at the top and confirming themselves as the main contenders for Sunday’s race. Still, the Italian couldn’t resist revisiting the gravel trap, this time keep it vertical without a worry. The fight ended with the Spaniard on top by a slender two thousands of a second.
The King of Sector 2 finished third, Marc Marquez ending the session with a few mid 1:56s, a tenth of a second off the leader. Valentino Rossi followed him in the timesheets, two tenths off Marquez and one tenth ahead of Maverick Vinales, the trio appearing to be the main challengers for Lorenzo and Iannone.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class in Brno:
The intermediate class evened up the balance of track incidents that didn’t quite happen in the other two classes. While Lorenzo Baldassarri was flying at the front with the first 2:01 time of the weekend, Tom Luthi’s Kalex was flying over the barrier at turn eleven, in a fast and dangerous incident that made the Swiss rider lose the rest of the session while still second on the timesheets.
His main rival wasn’t much luckier, Baldassarri taking his turn through the gravel at turn fourteen and writing off his bike with twenty minutes to go. His early time proved to be good enough to lead the session until the end. Both riders walked off gingerly but unharmed.
The sun still didn’t receive its appearance fee for Brno, with the circuit seeing similar conditions to Friday but also a spectacular lap from a predictably smooth Jorge Lorenzo, the reigning world champion beating his own circuit record set last year.
Andrea Iannone had his own moment in the spotlight ten minutes into the session, when the Italian went sightseeing along the full length of the turn thirteen gravel trap, dropping winglets like coins in a wishing well. The Ducati rider had plenty of time to recover and finish second but seven tenths off the leader.
The Moto3 class opened Saturday’s proceedings with track conditions similar to FP2, twenty-one degrees and some clouds looming over the action. Seemingly perfect conditions for Brad Binder to post the first (and only) 2:07 time of the weekend, a tenth off the circuit record and six tenths ahead of the rest of the grid.
The rest of the top five was a familiar view until the final minutes, when several riders made quite a massive jump from the back of the timesheets. Jorge Martin was second, always there or thereabouts, while Hiroki Ono in third improved twenty-one places in the final minutes of the session.
Honda have won four of the five last races held here at Brno. Casey Stoner has won one race, Marc Márquez has won one, and Dani Pedrosa has won two of those races between 2011 and 2015. After the first day of practice for this year's race at Brno, Marc Márquez sits atop the timesheets, with a lead of a tenth of a second over Andrea Iannone, and a shade more to Jorge Lorenzo. Does that mean that a fifth win for Honda is on the cards?
For the answer to that, see Marc Márquez' improbable save during FP2 at Brno. As he turned in for the penultimate corner at Turn 13, he lost the front of his Repsol Honda RC213V. With the steering at full lock, he hung on to the bars as his right foot slipped off the peg, trying first to lever the bike up with his elbow, then with his knee. Eventually the front slipped sideways, gripped, and the bike jimmied itself off the horizontal. It had lost just enough speed for Márquez to regain control, and buck it back to the outside of the corner, and head straight into the pits.
Was it Márquez' biggest ever save at Brno? "Still the 2014 save was bigger," Márquez laughed, "But this one was very long. I leaned 67.5°, in 2014 68.3°." Even Valentino Rossi was impressed. "He tries a lot, is his position on the bike, and is his ability," the Movistar Yamaha rider said. "first he tried with the elbow, then with the knee, and at the end, he saved it. So it was quite impressive. I don't know if I can do the same. But I go slower, so I don't lose the front!"
The intermediate class got right up to speed as the light turned green in the pitlane, this morning’s leaders showing their pace was hardly a fluke, Takaaki Nakagami the early leader, with Alex Marquez in close proximity.
The duo’s domination was first challenged by Lorenzo Baldassarri, the Italian rider taking over at the front by over three tenths of a second, a result overturned after the checkered flag was waved. By who, you ask? Well, a less than fantastic morning for the championship leader was followed up by a much more encouraging afternoon, Johann Zarco making a late charge to take top spot on his last timed lap.
After the breezy morning, the riders welcomed those twenty-one degrees in temperature but took their time to challenge the FP1 benchmark. The Yamaha-Ducati battle seemed to resume at the top, with Valentino Rossi leading the first half of the session and Andrea Iannone taking over in the second half. With seven minutes to go, their teammates decided to join the proceedings but it was Marc Marquez who crashed their party to go top by a tenth of a second in front of Iannone.
It had been an eventful afternoon for the championship leader, the Spaniard spicing up his session with yet another incredible save halfway through FP2. After countless replays had been shown, the Honda rider went back on track to lead the action with a fast couple of laps towards the end.
Despite the temperatures getting a bit more daring, the sun still failed to feature heavily during the second Moto3 session of the day. That meant the riders struggled to match the times from FP1, the top three being the only ones able to improve on that benchmark. The first of them, championship leader Brad Binder, eventually retook his rightful place at the top of the timesheets.
Following Fenati’s exclusion from the team, the unofficial role of team leader is highly disputed this weekend, with Andrea Migno popping into second place, followed by FP1 leader Enea Bastianini, less than a tenth away.