The challenges posed by the track surface in Brno mixed with a fairly entertaining qualifying session made any predictions for the premier class race very difficult but none of them could have foreseen the eventual podium in the Czech Republic. It was a momentous day for KTM, who celebrated their first victory in MotoGP after 40 minutes of pure magic from Brad Binder, who became the first rookie winner in the premier class since the reigning world champion. For much of the race it looked like it was going to be Franco Morbidelli’s time to shine and shine he did, but instead of victory, he more calmly celebrated his maiden podium in MotoGP. In a day of firsts, Johann Zarco had the most eventful afternoon of the lot but still managed to bring home the very first podium for the Esponsorama/Avintia crew.
The poleman’s race kicked off with a pretty shocking start, Zarco getting swallowed by the sharks off the line, while Petronas took control at the front. Fabio Quartrarao reached turn one first but found himself second to Morbidelli by turn two. Aleix Espargaro made a fine start to join the top three ahead of brother Pol and was soon attacking Quartararo for second. By the time the Frenchman found a way back past on the Aprilia, Morbidelli had extended a gap of over one second at the front. Meanwhile, Pol Espargaro was getting roughed up by teammate Binder and a quickly recovering Zarco. Missing in action on lap one were Maverick Vinales down to 8th and Valentino Rossi in 10th, while Takaaki Nakagami and Andrea Dovizioso were making steady progress from their lowly qualifying positions, knocking on the doors of the top ten by the third lap.
While Quartararo was chasing down his teammate, Binder was hounding Aleix Espargaro to claim a provisional podium spot and Zarco followed the South African’s example, leaving Aleix to scrap it out with his brother for fifth position. By lap four, Quartararo had to switch focus from pursuing Morbidelli to defending his position from a feisty Binder, leaving Zarco and Pol behind. Pol eventually found a way past the poleman on lap six and went in pursuit of his teammate, with one second to recover on the podium battle. Aleix Espargaro looked like he decisively lost touch with the main contenders and tried to keep Rins and Rossi at bay, while Vinales, Nakagami and Dovizioso’s progress had stalled towards the bottom of the top ten.
Morbidelli’s gap was still safe by lap 8 but Quartararo and Binder had more company as Pol and Zarco had tagged to the back of them. Binder made the first move, picking up the chase at turn 3 but Pol did not want to let his teammate go too far and also found his way past Quartararo soon after. However, taking a few wide corners put him in the path of Zarco and a slight nudge from the Avintia man saw the Spaniard disappointingly slide out at turn 1. With 12 laps remaining and as the incident was being investigated, Zarco made his move on a somewhat fading Quartararo and had one second to find to catch up on Binder.
Clear of any challengers, Binder pushed to reduce Morbidelli’s gap no near nothing with 10 laps remaining and made his move for the lead one lap later. The KTM man quickly found a half second gap on the Yamaha, while Zarco was drawing closer too but was slapped with a long lap penalty for irresponsible riding. The Frenchman danced on the dusty white line of the penalty lane to keep ahead of Quartararo and successfully did so but lost touch with the duo ahead.
Binder looked comfortable in the lead, but his 1.5 second gap wasn’t fully safe from Morbidelli yet, while Zarco was unperturbed in third and Quartararo came under attack from Rins, with Rossi waiting in the wings. Despite struggling with his tyre choice, Quartararo did not make it easy for the Spaniard to get past and it took until the final five laps for Rins to make a decisive move. Rossi had an easier time in overtaking the Petronas rider, who was going backwards and soon allowed Oliveira past. His saving grace was that the next group led by Nakagami was almost four seconds behind.
With four laps to go, Binder had an impressive three second advantage at the front and increased that further by the checkered flag to take a historic first win for himself and KTM. Morbidelli came home safely in second, while Zarco got pushed to the very end by Rins. Despite pretty severe tyre trouble, the Avintia man held on to keep his podium position, with Rins a commendable fourth. Rossi joined the top five ahead of Oliveira, with Quartararo fading to seventh position. Nakagami, Jack Miller and Aleix Espargaro completed the top ten, while Dovizioso in 11th and Vinales in 14th position had a very tough day at the office.
Despite the difficult afternoon, Quartararo extends his championship lead due to his rivals’ even worse headache, leading the way by 17 points from Vinales. Morbidelli makes a massive jump in the standings to trail his teammate by 28 points, similarly to Dovizioso. Binder heads to KTM’s home race in fifth place, 31 points down on Quartararo and tied on points with Zarco.
|44||Pol Espargaro||KTM||12 Laps|
|36||Joan Mir||Suzuki||18 Laps|
|27||Iker Lecuona||KTM||18 Laps|