The Moto3 class were welcomed back from the mid-season break to the second half of the 2017 Moto3 season to an extremely wet Automotodromo Brno where they met for round 10 of the season, the Monster Energy Grand Prix Czech Republic.
McPhee claimed first Moto3 victory in Brno in 2016
The place that saw Scottish rider, John McPhee (now with the British Talent Team) collect his first ever Moto3 win, it was sodden as they teetered round in the opening session of the meeting, Free Practice 1.
Wildcards and replacements riders in Brno
Attending the event were wildcards, Tim Georgi (Freudenberg Racing Team), CIP teammates Manuel Pagliani and Marco Bezzecchi, Gabriel Martines-Abrego (Motomex Team Moto3), and replacing injured Darryn Binder for the Platinum Bay Real Estate team was Dennis Foggia. Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) was forced to sit out with the broken ankle he sustained in Free Practice 2 at Sachsenring.
Georgi makes a name for himself
It was Georgi who definitely made a name for himself though during that first session and throughout the weekend as he ended FP1 as the quickest 250cc rider on track, and then remained competitive throughout the three days. Once he placed himself at the top of the timesheets during FP1, he chipped away at his own time and remained unbeatable in the wet.
Fenati to remain with team but to take on Moto2 next season
Snipers Racing were happy to announce in the Czech Republic that Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) would be moving up with them to the Moto2 class in 2018. It would prove to be an emotional round for the Italian who did not make it there the year previous as he and his former team, Sky Racing Team VR46 parted ways before then due to an incident.
Georgi dominates once again
Although it was not raining, the track was still wet for Free Practice 2. Georgi again dominated although he did have an off at turn five when the front folded on his KTM, but he remained on top until championship leader, Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) and Pagliani knocked him down with one minute of the opening day’s sessions to go. Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Aspar Mahindra Moto3) also came off at turn 10 at the end of the session where Mir finished the session and the day on top.
Dry but greasy conditions on day two
When the 250cc class returned for day two of proceedings, they were greeted by sunny conditions and a dry but greasy track because of rainfall the day previous. When the final Free Practice session got underway, McPhee was involved in an incident with another rider that saw the Scottish rider end up in the gravel.
Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Philipp Oettl (Sudmetall Schedl GP Racing) both took their turns occupying the top spot on the timesheets Oettl later was involved in an incident with Jules Danilo (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) at turn three as they became tangled up when they both fell. Both appeared hurt with Oettl requiring the stretcher track-side.
Crashes galore on the greasy track
The change in conditions from the first day led to many more crashes. Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) came off at turn 10 suffering a huge highside after he almost saved the rear when it slid from under him. He visited the medical centre but was OK to continue on.
Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0)came off at turn one after he ended up on the other side of the road to his bike, Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) lost the front at turn seven, and both Nicollo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and rookie, Ayumu Sasaki (SIC Racing Team) crashed together at turn three.
All this came within the first 20 minutes and it was not over. Oettl fell again at turn one as did Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) Wildcard, Martinez-Abrego attempt to keep hold of his bike when he fell at turn 14, Suzuki fell again at turn 10 and Antonelli dropped it again at turn 3. Fortunately, all riders were unhurt and were able to continue on after their incidents.
Bulega overcomes high-side to go quickest at end of Free Practice
It was Bulega, despite his highside, who remained quickest at the end of the final Free Practice session for the Moto3 class. Behind him was Oettl despite his also, and Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was third heading into Qualifying.
Another crash for Bulega at start of Qualifying
Things did not get any easier for Bulega as when Qualifying got underway he came off at turn nine of the track. He wasn’t the only one as Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Racing Team) fell. Jakub Kornfeil (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) and Gabirel Rodrigo (RBA Boe Racing Team) became tangled at track 14 and Rodrigo was left limping away and Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) fell at turn 13 when he spun in the track. Livio Loi (Leopard Racing) broke down, Martinez-Abrego fell again, this time at 14 and McPhee fell again in the last minute of the session.
Falling in Qualifying increases the pressure dramatically for both the rider and the teams as the 250cc class only have one machine and so they all have to act fast to get back out on track and collect the best grid position for the race that is possible in the circumstances.
Qualifying comes down to the crunch, Rodrigo claims first Moto3 pole
For those who stayed on, they battled it out to the end, especially the likes of Mir, Guevara and Fenati who were very much in contention for the prime spot. Migno, who was a contender for pole earlier on in the session, crashed out again at the end of the session, and just when it looked like Fenati was on pole, Rodrigo finished his final lap with a flyer and claimed his first ever Moto3 pole with a time of 2:08.571.
He was to be joined on the front row by Fenati who was pushed down to second, and his RBA BOE Racing Team teammate, Guevara in third who made it a front row start for both teammates. Championship leader, Mir was to lead the second row in fourth ahead of Bulega and Bendsneyder in sixth.
Moto3 complete warm-up in the dry, some riders handed penalties
Race day for the Moto3 class was cool and overcast and although the rain held off for the warm-up session the race was to be run in the wet. McPhee and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) both took turns to lead throughout the morning session, but it was the Scottish rider that was quickest.
Before the race however, and after Qualifying, Bastianini and Albert Arenas (Aspar Mahindra Moto3) were handed 12 grid positions penalties before the race due to “irresponsible riding”.
Brno Moto3 declared a wet race
The 250cc class lined up on the grid for what was declared to be a wet race as rain had begun to fall during the Moto2 class’ warm-up session, and got heavier throughout the morning. For the Moto3 class, there was only one wet Dunlop tyre available for them all which was to make it a level playing field.
Rodrigo takes advantage of his pole position
Rodrigo got a fantastic start on what was KTM’s first pole position of the season when he led into the first turn of the race. Within corners however, Fenati had forced his way to the front passed the Argentinian rider, but then along came Guevara who bypassed the two to place himself at the front of the pack.
Herrera brought down on opening lap
As they passed through the opening lap, unfortunately for the only female rider in the class, Maria Herrera (AGR Team), her race was brought to a dramatic and early end as she was taken out of contention by Danilo who fell and took her with her. She was lucky to escape serious injury as she was lifted up and out of her seat and thrown over the bike.
Back at the front as the opening lap came to an end, Bendsneyder had saw that Guevara was breaking away and so he worked hard to pass Mir and Rodrigo and concentrated on leaving them behind in order to attempt to catch Guevara, as Mir passed Fenati also leaving the Italian in fourth.
Pagliani to be penalised for jump start
News soon came through that Pagliani was to be penalised for a jump-start and had to complete a ride-through penalty. The wildcard rider, Georgi was looking incredibly impressive in the mixed conditions however as he had quickly made his way up to 15th from 22nd, before progressing further up to 12th in the opening laps. He qualified in 30th on the grid.
McPhee who was 19th after Qualifying had progressed quickly up to 10th, and just as impressive, rookie Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) who was 15th on the grid was in fifth and contending with the leaders of the race. Soon the Thai rider was in fourth when he passed Ramirez, and Georgi was up to 10th.
Another man to be watch on track was Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0). Following Canet he was 17th on the grid. By lap five he had definitely found his rhythm and by lap five was up to 12th. He was definitely one to watch…
Bendsneyder first takes the lead on lap three
On lap three of the race, Bendsneyder managed to take the lead for the first time. Behind, Guevara and Mir, Atiratphuvapat was attacking. He slid past the championship leader, and then managed to break away to start chasing down Bendsneyder and Guevara. His success was short-lived however, as Mir’s experience paid off and he got him back.
Guevara soon recovered his lead from Bendsneyder on the sixth lap of the race. Rodrigo and Atiratphuvapat started to lose positions as Fenati moved up to fourth after passing Ramirez, and then Rodrigo passed the Spanish rider too.
Fenati on the hunt for the podium
Fenati continued to progress and passed Mir on the eighth lap to place himself in third. Behind them, a group was forming led by Mir that went all the way up to 11th, and chasing them down, Canet was about to bring himself into the mix.
It was pretty intense in the group as they constantly switched positions. McPhee and Suzuki both passed Georgi sending him backwards down the ranks, his inexperience in drier conditions began to show through; still it should not take anything away from his performance. As the track dried, the group became more prominent.
Guevara regains his lead in Brno
Guevara was back to the front by the 11th lap of the race but as the track had continued to drive. Guevara making the pass on Bendsneyder, and Fenati and Mir chasing meant the front four were able to break away slightly from the group of six that chased led by Ramirez. Ramirez was under pressure from McPhee who had just passed Rodrigo and who was now coming under pressure from Ramirez.
Bendsneyder once again took the lead when he took the inside line of a right turn to pass Guevara, Fenati made his way through also and on lap 13, they along with third place man Guevara completed a personal best lap of the race so far. Still, it was rookie, Tony Arbolino that was fastest on track much further down the ranks.
Fenati takes to the front
Then on the following lap, Fenati became the new leader of the race and immediately began to pull away slightly. As the dry line formed, Canet was continuing to progress and become more of a danger to the front runners. He was up to sixth after powering through the pack bringin Suzuki with him. Unfortunately for wildcard, Georgi, he dropped backwards through them.
Seeing Fenati out at front, Guevara began attacking Bendsneyder for second and made his move on the start-finish straight as they began lap 15. Further into the lap, he was back in front of the lead four, and the group behind had expanded to 11.Canet had gotten to the front of the group and was starting to pull away in pursuit of the front four.
Riders become tangled as the battle for the podium
Trying to stick with race leader, Guevara, Fenati and Bendsneyder became tangled up in each other whilst battling for second. Whilst like this, Mir was able to bypass both of them to take the position instead. By the third turn of the 16th lap he nearly led. Later on, he did hit the front and once there was immediately able to accelerate away, his bike appearing to be superior when it comes to speed.
What was Fenati thinking?
Keen to not let him get away however, Bendsneyder followed the Spaniard. Fenati also responded and pushed his way passed both Bendsneyder and Guevara to take second on lap 18. Fenati was soon on Mir’s tail abd appeared to be looking for any way past the Spaniard; it was a matter of when he would act as he looked to practice moves he was saving should he be close enough on the final lap.
With just two laps remaining, after Suzuki had just passed Rodrigo, Canet who had passed him earlier head caught Bendsneyder and Guevara. He took fourth from Bendsneyder but he retaliated; still, it was clear Canet had the pace.
It all came down to the last lap
It was all going to come down to the last lap to see would take what final positions on the podium at the end of the Czech Republican round. Canet had managed to make his way through to third, but Bendsneyder was determined not to make it easy for him as he passed the Spaniard on the last lap. Fenati was stuck to Mir, working hard to keep the gap between them to a minimum.
Canet made a lunge to regain third, but in doing do forced Bendsneyder wide which in turn meant he and lost fourth position to Guevara who took advantage. Unfortunately on the last lap, Rodrigo crashed out of 10th but was able to pick up his bike and finish although he was well out of the much-deserved points down in 26th.
Mir outbrakes Fenati which leads to sixth victory
It was all going to come down to what Fenati was planning on doing. Having watched him practice his moves earlier, it seemed it was adamant, however when he made his first attempt, Mir out-braked the Italian and created a gap that he ran out of time to overcome.
Mir won in the Czech Republic, collecting his sixth Moto3 victory of the 2017 season. Fenati was extremely emotional when he finished the 10th round in second; the fact he missed out on competing there the previous year must have helped to make it extra special.
Amazing podium for Canet in Brno
Canet amazingly had managed to break away from his two competitors and crossed the line in third just three seconds behind race winner, Mir, and 1.5 seconds ahead of the two he had just duelled with. Bendsneyder finished fourth in Czech Republic and Guevara was fifth. McPhee was sixth ahead of Ramirez and Suzuki in seventh and eighth, Norrodin was ninth and a great performance from rookie, Atiratphuvapat saw he complete the top 10.
Migno was 11th at Brno ahead of Arenas, Oettl and replacement rider, Foggia in a fantastic 14th. Rookie rider, Sasaki snatched the final point in 15th as he finished just ahead of Arbolino who missed out on the points in 16th.
Mir has considerable championship lead
Mir’s sixth win means he has extended his championship lead that bit more. He is now on 190 points with a comfortable 42 point lead over Fenati in second on 148 points. Canet jumps up to third on 126 points, as McPhee also progresses up to fourth on 93 points as injured Martin remains on 89 points now in fifth due to his non-participation. Ramirez is sixth as the highest placed KTM rider, ahead of Di Giannantonio, Guevara, and Bastianini who completes the top 10.