Several weeks of achievement and record-setting for Great Britain in South America rolled seamlessly into the eleventh round of MotoGP this weekend at Brno in the Czech Republic when LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow emerged from a soaking and unpredictable affair to earn his very first victory in the premier class of Grand Prix racing. The thirty year old’s mastery of the wet and a shrewd hard compound tyre choice meant that the Union Jack flew for the first time since 1981 in the 500/MotoGP division. Crutchlow’s deft feeling around the wide and fast Czech asphalt crowned a decent day for the Brits in what was the second weekend in a row for the series with Federal Oil Gresini’s Sam Lowes making the Moto2 podium for the first time since Mugello (Italy) in June and John McPhee earning a maiden career success in Moto3.
For the forty-seventh time, Grand Prix landed in Brno and after a dash across from Austria the previous week. The usually busy and pleasant climes of the Czech location began dry but with an ominous forecast that dowsed the race day programme.
One of the happiest athletes in the paddock when Sunday dawned rainy was Crutchlow. The Englishman had qualified tenth on the grid but had already showed his potent synergy with the works RCV Honda in slippery conditions after a first podium of the campaign two races previously in Germany. A hard Michelin choice meant that ’35’ had to keep patient and pick his way to the front of the field. Crutchlow was as low as fifteenth before he responded to the warming rubber and started his plough. By lap sixteen of twenty-two he was setting the pace and led home a similarly considered ride from Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi who calmly banked second place and his first uncorking of champagne in two events.
“I expected a different feeling but with Lucy giving birth the other week that was the best feeling in the world...don’t get me wrong though: winning races is fantastic!” said new father Crutchlow after his 98th appearance in six years of MotoGP and tenth rostrum slot. “I’m really pleased for my team and we worked hard for this. We took the gamble [with the tyres] and I’m not sure if anybody else did but we did the best job today.”
“At the beginning I was desperate because I thought we made a mistake, but lap by lap the hard rear became better and it was a very long race, you have to stay concentrated not to make a mistake,” said Rossi, standing on the ‘box’ for the fifth time in 2016 and now totalling 180 in MotoGP (216 across all classes). “I started from p12, so it was a great race and I‘m happy with these 20 points, also because I‘m second in the championship.”
Rossi has now moved up to second in the MotoGP standings at the expense of teammate Jorge Lorenzo and sits 53 points in the draft of Marc Marquez. The World Champion again struggled with the Michelin-Yamaha combination in the wet and passed the chequered flag out of the points and a lap-down on the field. Monster Tech3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith was a non-finisher while teammate Pol Espargaro managed thirteenth place. Tito Rabat’s tenth position represented the MotoGP rookie’s second best classification of the year.
For the first time in six Grands Prix Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco did not post a top two result. The Frenchman gave Paginas Amarillas HP40’s Alex Rins and Gresinis’ Sam Lowes a renewed sniff at the 2016 crown by circulating to eleventh. Rins was runner-up to Jonas Folger while Lowes grabbed third place. The trio are now split by just 25 points with Lowes anticipating an exciting home event fixture on the schedule. “The last two races in Germany and Austria were difficult for me so it was important to come here and get a good result to take some positives into Silverstone,” said Lowes to www.motogp.com. “Yesterday in the dry I felt good and today I made a step in the rain. It was a long race and important to keep the focus.”
Moto3 was dazzled by McPhee ahead of Jorge Martin and Fabio Di Giannantonio in the flooded conditions of the first outing of the day. World Championship leader Brad Binder tripped up for the first time this season and the six points salvaged by Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Jorge Navarro in tenth were important for the series standings; the Spaniard is now 61 in arrears of the South African. A shout-out for Niccolo Antonelli who with fifth place banked his best result since the Dutch TT and since breaking his collarbone in Germany.
More rain dancing in MotoGP could be on the cards in two weeks time. The Octo British Grand Prix will be staged around the historic curves of the Silverstone circuit on September 4th.