“We did the correct strategy during the summer break, coming here to test, and we arrived here prepared,” said race winner Marc Marquez. “We’re improving step by step. The championship is still very, very tight; we must be fast in every condition.”Repsol Honda

Marc Marquez dominated the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic at Brno, leading 17 laps and winning by 12 seconds, but the first few minutes of Sunday’s race looked like a disaster in the making for the Repsol Honda-mounted current MotoGP points leader.

Starting from pole position alongside fellow title contenders Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) and teammate Dani Pedrosa, Marquez was one of just two of the 23 riders in the premier class who opted to run Michelin’s soft rear rain tire on the wet track.

Marquez had set the quickest time morning warm up on a soft rear at the very end of the session. His 2:07.120 was more than a second quicker than the previous best time set by Scott Redding (OCTO Pramac Racing Ducati).

The 24-year-old Spaniard made the decision to switch to the softer option rear less than 10 minutes before the start of the race. Like the majority of the field, Marquez went with the harder of the two available fronts.

Czech GP start
Marquez was one of just two of the 23 riders in the premier class who opted to run Michelin’s soft rear rain tire on the wet track.Michelin

Czech Grand Prix Race Results 1. Marc MARQUEZ (93), Repsol Honda Team HONDA 2. Dani PEDROSA (26) Repsol Honda Team HONDA 3. Maverick VIÑALES (25) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA 4. Valentino ROSSI (46) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA 5. Cal CRUTCHLOW (35) LCR Honda HONDA 6. Andrea DOVIZIOSO (4) Ducati Team DUCATI 7. Danilo PETRUCCI (9) OCTO Pramac Racing DUCATI 8. Aleix ESPARGARO (41) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA 9. Pol ESPARGARO (44) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 10. Jonas FOLGER (94) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 11. Alex RINS (42) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI 12. Johann ZARCO (5) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 13. Karel ABRAHAM (17) Pull&Bear Aspar Team DUCATI 14. Jack MILLER (43) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA 15. Jorge LORENZO (99) Ducati Team DUCATI 16. Scott REDDING (45) Octo Pramac Racing DUCATI 17. Tito RABAT (53) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA 18. Sam LOWES (22) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA 19. Andrea IANNONE (29) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI 20. Hector BARBERA (8) Reale Avintia Racing DUCATI DNF: Bradley SMITH (38) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM DNF: Loris BAZ (76) Reale Avintia Racing DUCATI DNF: Alvaro BAUTISTA (19) Pull&Bear Aspar Team DUCATI

“We lost five points to Marc on top but we recovered some on our other rivals,” said second-place Dani Pedrosa. “We improved on some little details of the bike, and now I feel more comfortable going into the second part of the season.”Repsol Honda

Jack Miller (Marc VDS Honda) also tried the soft rear in warm up. “I put a soft on this morning and really struggled,” he said on the grid. “On the lap out of the box, the last three sectors were my best. After that, it just got worse. After six laps, the tire delaminated.

“The soft front seems to be working pretty good. I did a lot of laps on it this morning, and it looked brand new. The track isn’t actually that wet. If a little bit of sun comes out, it will dry quite quickly.”

Maverick Vinales podium
After a difficult last few races, Maverick Vinales was back on the podium at Brno. “Finishing third on a tough weekend is a good result,” he said. “This has to be the norm if we want to win the championship title.”Yamaha Racing

Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Ducati) agreed with Miller. “This morning, I used the soft in the rear, but I destroyed it after a few laps. The front is no big difference between the medium and the soft. I feel more confident using the soft front and the medium rear.”

The race was officially declared wet, meaning it would not be stopped for weather and riders could swap bikes at any time. Marquez got away first, followed by factory Ducati teammates Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso, and Pedrosa, and Rossi.

Lorenzo passing Marquez
Lorenzo finished 15th, earning one championship point. “Today’s race was a real shame,” he said. “The weather was so unpredictable and it stopped raining when I was really fast on the damp track. Then we made an error with the bike change, which ruined the rest of my race.”Ducati Team

Lorenzo passed Marquez for the lead in Turn 5. Despite spots of rain appearing on the camera lens, a dry line began to form. At the end of Lap 1, only Marquez, Dovizioso, Rossi, and Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) were still within a second of Lorenzo.

Slipping backward through the field at an alarming rate, Marquez dove into the pits before he had completed even two laps. He leapt onto his second bike fitted with medium-compound slicks. Others quickly followed suit. Back on track, Marquez was 20th.

Not everyone was as well prepared in chaotic pit lane as the Repsol Honda crew. The second Ducatis of Lorenzo and Dovizioso were set up for wet conditions. Lorenzo had to wait, while Dovizioso stayed out one more lap. Lorenzo never recovered and finished 15th.

The Doctor
“It is always difficult in these conditions in a flag-to-flag,” said Valentino Rossi. “We improved a lot from the last flag-to-flag and I finished fourth, but I think that before the end of my career we can defeat this flag-to-flag race situation.”Yamaha Racing

With 19 laps to go, Marquez was 13th. “The first two laps I nearly crashed many times—in Turn 3, I braked and locked the front,” he said. “When the sunshine came, everything was better.” Marquez was soon 10 seconds per lap faster than race leader Rossi.

Rossi and Dovizioso, fourth and third in the championship, pitted and exited together. New race leader Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) elected to make one more lap. He completed Lap 5 at the head of the pack but was already in Marquez’s clutches.

With 15 laps to go, Marquez was first, Pedrosa was fifth, Vinales was ninth, and Rossi was 13th. Pedrosa moved into second with 13 laps to go, 20 seconds behind his teammate. “When I saw ‘P1, +22,’ it was another race,” Marquez said. “I just tried to control the distance.”

Czech GP podium
With his victory at Brno, Marc Marquez expanded his championship points gap to 14 over Maverick Vinales. Andrea Dovizioso trails by 21, while Valentino Rossi is 22 markers behind his leading Repsol Honda rival.Repsol Honda

Marquez took the checkers standing on the footpegs, arms out, forming a cross. He then pointed toward the heavens, a tribute to 13-time World Champion Angel Nieto, who died last week. “All the riders were riding for one legend that we lost,” Marquez said.

Rossi (fourth) and Dovizioso (sixth) raced all the way to the end intent on earning maximum points, the latter passing Danilo Petrucci (OCTO Pramac Racing) on the penultimate lap and the former diving under Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) entering Turn 5 on the final go around.

Vinales, on the podium for the first time since Mugello in June, said, “The first lap with the hard rain tire I was doing quite good. But I was already thinking just when I did two laps going in but there were too many people.

“I should have come in before and changed to medium slicks like my rivals did,” Andrea Dovizioso (04) said. “When I returned to the track, it was a bit tough, but I gritted my teeth and pushed hard until the end to bring home a sixth place.”Ducati Team

“I decided maybe one lap too late to go in the box, but after I was feeling quite good. The warm up of the slick tires was a little bit difficult, but after that the bike was going well again. I am quite happy that we recovered this feeling that we had in the first part of the season.”

Pedrosa, second, earned his 150th career podium. “I was expecting this kind of race—wet to dry,” he said. “All day, it was raining and stopping, raining and stopping. I was surprised how quickly the track dried up; normally, it would take much longer.

“I think I could [have pitted] one lap earlier. We had a good pace, and we were competitive over the weekend. This is super positive for the team. We didn’t make a perfect race, but it was good enough for the podium.”

Cal Crutchlow finished in P5, unable to battle for a repeat of the victory he secured at this venue last year.Michelin

Asked at the post-race press conference about his tire choice, Marquez said, “Today, I felt like I wanted to take a risk to try to win the race. The first decision was on the grid. Everybody was quiet, I was with the hard/hard, and then suddenly I said, ‘Put soft.’

“My plan was to try to push a lot for the first four or five laps, and then go in because I saw that [the track] started to dry. But it was the incorrect decision because the rear tire was spinning too much, and I was losing many, many positions.”

Marquez has now won two MotoGP races at Brno. “This circuit normally every year I am struggling a lot, but this weekend I felt really good,” he said. “We have an important test tomorrow for the Red Bull Ring. If we improve a little bit, we can fight for the podium.”

All three riders were thinking about Nieto. “It’s special to have a full Spanish podium in the MotoGP class,” Pedrosa said. “He started the Spanish riders in this world of bikes. Angel was so in love with this world that any race that is full of riders on the grid is a tribute to him.”

“Angel was really special to everyone, not only the Spanish riders,” Vinales said. “We make him smile with this podium.” Marquez concluded, “I won, Dani finished second, and Maverick third, but I think everybody raced today for Angel. This weekend is for him.”