After a much deserved mid-season break, the world’s elite 600cc class returned to the Automotodromo Brno for the 10th round of the 2017 Moto2 season. They were greeted to rain and a sodden track, which was so wet that some teams were forced to drill holes into the fairings of the bikes to help with conditions.
When the riders completed the opening Free Practice session, it seemed to be between championship leader Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Miguel Oliveira whose team Red Bull KTM Ajo have decided to continue their Moto2 project for two years, and Thomas Luthi (CarXpert Interwetten) who were contended for the top spot on the timesheets.
Several new faces in the Moto2 class in Brno
There were several wildcard appearances in the Czech Republic in the Moto2 class. American Joe Roberts was making an appearance for the AGR Team in place of Yonny Hernandez, Augusto Fernandez was stepping in with Speed Up Racing, and local rider Karel Hanika was making an appearance for Willrace Team.
Hanika’s weekend did not get off to a good start as he crashed during the opening session. He suffered a highside at turn 12 as he accelerated too soon in the conditions when exiting the corner.
Oliveira dominates most of Free Practice 1
Oliveira appeared strong and looked to be unbeatable during the opening session however then Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) and Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) came along and stole his thunder.
Morbidelli crashes at the end of FP1
It wasn’t the best start for the championship leader either as his primary session of the weekend also resulted in a crash. He came off at turn 11 at the end of the session when he was due to set a flying lap. The front folded and sent he and the bike into the gravel; he appeared unhurt. Already injured, Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) suffered a highside which left him limping away trackside after he came off at turn nine; possibly from his previous injury.
Pasini ends the opening day on top
Oliveira remained quickest at the end of Free Practice 1. By the time they began the second Free Practice session of the day, the conditions had improved and the track had dried significantly which allowed them to lap 13 seconds quicker than previous. It was Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) who emerged victorious dominating at the end of a session that saw the 600cc riders concentrate on making improvements and confirming settings without incident.
Mixed news for Dynavolt Intact GP racing
Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP) had to be withdrawn from the event due to an incident that left him injured prior to attending the meeting. He had begun proceedings with the team on day one but found the injuries too uncomfortable to continue on.
It was good news for Xavi Vierge as he and his new team, Dynavolt Intact GP announced that he would be joining the Moto2 team from 2018 for two years.
Day two bring s better weather in the Czech Republic
It was much warmer the following day as the riders completed both Free Practice 3 and Qualifying. British rookie, Tarran Mackenzie (Kiefer Racing) didn’t get the best of starts however as he came off at turn three after running on into the gravel where he dropped the bike after becoming unbalanced.
His crash was the first of many, many crashes that occurred throughout the session, Xavier Simeon (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) came off at turn three, Luthi came off at turn one and then the likes of rookie Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) and Vierge fell at turn three of the track, and Pasini came off at turn five. Fortunately all riders appeared to be unhurt.
Crash fest come Qualifying
Qualifying turned out to be another crash fest for the Moto2 class. As Oliveira once again began his domination of the top spot on the timesheets before Pasini once again took over, Cortese was first to crash during the intense session; a crash in Qualifying means less vital track time to claim better grid positions not helped by the fact they only have one bike per rider. Cortese tried to hold on when he came off at turn 11, the bike was wrecked despite his efforts.
Incident on track sees rider penalised
An incident on track saw Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) shove Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) off after he attempted to take on inside line on the Swiss rider. The crash occurred at turns six and seven. Hanika then came off again, this time at turn three, Gardner had another incident at turn eight and Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team), who was returning from injury at a previous round, came off at turn one.
Pasini on pole in Brno
It seemed that no-one could quite get near the time set by pole position man Pasini who would lead the pack on race-day from the front row. He was t be joined on the front row by Oliveira in second, and Morbidelli in third.
Rookie, Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) led the second row from fourth ahead of fellow rookie, Navarro and Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS). Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team), Cortese and Corsi completed row three, and rookie, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) who had his best Moto2 qualifying in 10th led the fourth row ahead of fellow rookie, Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP40) and Luthi in 12th.
Corsi given three grid position penalty
Come race-day, the rain had managed to hold off until mid-way through the warm-up session. Corsi was given a three grid penalty for his incident involving Aegerter which saw him start from 12th and Binder, Quartararo and Luthi benefit.
The light rain shower indicated by the red and white rain flag, turned into a heavier shower which saw the riders retreat to the pit garages where they would not have had time to revert to the wet set-up. It meant that it was rookie, Navarro who was quickest heading into the race.
Moto2 race declared a dry race….
The drama continued for the 600cc class as the 20 lap race was declared a dry race before the 20 lap event got underway. Regulations mean that if the race was declared dry and it should rain, because the riders only have one bike, the race would be red-flagged and restarted shortly after, and guess what…. It rained!
When the first race began it was Oliveira who made the most of his front row start and he led into turn one of the race. His lead was short lived however as Pasini made his way to the front from pole as they made their way downhill. Bagnaia then looked to slipstream Oliveira on the straight but he remained unsuccessful this time with his move proving to pay off later on instead on lap two.
Aegerter, who had good form when he managed to get out on track, was forced to visit the pits as he was having trouble with his gear lever. He soon re-joined but had lost some time.
The battle was on in the dry
Oliveira lost second position to the rookie on the second lap. He had no time to recover the position as he quickly was passed by Morbidelli who forced him down to fourth. Morbidelli then went on to pass Bagnaia on the third lap. Hoping to take advantage of the spoiled momentum, Oliveira took a look up the inside of the rookie but Bagnaia out-braked the Portuguese rider. By lap five, Morbidelli had caught and was all over the back of Pasini for the lead. He was looking to attack.
Further down the track, Quartararo had lost positions when he made a mistake dropping from 12th to 15th, but another rider, Luthi, was very much on the move. First he passed Navarro when he set the fastest lap of the race so far, then he went on to overtake Marini. He had lots of traffic around him which was essentially holding him up and preventing him from completing the pace he was capable of so it seems.
As Luthi began applying the pressure to Vierge for seventh, and then went on to pass him to take the position, Oliveira recovered third from Bagnaia. Oliveira then went on to apply pressure to Morbidelli but the Italian championship leader, who was donning special leathers for the occasion, retaliated immediately.
Pasini gestures to the officials that rain was falling
As they crossed the line to begin the eighth lap, Pasini was waving his hand. He had noticed it had started to rain and was signalling for the race to be stopped. Officials did not stop it although the red and white rain flag appeared in several locations around the circuit. When they began the eighth lap, more riders including Pasini threw their hands up, but still the officials did not stop the race.
Pasini began to lose places, he wasn’t willing to push on slick tyres. They all eased up, some continued to push and try to take advantage as it did not seem the race would be stopped. Cortese then crashed at turn seven of the track, he clearly struggled with grip, this is when the officials decided to bring the race to a halt.
Riders failed to return to the pits before the five minute deadline
Aegerter had also crashed, not because he was so far behind because of his earlier pit, but both he and Cortese failed to return to the pit lane before the five minute deadline. As riders and teams switched to wet set-up and prepared to return to the track following the quick race restart procedure, Aegerter and Cortese were seen speaking to officials and looking incredibly disappointed as they were not being allowed to join the race.
When the pit lane reopened, the riders had just one minute to get back out on track. Vierge struggled though, he stalled his bike and they couldn’t start it by hand. He had to return to some rollers and used them to start the bike and so he managed to make it out just in time. The restarted race was to take place over six laps and riders were to line up on the grid using positions determined from lap seven of race one.
Aegerter was sat on his bike which was sat on rollers ready to re-join, but no matter what he and Cortese and their teams tried to do, there was no way they were permitted to re-join the race.
Luthi gets a fantastic run when the race restarts
After completing the sighting lap, there was a short wait before the riders completed the warm-up lap. They again lined up on the grid ready to get the new race underway. When the lights went out, Luthi got an amazing start. As many bunched towards the inside of the track, he remained on the outside clear of traffic and built up so much speed that he was able to take the lead heading into turn one from the third row where he started from seventh.
Luthi led ahead of Marquez, Oliveira and Morbidelli. Morbidelli tried to go around the outside to take third from the KTM rider, and succeeded. Pasini then passed Oliveira before attempting to go around the outside of Morbidelli but he didn’t manage to pass the Italian. Binder then went around the outside of Bagnaia, and while he was distracted Marini was able to go up the inside to force him further back.
Pasini crashes out in Brno
As they came to the end of the opening lap, things went terribly wrong for Pasini as he crashed out at turn 11 of the track. He ended up on his knees in the gravel where he came to a halt, he appeared shocked as he tried to come to terms with what had just happened. It was a devastating end to his extraordinary efforts in the Czech Republic.
Elbows out as the riders battled for the podium during short race
Meanwhile, as the race continued it was three into a corner as the front runners, now Oliveira, Morbidelli Marini and Bagnaia battled for the podium with five laps to go. Marini ran wide at turn one meaning he lost time on track. He managed to fend off Binder and Quartararo who were under pressure from Vierge pushing in seventh.
By the third lap, Luthi had extended a one second lead over second place man Marquez . Oliveira was in third ahead of Bagnaia and Marini who were battling for fourth, coming close on several occasions as they took very different lines. Marini passed the Italian, then Vierge was also available to take advantage.
Morbidelli finds himself under pressure in the wet
Morbidelli, who appeared to lack confidence in the conditions appeared to go backwards down the ranks. He found himself under pressure from the likes of rookies Binder, Navarro and Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team). Rookie, Quartararo was forced wide after making his way up to seventh and when he re-joined was down in 12th. They continued to battle things out, Binder passed Navarro to take ninth and added to the pressure on the Italian. Morbidelli tried to break away but was struggling to succeed in doing so. Gardner joined in on the party passing Locatelli.
Roberts makes fantastic debut in Brno
Then it was wildcard rider, Roberts’ turn to apply the pressure as on his debut he in 12th after passing Locatelli and was pushing hard. On the final lap of the six lap restart, he passed Binder and then attempted to make a move on Navarro. By the end of the lap he succeeded and stole 10th from the rookie on his own debut.
Luthi wins the Czech Republic Moto2 race at the Automodromo Brno
Luthi’s pace at the front in the conditions was second to none and he won in Czech Republic with almost a five second lead. His win means he is one of four different riders who have emerged victorious so far during the season. IN second was Marquez who won comfortably, as he finished almost two seconds ahead of third place man, Oliveira who completed the podium in Brno,
Marini was fourth nine seconds behind race winner Luthi. Had he had had more time and an emptier track ahead of him, he may have been able to contend for the podium position with the pace he was completing. Vierge was fifth at Brno, he picked up a great result after a difficult weekend that would have been an emotional rollercoaster after announcing his new contract deal.
Corsi was sixth in Brno, he finished over two seconds ahead of the highest placed rookie, Bagnaia in seventh. Morbidelli had to settle for eighth as he managed to fend off Gardner, Roberts, Navarro and Binder who battled it out behind him and placed up to 12th. Locatelli was 13th and Khairul Idham Pawi (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was 14th making it six rookies in the points in Brno. Syahrin collected the last point available as he won the battle between him, Axel Pons (RW Racing GP) and rookie, Tetsuta Nagashima (Teluru SAG Team).
Championship closer, but Morbidelli still leads
The results from the Czech Republic round means that the championship has become even closer. Morbidelli collected eight points compared to Luthi’s 25 and so although he remains the championship leader 10 rounds in on 182 points, he now only has a 17 point lead over second place man, Luthi on 165. Both Marquez and Oliveira are now in joint third on 133 points, and rookie Bagnaia is the highest placed of the rookies in fifth on 87 points. Pasini is sixth ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Corsi, Marini and Vierge who complete the top 10.