Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Valentino Rossi brilliantly turned the Grand Prix České Republiky around, claiming an incredible second place on the podium after making a perfect tyre decision. Jorge Lorenzo secured seventeenth position after being forced to switch machines twice due to a problem with the front tyre on his first bike.
Wet conditions made for uncertainty regarding the tyre decision at the start of today‘s race at the Automotodrom Brno. Rossi had a cautious start as he launched his Yamaha from sixth on the grid and dropped back to twelfth position, before picking up the pace. The Italian overtook his teammate for eleventh place but was then passed by Dani Pedrosa.
After waiting seven laps for his harder spec tyre to get up to temperature, The Doctor knew it was time to put the hammer down. He had to let Cal Crutchlow go in front and followed him to Pedrosa, Bradley Smith and Pol Espargarò, who he passed with 14 laps to go. A lap later Rossi gained a position as Andrea Dovizioso suffered a technical problem. The Italian kept following Crutchlow and continued to work his way past Danilo Petrucci and Maverick Viñales, as Aleix Espagarò retired from the race, and then set his sights on Marc Marquez in fifth place, overtaking him with seven laps to go.
Riding as the fastest man on track the nine times World Champion passed Hector Barbera a lap later and had the crowds cheering as he wrestled second place from Andrea Iannone. Rossi then quickly took off, creating a distance between himself and the Italian, but soon realised that the margin between him and the now leading Crutchlow had grown too large to close in the last four laps. The Doctor decided to settle for second place, finishing 7.298s from first and taking twenty points for the championship.
Lorenzo was on the same tyre combination as his teammate and took a while at the start to get heat into his tyres. From second on the grid he fell back to sixteenth place before being able to push hard. The Mallorcan made a charge in the second half to the race as his tyres started to produce more grip. What followed next was a flurry of overtaking manoeuvers as he fought his way to tenth place.
Lorenzo kept riding aggressively, but was forced to come in to the pit box with seven laps to go after losing much of the central tread from the front tyre. The unforeseen sudden pit stop forced him to change to his second bike which was fitted with slick tyres for a potential normal bike change in the flag to flag conditions. The track was still far too wet for slick tyres so he returned to the pit box a lap later to switch back to his first bike which had since been reequipped with a new front tyre. This then allowed him to finish the race in a disappointing and distant seventeenth place.
Rossi‘s second place moves him up to second position in the world standings with 144 points, 53 points behind the leader, with teammate Lorenzo six points behind him in third place.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP now head to Silverstone in the UK for the British Grand Prix in two weeks‘ time.
After seeing today‘s weather forecast we knew that the game would be decided by tyre choice. We chose the hard rear for both Valentino and Jorge because we expected the track to dry very slowly and we thought that the hard option would let us finish the race without changing the bike. We were right! Of course we also expected the first laps to be difficult for both riders and they were extremely good to manage the situation. Valentino handled the beginning of the race with his usual calm and experience and he did not panic when he got back to 12th position. He was also reactive to understand when it was time to change the pace and attack. Second position is fully deserved and allows him to reduce the gap to the top of the standings. Despite the final result, Jorge‘s race was impressive. Without the problem of the front tyre, he could have been on the podium. All team members worked really hard from Friday and especially today during the race, as they were ready to face all circumstances. We will now stay in Brno until tomorrow for the IRTA test to work on some new parts and have a direction for the second half of the season.
At the beginning I was desperate because I thought we made a mistake, but lap by lap the hard rear became better and it was a very long race, you have to stay concentrated not to make a mistake. I started from p12, so it was a great race and I‘m happy with these 20 points, also because I‘m second in the championship and I think today we did a good job and we made the right choice.
It‘s a big pity because I was doing a great race, only I had some difficulties stopping the bike at the beginning when there was a little bit more water and especially with the hard tyre on the exit I didn‘t have grip. I needed to be very careful and that is why I was quite far from the top. Little by little, as the track dried, the rear became better and I started to gain confidence, so seven laps before the end the front tyre tore up so I had to change bike twice and finished the race on the first bike in seventeenth. Rossi was unlucky in Mugello and I was very unlucky today, a lot of bad luck this season. We have to work, so this doesn‘t happen more often, because we see it happen sometimes in the dry and today in the wet and we have to try not to have more tyre mishaps in the future.