Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) has continued to extend his championship lead as he now stands with 197 points, after taking third place at the Czech GP during the Moto GP race on Sunday.
After admitting he had chosen the wrong tyres, as he went for the softer option, he was able to hold on and preserve his tyres till the end. This is when he gave one final push to be able to squeeze up into third position behind his new championship rival, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP).
Marquez had the pace in the dry
It was a steady start for Marquez who started his weekend sitting 00.896 seconds off the fastest time. With last week’s winner, Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team), leading the way so far, the Spaniard knew he had to keep working to try and stay in a good rhythm.
But as he approached the Free Practice Two he pulled out all the stops to show that he will continue to dominate in the dry. It was a battle with Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) who was also coming out really strong after his disappointing last couple of rounds. After winning here last year, Lorenzo had the confidence to challenge Marquez, but it was the Repsol Honda rider who was 1-0 up when the day ended.
It was a surprise to all when Marquez topped the FP2 after giving spectators a fright earlier on. As he approached turn 13, just before turning into the pits, he lost the front end seeing him put his knee and elbow down at a 67.5 degree lean angle, but still managed to save it. This doesn’t beat his last save that saw him lean at a staggering 68 degrees two years ago, at this very circuit. With his heart in his throat, it looked like he was finished for the session as he got his breath back. But he showed why he shouldn’t be underestimated, as he finished the day as the fastest man going into the qualifying.
New lap record set by Lorenzo, but Marquez bit back
Lorenzo rung the bell for round two of the fight as he pinched the top spot from Marquez in the Free Practice Three, smashing the circuit record. Marquez finished in third place just behind Ducati man, Iannone, but it was clear the fight was far from over.
As he took to the track for the start of the qualifying he sat back and watched as Lorenzo went out and blitzed his own record, taking the provisional pole. It was also a tough fight against the likes of the Ducati’s, and Rossi, who also appeared fast. But it took to the final lap for Marquez to make his move, even approaching a traffic jam, but this did not stop him. As he got caught up with Rossi and Vinales he still weaved his way through in order to get to the finish line, and put in a time of 1:54.596, which is the new fastest lap record ever set on two wheels in Brno.
As Lorenzo had to settle for second on the grid, it was clear that Marquez had his sights set on a victory. Pipping your main championship rival to the pole position was clearly the highlight of Marquez’ day and he could look forward to heading into the last day, race day.
It was the wrong tyre choice for Marquez
After wishing that the rain would pass over, it was inevitable that the rain was set to stay. It poured for the majority of the day leaving a lot of standing water around the track. With this in mind, Marquez chose the softer option tyre, as did the majority of the field.
As the race started the rain did appear to stop, and a dry line did slowly start to form. Marquez did lead the first couple of laps managing to hold off the two Ducati riders Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), and Iannone. It did appear that he was only going backwards as Scott Redding (OCTO Pramac Yakhnich) also passed through. Marquez then saw himself in fifth place for the duration of the race as he preserved his tyres, waiting to pounce.
As the end of the race got closer, the softer tyres began to wear off, especially for the front runners. After pushing too hard towards the start, they were struggling to hang onto the podium positions. With their harder tyre options Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) and Rossi caught up from the back overtaking Marquez, as well as Iannone, Redding and Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing).
This is when Marquez struck and used up any last bit of rubber his tyres had left, and made his move. He managed to slip into third place showing that he can make any tyre work, and got himself behind his new championship rival, Rossi. As Lorenzo was unable to score any points, this has now seen Rossi move up into second place sitting 53 points behind Marquez.
Marquez explains why he chose the softer tyres
Along with most of the other riders, Marquez chose the softer option tyre on both the front and the rear. He said, ‘I (he) expected it would start to dry up even earlier and for that reason I (he) chose the soft tyres.’ During the last laps he said he was ‘struggling more’ but understands it was ‘my (his) mistake as I (he) expected a flag to flag race.’ He did consider a different tyre option explaining, ‘I tried to take a risk to go with hard, but I say I prefer to go with the soft to have some movement and some warnings.’ He said the downfall of the hard tyre was that, ‘with the hard you can be faster, but then you can lose the front really quickly.’
He has learnt from this and says, ‘it’s a mentality at the moment that works so I will try to keep this mentality during all of the season.’ Dry and wet conditions do not bother the Spaniard as he said, ‘the important thing is also when dry and wet conditions meet flag to flag I (he) feel strong, so we are constant and must keep like this.’
A plan was in mind when approaching the end of the race
Although Marquez was struggling he saved the best till last saying, ‘I was pushing a lot in the beginning with the soft tyres for the change to slick, but then I saw the track was too wet and then I try to manage.’ It was clear Marquez was pleased with his race as he went on to say, ‘when I saw that there was less than 10 laps to go and the track was still wet, I started to manage my tyre wear. I saw that Crutchlow and Rossi had a faster pace, so I concentrated on my other rivals and I can say I won the battle with them.’
The championship was the most important aspect
Marquez took those all-important 16 points for the championship, only losing four points to second place man, Rossi. ‘The maximum for the championship was these 16 points and I am very happy because we gained a lot of advantage on Jorge (Lorenzo) and we lose only four points from Valentino (Rossi).’ But the Spaniard will continue to try and improve as he said, ‘this year we’re working like ants, making gradual, steady improvements and having a very complete season without changing our mindset.’