Marc Márquez Dominates At Brno To Win 50th MotoGP Race

Andrea Dovizioso and Jack Miller round out podium in Czech Republic.

Sunday’s MotoGP race at Brno
Damp track, slick tires: Sunday’s MotoGP race at Brno was delayed 40 minutes by rain. “I was really concentrated from the beginning because there were some wet patches still in turn 1,” Marc Márquez (93) said. Jack Miller (43) and Johann Zarco (5) also qualified on the front row.Dorna

Based on practice and the race, Brno was just another Marc Márquez performance of the kind we've learned to expect this year. Now that Honda has corrected the less-than-stellar acceleration and top speed of the 2018-and-previous RC213Vs and Márquez can "ride in a new way," he has won races by pushing from start to finish rather than, as before, by superior tire conservation followed by a last-laps push. The result was foreseeable: The usual voices proclaiming that "MotoGP has become predictable," which is polite-speak for "Márquez cruised to yet another win so I was not entertained."

But this time, Márquez revealed another side of himself. This was a difficult weekend for everyone as during the two dry Friday practices it was clear that tires were dropping significantly in performance after just a few laps. Márquez noted, “The rear tire drops a lot so for that reason the pace is quite difficult to understand because when you put [in] new tires you improve by nearly 2 seconds. Then, when the tire drops, you lose 1–1.5 seconds per lap.”

When it rained Saturday—“Saturday was a write-off,” Jack Miller said—but dry weather was predicted for Sunday, riders knew their only further information about tire choice would come down to Sunday morning warm-up.

Add to that Márquez's perfectly timed appearance in wet-drying-wet Qualifying 2 on slicks, followed about 20 seconds later by Miller. Somehow finding a dry line where he needed it, Márquez blitzed the field by 2.5 seconds! In dry conditions, normally by qualifying the field has equilibrated at lap times that put 10–15 riders in the first second. This time, in wet FP3, it was three riders, and in Q2, Márquez's time made him the only rider in the first second. Demoralizing. Why did he do it? Because he could, even if his crew was angry at the unnecessary risk.

Marc Márquez
Márquez described the Czech GP as a “strange race weekend.” By half race distance, he had a half-second gap on Andrea Dovizioso. Soon after, he received a “warning” from his tires, hard front and soft rear Michelins. “It was the time I started to push more and open the gap.”Dorna

“It’s an attitude he has,” Andrea Dovizioso noted. “He has this fire inside him, and the desire to always show that he’s the strongest.”

Yet that confidence is not an impenetrable armor. Márquez tried a new setup that didn’t work, wasting time Honda didn’t have. “In the Warm-Up, the feeling was not the best so we decided to change it,” he said. “It’s the first time in my career that I get on the track with a completely new bike when it comes to setup.”

At this point, Márquez was still thinking in terms of Ducati strength. Dovizioso had topped Warm-Up while Márquez had been sixth-quickest. Despite having wisely ridden the 20-minute session with a rear tire with five laps on it, the reigning world champion had no solid information as to which tire choice—soft, medium, or hard—would drop least and latest.

With so many unknowns it was surely hard to be calm. Dovizioso commented, “Marc seems to be the madman of the group, and the mechanics try to control him because otherwise he gets wild, as he’s done in the past.”

Dovizioso leads Álex Rins (42) and Miller
Former Brno winner Dovizioso (04) leads Álex Rins (42) and Miller (43). “I wanted to stay until the end with Marc,” the Italian admitted, “but the way he is riding this year is different, and we struggle a little bit about that.” Ducati and Suzuki unveiled new aerodynamic packages at Brno.Dorna

Márquez described his state of mind: “After the Warm-Up, my goal was to make the top five and lose as few points as possible.” That doesn’t sound like a man confident of winning. “I was calm because my technicians calmed me down, as if they knew I would be fine, and this gives you extra confidence.

“My strategy was very clear: I had chosen the soft rear tire because I thought I could immediately stretch it. And I wanted to break away from Andrea.”

But it wasn’t possible. In the race, Dovizioso stayed right with Márquez. “Marc was so fast and he had the softer-option tire,” Dovizioso said, “so I knew I had to try to stay with him. I was on the limit and couldn’t go faster in any area. In the middle of the race, when he tried to push, he braked later and that was the key to the gap.”

Márquez had commented earlier that the coming of enhanced engine performance this year opened new riding options to him, namely the start-to-finish Big Push. In this case, when he decided to try to break Dovizioso’s grip, he reverted to the very strong, late braking that earlier engines forced him to adopt. Márquez could then make a gap. “In the end, [my tire] started to drop, but he dropped earlier than me.”

Maverick Viñales (12)
Maverick Viñales (12) was quick—third, fifth, second, and second—in the four practice sessions and qualified ninth. Yet in the race, he was 15th after one lap and finished 10th. Valentino Rossi and Fabio Quartararo, sixth and seventh, were the top-placing Yamahas.Dorna

This has been a Márquez advantage from his first races in MotoGP. The lap times showed that his tire dropped later than those of his rivals, allowing him to maintain pace for as many as six laps longer than the others. At the end, Márquez won by 2.4 seconds.

Miller finished third after some struggle to pass Álex Rins. “I had been watching him the whole race,” the Pramac Ducati rider explained, “and noticed he was spinning quite a bit more. Then it got worse and worse.” Rins said, “I had a lot of problems spinning on the right side of the tire. I was using the curb to get traction.”

Even so, the Suzuki’s outstanding turning ability remained, as Miller said, “I know he can always make it turn really good in those long corners like turn 1.” Miller tried another kind of corner and was able to get clear.

Miller celebrated with a stoppie
Miller celebrated his second podium finish of the season with a stoppie in pit lane. “It was nice to fight at the end,” he said, referring to his battle with Rins in the closing laps of the race. “He was really struggling, especially up Horsepower Hill. That’s when I decided to pass him.”Dorna

Cal Crutchlow, fifth, took time to get past Danilo Petrucci and Valentino Rossi, saying that he burned down his tire in the attempt. By again being Yamaha’s top finisher in sixth, Rossi confounded those who are whining that the old master has overstayed his welcome.

It rained just before the grid was called and the race was declared wet. Then, in usual Brno fashion, the track dried rapidly, such that the whole field rolled out on slicks. Because turn 1 remained wet, to start immediately seemed a recipe for a pileup. Rossi went straight to Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, arguing for a delay to allow further drying. Management agreed and the race was held for 40 minutes.

Pol Espargaró (44)
Pol Espargaró (44) qualified fifth and, using medium front and soft rear tires, raced as high as fifth. “We had some wheelspin as the tire dropped—mostly on the straights—and we lost some positions.” He finished 11th, 18 seconds behind winner Márquez. Teammate Zarco was 14th.Dorna

Luckless Maverick Viñales on the second factory Yamaha found himself starting ninth on a part of the track lacking in grip and lost six positions on the first lap. Then he toiled his way back to finish 10th. He and Rossi noted that the M1 is very sensitive to any change in conditions; with a shift in temperature or other small variations, grip disappears—poof.

Márquez once again tested with a chassis at least partly sheathed in carbon fiber, raising the question of why? Two more part-sheathed chassis appeared in the Monday test session, with two levels of applied carbon near the steering head. As in Germany, Márquez rode the non-carbon chassis in the race, saying he knew its responses better.

Márquez: Head and shoulders above the others
Head and shoulders above the others: Márquez left the Czech Republic for round 11 of the championship at the Red Bull Ring in Austria with a 63-point lead over Dovizioso. Danilo Petrucci remains third overall, followed by Rins, Viñales, and Rossi.Dorna

Rossi also noted, in the past, engines that were easier to ride were generally slower (i.e., Yamahas!), but that is no longer true. Honda and Ducati are now able to make real power without its interfering with control. Remember Dani Pedrosa in the first half of 2010, looking as though his Honda was an electric bar bull?

In this business, to simply keep trying is no guarantor of success. What is needed is a high rate of improvement, and if a given manufacturer can’t afford or is unwilling to maintain that rate, it will fall behind farther the longer it keeps up its effort.