Brno, Czech Republic – The Automotodrom Brno with its extreme changes of elevation is very much a power circuit and ironically, this is where the Desmosedici shines. Ducati Team-mates Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo gave the factory crew a fairytale weekend with pole for Dovizioso and a 1-2 finish just 0.178s apart, almost four tenths ahead of world champion Marc Marquez’ Honda.
South Africa’s Brad Binder came home a creditable sixth in a hard-fought Moto2 race, with Steven Odendaal on the new NTS improving one position on his previous best to finish 19th - but the major credit from Mzansi fans this weekend had to go to Binder’ younger brother Darryn, who finished a battling 21st in the Moto3 race, just 24 days after breaking his a collarbone so badly in a supermoto training crash that it took a titanium plate and six screws to cobble it back together again.
Dovizioso took his second win of the season in incredible style after a three-way fight with Lorenzo and Marquez. At the flag it was a Lorenzo versus Marquez classic to decide the podium positions, with Lorenzo taking second and Marquez, on his 100th MotoGP race, forced to settle for third – nevertheless marginally extending his championship lead. It was also an anniversary for 'DesmoDovi' as he celebrated his 100th race for Ducati with the win.
Yamaha veteran Valentino Rossi took the holeshot from second on the grid, with polesitter Dovizioso just losing out and shuffled back a place as Marquez retained his third spot through the first corner. Lorenzo wasn’t able to make a move from the second row and settled into fourth, with drama then hitting the early stages as a multi-rider incident saw Rossi’s factory Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales, KTM rider Bradley Smith and wild card Stefan Bradl on a works Honda crash out.
At the front Dovizioso grabbed the lead, then Marquez challenged Rossi - only for Lorenzo to blindside Marquez and relegate the Honda to fourth. Behind them Honda privateer Cal Crutchlow was dicing with Johann Zarco on the Yamaha Tech 3 and Danilo Petrucci on the Pramac satellite Ducati, ahead of Team Suzuki’s Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone, and Dani Pedrosa on the second Repsol Honda.
By half distance the top six - Dovizioso, Marquez, Rossi, Crutchlow, Lorenzo and Petrucci - had pulled out a gap; five laps later saw Lorenzo passed Crutchlow and Rossi to put Marquez in the middle of a Ducati sandwich at the front – and it was game on.
Dovizioso, Marquez and Lorenzo all upped the pace, pulling out a gap on Crutchlow and Rossi. Then Lorenzo went down the Marquez’ inside into the penultimate corner and carried the momentum up the inside of Dovizioso at the final corner in a stunning almost-double overtake - but it didn’t stick. Dovizioso took it back as Lorenzo ran wide and was forced back into second.
On the penultimate lap Lorenzo went for the lead again but again ran wide, with Dovizuioso slicing back through before Marquez tried it near the end of the lap against Lorenzo. He tried again in Turn 4 on the final lap, but Lorenzo hit back with a stunner into Turn 6 that forced the reigning champion to sit up.
Lorenzo then threw everything into it to chase down his team-mate, but just wasn’t close enough to make a move through the final corner, finishing just 0.178s adrift with Marquez completing the podium in his 100th MotoGP race.
Three seconds behind the battle for the lead Rossi beat Crutchlow to the line by just 0.056s to take his career points score over 6000 - 22 years after his maiden Grand Prix win at Brno in 1996. Petrucci took sixth ahead of Zarco, with Pedrosa and Ducati privateer Alvaro Bautista blitzing both Suzuki riders to come home eighth and ninth respectively, and Iannone beating Rins to complete the top 10.
KTM works rider Miguel Oliveira battled his way to his second victory of the season in a phenomenal Moto2 race, fending off pole sitter Luca Marini on the final lap with Marini’s team-mate Francesco Bagnaia crossing in third, conceding the championship lead to Oliviera in the process.
In a classic Brno battle, it was Alex Marquez who got the best launch as the lights went out, but Marini led the pack heading into Turn 3, before Marquez moved to the front. It was a disastrous start for Marquez’ team-mate Joan Mir however, as he and Tech 3 riders Bo Bendsneyder and Remy Gardner crashed out of contention at Turn 5, fortunately without injury.
By lap four Marquez had dropped to fifth as Marini and Bagnaia hit the front, with Oliveria and Xavi Vierge keeping tabs on them. Marquez then found his rhythm and bridged the gap to the leading quartet, moving up to third before disaster struck as he slid out of contention at the final corner on lap nine.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo Baldassarri had joined the four at the front, quickly dispatching Vierge, Oliveira and Marini to take the lead on lap 13. Tyres then became a major factor as grip levels started to wear thin, with Oliveira making his way to the front at Turn 3 on lap 16, immediately creating a 0.4s gap before Marini was able to reel him back in. By this time Vierge had dropped to 1.2s back.
Marini led the last lap after making a pass stick at Turn 3, before Oliveira fought back at the bottom of Horsepower Hill. Marini then made his lunge up the inside heading into the penultimate corner, but Oliviera held the outside line to have the inside at the final turn, winning the drag to the line and taking the championship lead.
Bagnaia beat Baldassrri in the battle for the final podium position, with Vierge just managing to hold off Binder for fifth; Friday’s pace setter Marcel Schrotter came home seventh, with Jorge Navarro posting his second consecutive top 10 finish eighth, and Sam Lowes (KTM) and Mattia Pasini rounding out the top 10.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Honda) produced a perfect ride to secure his first Grand Prix win in a race that saw a lead battle of 22 riders at one point. Aron Canet (Honda) finished second, 0.112s adrift with pole man and local hero Jakub Kornfeil (KTM) claiming a fantastic podium in third.
Kornfeil got a great launch from pole to grab the holeshot with John McPhee (KTM) – who later crashed out on the final corner of lap 10 – and Marcos Ramirez (KTM) slotting in behind him. Kornfeil was on a mission, opening up a 0.8 second lead by the end of the first lap, and held that lead until the gaggle of chasing riders reeled him in at the end of lap three.
From then on the lightweight class race was nothing short of spectacular as a leading group of 22 formed, with the lead changing lap-by-lap. Di Giannantonio worked his way up to the front and was in and around the top three for most of the second half of the race, with Turn 7 a particularly strong overtaking point for him.
Heading into the final lap, Kornfeil’s dream home victory was in sight, but it was Di Giannantonio and Canet who managed to get through and create a small gap, which they held until the flag.
After languishing outside the top 10 for much of the race, Enea Bastianini (Honda) recovered in the final laps to earn an important fourth, holding off Gabriel Rodrigo (KTM) on the final lap as the Argentine rounded out the top five. At one point it looked like Marco Bezzecchi (KTM) wouldn’t be able to take advantage of championship leader Jorge Martin’s absence (Martin took a huge tumble in the morning’s warm-up and was airlifted to hospital with a badly broken left arm), but a sixth-place finish from 14th on the grid means gave him back the lead – by just three points.
Ramirez ended up seventh after a fantastic race in the lead group, exactly one second behind the leader, with Philipp Oettl (KTM) eighth after leading at one point, and Albert Arenas (KTM) and Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Honda) rounding out the top 10.