Brno MotoGP – Days when Myths are formed and Legends are born
August 10, 2020
If one ever wondered what makes a major motorsport championship special, then the MotoGP race at the Brno circuit served as a perfect answer to the question. Over the past couple of years, we have used the quote ‘A race for the ages’ on a fair number of occasions, and in all its seriousness, those races have been thoroughly deserving of the tag too. But someone outside the system of the sport might find them rather eloquent odes by the fandom (like a certain four-wheeled track racing), however, as the things stand, those who are not still involved in the sport, are truly missing something spectacular occurring in real-time. That said, the Brno MotoGP was one for the ages, would indeed be an understatement. It was far more than that. A whole new era of MotoGP took birth in front of our eyes on August 9, 2020.
That the race at Brno, scheduled to the be the third race of the shortened 2020 season and the first one of the triple headers, was going to be special was expected ever since we had left the slithering hot Jerez. Against the fast-tight Jerez, the Brno circuit is wide and long and was expected to be the first proper hunting ground for the Ducati to claim the lead after tough twin races at Jerez. However, as is the case with 2020 in a nutshell, everything but the obvious seems to be occurring. But more on that later.
Brno MotoGP – What Practice and Qualifying told us
Throughout the free practice sessions and then the qualifying, the disturbingly low grip levels of the Brno circuit were the main point of discussion. The problem was made worse due to the bumps that now cover literally every part of the track, so much so that Miller joked that it would be easier to tell where there are no bumps on the track. And then add to it, the biggest change of the season, the new Michelin rear, with its softer compound meant that tyres were dropping off alarmingly and no one knew what would happen in the last 7-8 laps of the race.
But even before the race, the complex nature of the new tyre had managed to strike hard inside the Ducati boxes. Both factory Ducati riders looked out of their wits to understand how to find the grip to lay their GP20’s ferocious power down on the track. Every time the riders turned the throttle coming out on a straight, the rear pumped, squished, spun, and did everything but grip and be stable. It was Dovizioso who suffered the most as he admitted that he had no idea why he was so terribly slow in Qualifying. The best he could manage in Qualifying was a start from P18, his worst ever qualifying in the premier class. The paddock being densely packed together in lap times also did not help.
In fact, the Italian hasn’t looked comfortable for 3 races in a row now, and it is already beyond the critical state for him in terms of getting his head around the issue. His team-mate Petrucci faired better with a P8, but it was still nothing great to write home about. He was suffering from a similar lack of grip, especially when it started to get hot in the afternoon. Jack Miller, the only Pramac Ducati rider in the race after Bagnaia, unfortunately, missing the race after a fractured tibia in an FP1 crash, was also out of answers to what went wrong as he started from P14. But in all the doom and gloom, it was Zarco that offered a semblance of respite for Ducati as he took a stunning Pole, his year-old GP19 gripping much better than GP20.
With the Ducati’s relegated to saving whatever they can, it was the Yamaha’s that again featured towards the top of the pile. The Petronas riders continue to showcase the best team results with Quartararo starting from P2 while his team-mate Morbidelli completed the front row with a P3. However, it was Morbidelli who looked the most comfortable on the bike throughout the weekend. The factory Yamaha riders did not fare as well with Vinales starting from P5 and Rossi from P10. Aprilia took a stunning P4 in qualifying when for a while it looked like Aleix Espargaro might just pull off a spectacular Aprilia pole.
The Suzuki’s too were behind where they were expected to be, Mir starting from P9 and Rins, still far from 100% fit, sucked up the pain to get a commendable P11. For Honda, the qualifying was an even bigger disaster than Ducati, as if it was possible. The highest placed Honda was of Crutchlow in P12, he still managing to ride around the injury he sustained in the Spanish MotoGP. Nakagami was unfortunate though, he could have moved to Q1 has his fast lap in Q2 was not canceled due to breaching of track limits. He started from P17. The Factory Repsol Hondas were relegated back to the grid with the test rider Bradl substituting for Marc Marquez in P20 and the Rookie Alex Marquez starting from last of the grid in P21.
The KTM’s on the other hand, had shown good pace throughout the weekend with Pol Espargaro having the race pace along with a single lap pace to threaten for a great result on Sunday. Pol started from P6 after his fastest lap was cancelled due to a yellow flag infringement. He was furious about the location of the flag as he claimed it was not visible. Had it not been the case, Pol would have started the race in P2. His rookie team-mate Brad Binder managed to move from Q2 and start from P7 just behind him.
Brno MotoGP – Foundation of a new era
As the track temperature stated reaching closer to 500 C, the lights went out at the Brno MotoGP. It was a horrendous start for the poleman Zarco as he botched up the holeshot use. This let Morbidelli take lead into Turn 1, Quartararo tried following him into second but a headshake meant he was overtaken by Aleix Espargaro’s Aprilia. By the time Quartararo eventually took second place form the Aprilia man, a lap had already gone by and Morbidelli already was a second ahead of the field. The two SRT Petronas Yamaha riders continued the 1-2 for the coming few laps. However, Quartararo looked like he was losing his rear grip far more rapidly than the race leader meaning Morbidelli continued to create a further gap over him.
Behind Quartararo, Binder was coming in hot and fast, he had already dispatched over his team-mate Pol Espargaro with an aggressive overtake to take fourth. Binder’s move had also let Zarco pass Pol with the trio now following Aleix’s Aprilia for the last podium place. The Aprilia rider, however, had started to lose steam and was soon relegated back to the incoming group. Shortly after Pol Espargaro was able to overtake Zarco’s Avintia Ducati GP19. All this while the group had reached close to Quartararo who was evidently slower than the riders chasing him.
Binder was first to make a pass over the French youngster and made it stick. The South African Rookie was now in second place, and it was only the ninth lap of the race. Behind Binder, Pol Espargaro was the fastest of the group and looked far too eager to get ahead of Quartararo and follow his team-mate and maybe return the favour of the move he made just a few laps ago. Espargaro tried passing Quartararo soon after but it went in too hot into the Turn 13 leaving enough space for Quartararo who got back into third. It looked as if the Pol had already started having a few grip issues mostly owing to his desperation of getting ahead the hard to pass Ducati. Pol Espargaro went wide into Turn 1 again giving enough space to Zarco to try and make a pass.
But Espargaro oblivious to Zarco’s attempt cut right in front of the Avintia Ducati rider and there was a contact. This led to Pol Espargaro’s slide out from Turn 1 into the gravel and the KTM rider was out of the race. It has been a disappointing end to a race that promised much greater results for the Spaniard. Now all he could do was to watch his rookie teammate make history. Zarco, on the other hand, stayed upright and soon after was able to easily pass Quartararo for the last podium position. Up ahead, with only 10 laps to go and the race leading the zone of the unknown in terms of what the tyre drop would be Brad Binder had already started taking out chunks from Morbidelli’s lead and had reached his tail.
Only a few moments later, the rookie, stunning everyone around made an easy pass over Morbidelli as he dived down inside of him through the long right-hander Turn 10. Binder had a far better pace than the Petronas rider was evident as he managed to create a gap of many bike lengths in a short time. And he continued to pull away from Morbidelli and rest of the field. He kept growing his lead from then on and as he crossed the finish line, he was almost five seconds ahead form his closest rival on the field winning the Brno MotoGP in only his third outing as a MotoGP rider.
Just how significant is Binder’s victory you may ask? The thing is, when the South African rookie Brad Binder crossed the line, he achieved what would be a phenomenal maiden MotoGP victory not just for himself but for KTM as well. He also became the first-ever South African premier class winner who had just helped birth a whole new era in MotoGP. It was the first time that a Non-Japanese, and Non-Italian Manufacture has won a race in modern times. And it had proven KTM’s promise of becoming a race winner within 5 years of their entry into the premier class, hold. This establishes KTM as a manufacturer that has won everywhere it has participated. From the Dakar to MotoGP there has been a KTM machine on top of the podium. Incredible.
And Oh Yes! Binder also became the first rookie to win a MotoGP race since Marc Marquez’s record shattering arrival on the premier class scene in 2013. And that is an astonishing company to keep.
Behind Binder, there was still more to happen in the race. Zarco was inching close to Morbidelli and looked to have a pace good enough to go past him for a famous second on the Brno MotoGP podium. However, he was penalized for the involvement in the Pol Espargaro’s crash and was given a long lap penalty. At the moment Zarco still had a decent gap ahead of Rins in fourth. Now, Rins was already in a position that he basically had no right to be in considering his still very badly injured shoulder and the pain that is was causing. A few laps earlier Rins had easily gone past the suffering Quartararo who would eventually finish the race in P7 behind both Rossi and Oliviera. Oliviera achieved a brilliant P6 from his start at P13, it was also his best result to date in MotoGP.
Morbidelli, on the other hand, finished second on the podium and looked content on finally managing to achieve a maiden podium. It had been coming for long and after the heartbreak from Andalusian GP it was all the more sweet for the Italian.
Coming back to Zarco’s long lap penalty, it was always going to be a close call for Zarco as Rins had continued to reel him in for the last podium position. However, he had chosen a perfect moment to take the penalty and how he did was a sight to behold. The Avintia rider went fast into the long lap penalty, a considerably dirtier part of the track at full chat and knee down. As a large amount of dirt flew all around, Zarco came out of the long lap penalty while having completed it with an mm precision and a speed that stunned everyone. It was a riding masterclass. A proper spectacle. He also managed to stay ahead of Rins in the process saving if podium place. Rins’ monumental effort saw him bring is Suzuki in P4.
Nakagami continued to showcase his worth in gold and respect for Honda as he finished in eighth fairly close to Quartararo. Nakagami was once again the best Honda in the race and was suffering more and more due to the blisters he had suffered during Jerez races. Miller became the top GP20 Ducati rider behind Nakagami with a race that had nothing good going for the rider and the manufacturer. His P9 was only possible in the last moments as he managed to pass grip-less Aleix Espargaro by just 0.074s over the line.
Behind them was Andrea Dovizioso on his factory Ducati GP20 ending an absolute wretched race week in P11. He was followed by his team-mate and equally bewildered by the turn of events Petrucci in P12. Further behind Vinales crossed the line in P14, he never looked ok on his M1 throughout the race, falling from 5th on the grid at the start to a dismal 14th.
Crutchlow finished another grueling race in point finish as he took P13. Alex Marquez, the Repsol Honda rookie, continued to make point-scoring finishes crossed the line in P15. The remaining finishers were Tito Rabat (P16), Bradley Smith (P17), and Stephen Bradl (P18). Suzuki Ecstar rider Joan Mir was unfortunate to be taken out of contention by Lecuona’s KTM Tech 3 machine.
Despite a disappointing result, Quartararo manages to extend his championship lead to 17 points while Vinales retain second in the MotoGP standings. Morbidelli after his first podium in the premier class is now third in the championship after having pushed Dovizioso to fourth. Though both of them have the same points. Brad Binder, after his incredible win, is now fifth in the championship.
Brad Binder, August 9, 2020, Brno MotoGP Winner
“I don’t think it’s ever going to sink in” is what Binder replied to when he was asked in the press conference if the maiden MotoGP victory has sunk in yet or not. He continued, “Today was the most incredible day of my life so far. It’s that day I’ve dreamt of as a child and gosh, for it to come true in my third Grand Prix is scary. I can’t believe it. Since the day I started in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, it’s been a consistent grind to get here. And you know, I came through all the classes with Red Bull KTM, and here we are on top and we finally won in MotoGP”.
He later further added, “The first time I won in Moto3 I thought ‘this is insane’,” continued the 24-year-old. “I was quite content with that. If that was the end then that was ok. So if we look where we are now today, it’s just unbelievable. All with Red Bull, all with KTM, we won in all three classes, and I hope this is the beginning of something great.”
As KTM heads to its home circuit, a racetrack that Red Bull owns and the fact that the RC16 is developed extensively on the same track under the brilliance of certain MotoGP legend Dani Pedrosa, It all sure does look like a beginning of something great. Somewhere in Spain, a reigning World Champion would have gone through the last three races again, closely monitoring a new rival through each lap, each session. He too would have realized; we have entered a whole new era of MotoGP and his throne is in first proper threat.
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