Just 12 months ago Cal Crutchlow re-wrote the sporting history books. He returns this weekend to the scene of his triumph, the legendary Brno circuit in the Czech Republic to start the second half of this extraordinary MotoGP™ season. The Isle of Man – based Midlander brought 35 years of despair to a long awaited finish when he won the MotoGP race to become the first British premier-class winner since Barry Sheene in 1981. That win came just a couple of hours after Scotsman John McPhee won the Moto3™ race to make it a very special day for British sport.
Crutchlow returns to the undulating 3.357 miles circuit situated on the wooded hillside above the City of Brno for round ten of the championship after the summer break. It’s been a mixed first half of the season for Crutchlow who lies tenth in the championship with just one podium finish in 2017 on the LCR Honda. It’s a very different story for the three other British MotoGP riders.
Oxfordshire’s Bradley Smith is pleased with his first half of the year riding for the new KTM team. They have made progress throughout the first nine races in their debut season and both Smith and his team-mate Pol Espargaro scored points in Germany to emphasise that progress. It’s a crucial second half of the season for the new team in such a competitive arena and next week they face their biggest test at their home grand prix in Austria.
Scott Redding and Sam Lowes are fighting for their MotoGP futures after those first nine races. Gloucestershire based Redding has struggled on the Octo Pramac GP16 Ducati after a promising start to the season. He finished out of the points in Germany and needs a couple of good results to restore both his confidence and future.
Lincolnshire’s Sam Lowes has endured a nightmare debut season in MotoGP riding for the Gresini Aprilia factory team. Crashes and mechanical problems have dogged the former Moto2™ star and he knows it can only get better, but he can take heart after finishing third in the Moto2 race last year at Brno.
Oban – based McPhee returns to Brno after his historic victory last year looking to return to the podium after crashing out of the previous Moto3™ round in Germany. He slipped to sixth in the championship riding for the British Talent Honda team. He has already finished on the podium three times this season, including second places in the opening two rounds and is only six points behind fourth placed Jorge Martin.
British Supersport Champion Tarran Mackenzie continues his grand prix education in the highly competitive Moto2 class. Replacing Danny Kent on the Kiefer Racing Suter he will be chasing his first championship points in the 20 lap race on Sunday.
DID YOU KNOW
This year’s Czech Grand Prix will be the 48th to be held at Brno. Below is a brief history of grand prix racing at this famous venue:
• The only venue that has hosted more grand prix events than Brno is Assen in The Netherlands, which has hosted the Dutch TT in each of the 69 years of the motorcycling world championship.
• The first Czechoslovakian Grand Prix was held at Brno in 1965. The 500cc race, held over thirteen laps of the original 13.94 km long road circuit, was won by Mike Hailwood (MV Agusta) in a time of 1hr 11 min 23.2 sec.
• The circuit was shortened to 10.92 km in 1975 in an effort to improve safety.
• The last premier-class race held on the road circuit at Brno was in 1977 and was won by Johnny Cecotto riding a Yamaha. The circuit was subsequently considered too dangerous for the large capacity machines.
• The smaller capacity machines continued to compete in grand prix races on the Brno road circuit until 1982 before it was removed from the grand prix calendar for safety reasons.
• The current circuit was first used for grand prix racing in 1987 and hosted the Czechoslovakian GP through until 1991. Brno did not appear on the calendar for 1992, but the event was revived in 1993 as the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic and has taken place every year since.
• This will be the 30th time that the current circuit has hosted a grand prix event, during which time the circuit has remained virtually unchanged; minor modifications were made to the circuit in 1996 which extended the length from 5.394 km to the current 5.403 km.
• Since the introduction of the four-stroke MotoGP™ class in 2002 Honda have been the most successful manufacturer with seven victories, including last year with Cal Crutchlow.
• Yamaha have taken six MotoGP victories at Brno, but only one in the last six years, which was with Jorge Lorenzo in 2015.
• Ducati have twice won the MotoGP race at Brno, with Loris Capirossi in 2006 and Casey Stoner in 2007. The last podium for a Ducati rider at Brno was when Stoner finished third in 2010.
• The last win for Suzuki at Brno was in the 500cc class in 1989 with Kevin Schwantz. Loris Capirossi was the last rider to finish on the podium at Brno riding a Suzuki – 3rd in 2008.
• The best result for a Czech rider in the MotoGP class at Brno is 9th for Karel Abraham in 2012 riding a Ducati.
• There has only been one podium finish by a Czech rider at the current Brno circuit across all classes – Lukas Pesek’s third place in the 125cc race in 2007 riding a Derbi.
• The two riders with most grand prix wins at the current Brno circuit, each with seven wins, are Max Biaggi (4 x 250cc, 2 x 500cc, 1 x MotoGP) and Valentino Rossi (1x 125cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 500cc, 4 x MotoGP).
• The seven Moto2™ races that have taken place at Brno have been won by seven different riders: 2010 – Toni Elias, 2011 – Andrea Iannone, 2012 – Marc Marquez, 2013 – Mika Kallio, 2014 – Tito Rabat, 2015 – Johann Zarco, 2016 – Jonas Folger. None of these riders are now competing in the Moto2 class.
• Five different riders have won the five Moto3™ races that have taken place at Brno: 2012 -Jonas Folger, 2013 – Luis Salom, 2014 – Alexis Masbou, 2015 – Niccolo Antonelli, 2016 – John McPhee.
BACK TO THE BUSINESS
The summer break is over – It’s back to the business as the MotoGP™ World Championship races into the second half of the season at the Monster Energy Grand Prix of the Czech Republic on Sunday. This incredible season just promises to get better and better starting at the legendary 3.357 miles Brno circuit with just ten points separating the leading four riders in the fight for the title.
World Champion Marc Marquez grabbed the championship lead with victory at the previous round in Germany. He is just five points in front of early leader Maverick Vinales who in turn holds a single point advantage over Andrea Dovizioso, with Valentino Rossi in fourth a further four points adrift.
The magnificent undulating Brno circuit is a natural stage for grand prix motorcycles. Marquez riding the Repsol Honda has only one premier class victory at Brno which was four years ago and it was Cal Crutchlow who brought Honda victory last year for the LCR team in mixed conditions. Marquez’s team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who has won twice at Brno, is not out of the championship hunt in fifth place, 26 points behind Marquez after finishing third in Germany.
Vinales has not tasted a Brno victory and Movistar Yamaha’s last win at this circuit came from Jorge Lorenzo a couple of years ago. Rossi who slipped to fourth in the championship after finishing fifth in Germany has five premier class wins here, although the last one came in 2009. Dovizioso lost that championship lead after a disappointing eighth place at the Sachsenring and will be chasing his third win of the season on the factory GP17 Ducati and the first win at Brno for the Italian factory since Casey Stoner ten years ago.
There are plenty of riders outside that top five who can fight for a podium or even victory in the 22 lap race and leading that particular charge will be Jonas Folger fresh from his second place in Germany riding the Monster Tech3 Yamaha. The German rider pushed Marquez all the way and has Brno victories in both the Moto2™ and Moto3™ classes, including a Moto2 win last year. His team-mate, double Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco, won the Moto2 race a couple of years ago while Crutchlow returns to the scene of that historic first MotoGP victory.
It’s the start of a crucial second half of the season for Lorenzo who is still struggling to find consistency after his first nine races with Ducati. Andrea Iannone had a nightmare first half on his Ecstar Suzuki debut while others such as Scott Redding, Sam Lowes and Tito Rabat are fighting for their MotoGP futures.
It’s a different story in the Moto2™ World Championship. Italian Franco Morbidelli’s sixth win of the season gives the Marc VDS rider a very impressive 34 point lead in the championship over former 125cc Brno winner Tom Luthi who crashed in Germany. Miguel Oliviera must be confident of giving KTM their first Moto2 win in the second half of the season after finishing second in Germany and moving into third place in the championship, four points in front of Alex Marquez who crashed at the Sachsenring.
It’s a similar story in Moto3™ where Spaniard Joan Mir has opened up a clear advantage. The Leopard Racing Honda rider grabbed his fifth win of the season in Germany to produce a 37 point lead over Romano Fenati who was second. Two previous Brno winners start on Sunday. John McPhee secured his first grand prix win last year and returns with the British Talent team Honda looking to replicate his early season form. The 2015 winner Niccolo Antonelli is having a wretched season and missed the German race through injury.