Brno is one of the widest tracks on the calendar and is a track that doesn't favour a particular manufacturer. The width gives riders plenty of opportunities to pass, and offers more than one line around corners, but nobody was expecting the sheer variety of trajectories taken in the opening laps of the first World Superbike race.
After an overnight downpour and a Superstock race so drenched that it could have been called off at any minute, the first race was labelled wet, but was dry enough to be fought in slicks. The first few laps involved lines that have probably never been taken at race pace before, with Tom Sykes in particular running away at the start on the outside of each corner where the track had dryed. Only Maxime Berger with cut slicks was brave enough to pass people on the inside and run normal lines at the front. The damp conditions gave Sykes the same sort of advantage as he had at the half-race he won at Monza, easing the pressure the Kawasaki puts on the tyres. His second place seemed to affirm the views of his critics or those of the green bike. Until Race Two.
Marco Melandri may have proven today that he can mount a serious challenge for the championship, claiming BMW's first double-win, but it was Tom Sykes in race two that impressed the most. Even if he didn't win, we saw a racer turning a corner. Melandri was on form, earning both wins the hard way, but in a clear dry race, Sykes kept him honest, keeping the audience on their toes throughout the last five laps as the cut and thrust of racing was demonstrated in front of a silenced audience.
Both BMW and Kawasaki had good days. BMW took their first double win while Kawasaki won the Superstock 1000, took a first and a second in World Supersport and had three podiums over the two World Superbike races.
The championship is narrowing with Marco Melandri narrowing Max Biaggi's lead to just 21 points. Biaggi's weekend culminated in a sixth and a fourth place, a remarkable recovery from 14th place on the grid, but his Saturday gamble on tyres ruined his chances to race for the podium. Biaggi complained about chatter, hoping that the problem won't follow him to Silverstone. With his team mate Eugene Laverty getting an electronic issue cleared up, maybe they should look at Biaggi's package if he's to maintain his title lead.
Marco Melandri, having signed a contract to race for the BMW Motorrad Italia squad next year, can get on with the racing, but his team mate Leon Haslam hasn't got anything set up for next year and has to rely on getting some good results in front of his home crowd at the next meeting because, on a day where Melandri put the same bike as he's riding in the best seat in Parc Fermé, a brace of seventh places doesn't look too good.
Last year, Carlos Checa got two third places. He was thwarted of the podium in the first race by a crashing Jonathan Rea but equalled his podium result in race two, after being left to settle for third by Melandri and Sykes's incredible high-speed precision duel to the flag. Even with his team mate Davide Giugliano impressing on Friday and Saturday, and with his second place qualifying, third looked like the best the Ducati could hope for today. Giugliano crashed out of second place in race one and languished in 11th place for race two, complaining about a lack of grip.
While Sykes grabs all the headlines for Kawasaki, today Loris Baz proved that he too deserved the factory seat, snatching his first podium in the tricky conditions of the first race. When he was fighting with bigger names, the lanky Frenchman kept his cool and rode like it was just another race, muscling his green bike through the chicanes and making himself hard to pass.
Jonathan Rea, however, didn't have as good a day, crashing out of race one after making contact with Tom Sykes after trying for a gap that had disappeared by the time his front wheel was at the apex. Sykes went wide and squared off the corner to make a late apex and Rea lunged for the gap, high siding his Honda into the path of Carlos Checa and out of a certain podium place. Luckily, Rea wasn't hurt and he made the start of the next race. Managing only 12th, he complained of a massive loss of grip on the edge of the tyre. His team mate Hiroshi Aoyama finished neither race.
In World Supersport, the talented Fabien Foret turned up, instead of the slower version that sometimes shows up in his place. Even returning to his characteristic looking over his shoulder in the middle of a race, this was the Foret of old. Unfortunately, he was racing against the Kenan Sofuoglu of new, an eager racer who was determined to win at any cost. Unfortunately, Ronan Quarmby took a massive turn and caused the race to be red flagged before Sofuoglu could break away to consolidate his fresh lead. Quarmby was helicoptered off to hospital and checked over, but luckily, he was just badly bruised and tweeting shortly after. Broc Parkes took the podium spot I predicted he wouldn't, and he looked like he was angry to get only third. Foret looked like the only happy man on the podium.
Brno is one of those tracks that seems to give us good racing and this weekend, even in spite of the varied weather, was no exception.