bwin Czech Grand Prix, Brno: MotoGP preview

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The MotoGP™ paddock arrives at the Automotodrom Brno for round 11 of the MotoGP™ World Championship, just a week after the Indianapolis Grand Prix with the battle for the title heating up nicely.

Valentino Rossi (195pts) currently leads from Jorge Lorenzo (186pts) by 9 points; with Marc Marquez (139pts) just 56 further back with eight races left. Brno has hosted a Grand Prix event since 1950, with the modern circuit having been introduced in 1987, but rarely will it have played host to such an intriguing fight for the championship.

In recent years Brno has become a Honda stronghold and the Japanese manufacturer has won the last four races held at the circuit. Last year’s race was the first that season that Marquez failed to win, as his Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa took victory ahead of Lorenzo and Rossi. Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi had his lead at the top of the standings over his teammate Jorge Lorenzo reduced from 13 to 9 at the Indianapolis GP as he crossed the line in third, just behind the Spaniard. Last year in Brno Rossi found himself in a similar situation as the Italian was forced to settle for third behind Lorenzo. Rossi is the most successful rider at the track in the MotoGP™ era with four victories, but the last of those came back in 2009. Rossi’s third place last year is the only time he has stood on the podium at the circuit since.

Lorenzo may have come off second best in Indianapolis to Marquez but he managed to finish in front of Rossi, something he also has a habit of doing at Brno. The Spaniard has four victories across all classes at the circuit (125cc – 2004, 250cc – 2006/7, and MotoGP™ – 2010) to his name. He also holds the accolade as the last non-Honda rider to win in MotoGP™ there (2010) and has only failed to finish on the podium once since then (2011). More tellingly for the title battle, since Rossi’s victory in 2009, Lorenzo has never finished behind his teammate at the Czech GP.

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez will arrive in Brno on the back of consecutive victories at Indianapolis and the Sachsenring. In the process Marquez has moved into third in the standings and reduced the deficit to Rossi to 56 points. Last year the reigning MotoGP™ champion was aiming for a record breaking 11th win a row at the Czech GP, but for the first time during the season he failed to take victory. In fact Marquez missed out on the podium altogether and finished in fourth. The Spaniard has tasted victory at the circuit in his rookie MotoGP™ season in 2013, and he also won the Moto2™ race in 2012.

Marquez’s teammate Pedrosa has four victories to his name at Brno, and is one of the few riders to have won in all three classes (125cc – 2003, 250cc – 2005, MotoGP™- 2012/2014) at the circuit. His race win last year coming as he stalked down the early leader Lorenzo, before making his move and going on to take victory by over half a second.

Ducati Team’s Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso enjoyed an excellent battle for fifth at the Czech GP in 2014. Iannone, who had qualified on the front row, was on the Satellite Pramac Racing bike at the time but managed to beat his compatriot on the Factory Ducati across the line to finish fifth and record his best MotoGP™ result at the track. Iannone won at Brno in Moto2™ in 2011, while his teammate Dovizioso has never won at the circuit. Dovizioso has stood on the podium in every class though (1x125cc, 2x 250cc, 1xMotoGP™) and his best MotoGP™ result was his second back in 2011.

Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro claimed eighth at the Czech GP last season on the Forward Yamaha to secure his best MotoGP™ result at the circuit. His teammate, rookie Maverick Viñales, finished sixth in the Moto2™ race last season, but stood on the podium (2nd) in the Moto3™ race in 2013.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith (97pts) currently leads the Satellite standings by 23 points from his compatriot Cal Crutchlow (74pts) on the CWM LCR Honda with his teammate Pol Espargaro (73pts) now just one point further back. Last year Smith recorded his best MotoGP™ result at the circuit by finishing ninth, while Crutchlow was forced to retire on the Factory Ducati and Espargaro crashed out. In 2012 both Crutchlow and Espargaro secured their best results at Brno. Crutchlow finished on the MotoGP™ podium (3rd) on the Tech 3 Yamaha while Espargaro managed to claim third in the Moto2™ race.

In the Open class it is Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera who leads the way with 20 points. Forward Racing’s Loris Baz (14pts) remains his closest rival, despite having to miss the Indianapolis GP due to financial problems with his team, although the Frenchman will be back on the grid in Brno.

Brno is the home race of AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham. The Czech rider finished 14th in last years GP, but has been forced to miss the last four races this season after dislocating his toe during practice at the Catalan GP. Toni Elias filled in for Abraham in Indianapolis, but he his hoping to be fit enough to race in front of his home fans.

The bwin Grand Prix České republiky starts with the official Press Conference at 17:00 local time on Thursday, with the on-track action kicking off at 9am on Friday.