Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Maverick Viñales turned a difficult weekend around with a superb performance today at the Monster Energy Grand Prix Ceské republiky, working his way up to third place in a thrilling flag-to-flag race. Teammate Valentino Rossi was leading the race in the early stages and also put up a strong fight after swapping bikes, to ultimately cross the line in fourth place.
Starting the race from seventh on the grid, Viñales slotted into sixth position after the first corner. He followed his teammate past Dani Pedrosa to fifth on the opening lap, but it soon became clear the track was too dry for the wet tyres to last.
The Yamaha rider quickly headed into the pits after lap 4 to switch bikes. Back on track in 13th place, he quickly got back into the groove and gained positions as other riders came in to change bikes a lap later. He soon circulated in eleventh place and was on the move with 17 laps to go. Putting his head down, he rode a superb race. The Spaniard carried a strong pace over the next nine laps and climbed up to third, dropping a personal best on lap 16, followed by a fastest race lap of 1’57.052s. However, he was unable to close the gap to the front riders and crossed the line in third place, 18.135s from first.
Rossi had a decent start from second position, in what was declared a wet race, taking fifth place after the initial run up to the first corner. He quickly picked up a place on the opening lap and started chasing the top-3. The Doctor was flying on his second lap, passing Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez as the sun broke through the clouds.
With 20 laps ahead of him, the Italian found himself in second place, with a 1.4s gap to Jorge Lorenzo. Riding faster than anyone on track, he closed right up and took over at the front on lap 4, but had to come in to change bikes a lap later. The nine-time World Champion rejoined the pack in 14th place. Over the next 17 laps he was the star of the race, cutting through the field like a knife through butter to ultimately secure fourth position, finishing just off the podium, 20.466s from the front.
Today’s race results see Viñales hold second place in the standings, 14 points from first and eight points ahead of Rossi, who holds fourth in the championship. Yamaha retains the lead in the Constructor’s rankings, by nine points, while the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team currently lies in second place in the Team’s classification, five points from the lead.
The MotoGP paddock will now move on to Spielberg, Austria, for the Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich, held at the Red Bull Ring next weekend.
Position: 3rd – Championship: 2nd – Points: 140
“I’m really happy. Honestly, third was the best we could do today. Our target was to be on the podium and we did it. We were struggling during the whole weekend. Finishing third on a tough weekend is a good result. We have to be on the podium, this has to be the norm if we want to win the championship title. I came in a little bit late, I think, but at the same time as Dani Pedrosa and some other riders, so it was good for the overall result. The track was drying out really fast. It might have been better to stop a little bit earlier, but this is the first time I finish a flag-to-flag race on the podium, so it gives me a lot of experience. In Austria it’s going to be really important to have a good feeling and a good weekend, and winning on Sunday will also be really important. I think all the podiums today were dedicated to Ángel Nieto, because he was really important and one of the best.”
Position: 4th – Championship: 4th – Points: 132
“It is always difficult in these conditions in a flag-to-flag. It for sure isn’t our strongest point, this type of racing, but in the end the result is not so bad. 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! Anyway, I think that in a full dry or full wet race I can fight for the podium for sure. It remained a good weekend, because we worked well in the box. I felt good with the bike, that’s important, and I was strong on the wet and on the dry. The race was very hard, I pushed from the beginning to the end. It’s a shame that we could have taken more points and arrived on the podium, but it’s like this and in this condition fourth place is not so bad.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“Our riders both were comfortable on their bikes today. They were on the pace right from the start of the race, but it soon became clear that they would have to switch back to slicks. Flag-to-flag races are by nature uncertain and a gamble. Maverick came in a lap earlier than Vale, but in the heat of the moment this is always a difficult decision to make for both the team and the riders, especially if you’re leading the race. Our riders both rejoined mid-field after switching bikes and showed their speed. As soon as they had their tyres up to temperature they rode solid lap times, even dropping into the low 1’57s. It was a shame that the changing track conditions played such a big role today. We aim to fight at the front again at the Austrian Grand Prix next weekend.”
Challenging Afternoon at the Czech GP for Tech3 Duo
Jonas Folger produced a fully determined effort today in the dramatic Czech GP to finish inside the top ten despite the difficult circumstances. The young German leapt forward from the fifth row of the grid and quickly set into a strong race pace. He opted to swap to his dry bike shortly after the GP began due to the drying track, yet a miscalculation by the team forced him to pit again one lap later. The change over left him down in 21st, but he remained focused and ran a formidable rhythm that was comparable to the leading bikes, and he muscled his way up to 10th by the fall of the flag.
Meanwhile, Johann Zarco concluded the shootout in 12th. The rapid French rider undertook a strong start as he began the hunt for a top finish. The track proceeded to dry quickly and Zarco decided to take the risk and pit later than the rest of the field. He changed bikes on the seventh lap and rejoined the sprint in 16th, but then produced a solid pace and charged forward before crossing the finish line in 12th.
Position: 10th – Championship: 7th – Points: 77
“In the end my feeling on the bike was good, but it was a difficult race overall. When we began, it was wet but the track was drying up quickly. I was behind Marquez and I saw that he entered the pits so I decided to follow him in. Unfortunately, there was a mistake and I had to go through the pit lane but I couldn’t change bikes, so I had to pit again on the next lap. I lost some time but overall we found a good solution with the bike because we tried a different setting, which I have never tried before, so we took the risk to use this option in the race and it paid off. I rode some really good lap times, and I think that we could have been very competitive today, but I did a lot of work and overtook many riders. It was a shame about what happened but everyone makes mistakes, and this is racing. We still walked away with some championship points and we will try again in Austria.”
Position: 12th – Championship: 6th – Points: 88
“It was a tricky race and I can’t hide my disappointment. We started the GP with rain tyres and I felt good so I hoped that we wouldn’t have to pit and that I could manage the Grand Prix like this, even if it was drying. Yet, the track cleared up very quickly and the strategy was to come into the pit lane to change the bike but I did this one or two laps too late and I lost almost ten seconds. If this didn’t happen then I could have been inside the top six. It’s all about experience and it’s always complicated to analyse and know if it will rain or not. Valentino was in front of me and he pitted, so I thought that maybe if I did one more lap, it could be beneficial. Yet, I lost more time and this a shame, but it was important to finish the race, take some points and learn. I have gained a lot of knowledge this weekend and I need to stay cool so that I can be fast in Austria.”
Monster Yamaha Tech3 – Team Manager
“Today we have a bad feeling after the MotoGP race. I feel that we worked well throughout the weekend even though our qualifying positions were not ideal. Yet, we knew that the difficult weather and track conditions could benefit us. Jonas was very fast and he showed this in every session, especially at the right moments. Although he didn’t manage to make a fast lap for qualifying, his pace was really exciting and promising. He had an ok start, but the big turn of the race for the Tech3 team was when Jonas pitted and the bike, with the full slick tyres, was not ready so he had to do one more lap, which ended any hope for fighting for a top position. I was even more upset when I saw the times that he was running because his pace was strong and I don’t want to talk about what could have been, but if you look at his laps, then he would have been at the front and it would have been a podium for sure. I am really unhappy about this situation and in this kind of race you either lose it or win it with the strategy, and the bike should have been ready, which is easy to say now, but it needed to be. As for Johann, it was very exciting to see him fighting for the lead in the first part of the GP, but he made a mistake, in my opinion, because he should have pitted when Valentino did who was already late. If he had done this, it would have helped him to get a top five result. This weekend he was not as quick as his teammate because we saw that when Jonas caught and passed him, it helped Johann to up his pace. Anyway, this is a bad result for us today, and it was because we didn’t use our heads. I can only apologise to Jonas and the German fans and for Johann, he should watch what the experienced guys are doing in front of him.”