Has there ever been taller odds on a rider at the start of a race weekend than Brad Binder heading to the Czech Republic MotoGP.

MotoGP’s newest winner was undoubtedly the star performer in Brno, but he wasn’t the only one. Then again, there were plenty of others that fell well short of expectations.

Here we round up the winners and the losers from the Czech MotoGP.

 

 

THE WINNERS

Brad Binder (and KTM)

What can you say? There was a point in the Czech MotoGP where we were simply getting excited at the prospect of a Brad Binder/KTM podium… but then he just kept going. Indeed, we’ve had shock wins in MotoGP before but this may very well be the biggest of a generation.

There are many landmarks to savour here; KTM’s first win – and only its second podium -victory for Binder in only his third MotoGP race, the first South African win in the premier class… but perhaps best of all is how it was achieved so beautifully.

Having already turned heads with strong pace – if not consistency – in Jerez, Binder only really made his first impression this weekend when he popped into Q2 and placed it seventh on the grid.

However, armed with a visibly much improved RC16, Binder was the only rider moving forward as others slipped back in a performance that belied his experience – it’s hard to believe this was only Binder’s third race.

If you thought Fabio Quartararo’s rise to superstardom was rapid and unexpected, Binder might well have just gone and trumped it.

Johann Zarco has spoken at length of how he needs to feel happy and contented in himself to perform at his best, so judging by his performance in Brno he is definitely in a very good place.

While the Ducati GP19 is still a weapon at certain venues, Zarco’s pole position and podium – via the best long lap penalty execution we have ever seen – will have far exceeded even the most optimistic of expectations.

It’s a credit to Avintia Racing, which has made do with a shoestring budget in relative terms for years, for making the most of its new satellite(ish) Ducati status and brought out the best in a rider that not all that long ago was a regular podium contender.

While pole position was his headline of the weekend, Zarco put in a race performance second only to Binder by shrugging off a slow start and fighting his way right into the mix, rather than be swallowed up like he seemed to expect.

Then again, we’d have included him in this for that long lap penalty – knee down on the dusty edge of the track – alone…

MotoGP as a whole...

Unless you are closely associated with one of the below ‘losers’ from the weekend, there is no denying that MotoGP was a big winner this weekend.

While it doesn’t quite feel like a changing of the guard since the old guard appeared to underperform mostly this weekend, it’s hard to remember a time when MotoGP felt this open.

Naturally, without Marc Marquez there is a big shoe to fill, but it’s encouraging to see the belief up and down the grid – across all manufacturers - that they can come forward and grab even just a bit of the limelight.

Indeed, with the factory riders of Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki and Honda all slipping below par at some stage this year already, with flashes of greatness from the lesser fancied riders like Brad Binder, Miguel Oliveira, Takaaki Nakagami, Aleix Espargaro and Johann Zarco, if you enjoy MotoGP for its sheer competitiveness, then this is potentially a golden period for the sport.

THE LOSERS...

Ducati

You can imagine Ducati smiling through gritted teeth as it celebrated – possibly for the first time – a brilliant result for Avintia Racing because it somewhat ironically shone some harsh lighting on the plight of the factory-backed teams.

With Andrea Dovizioso suggesting Ducati has gone the wrong way with the design of its GP20, the Italian’s opinion – which is unlikely to have gone down well amid those contract talks – looked to have been vindicated by the wholesale struggle of the manufacturer in Brno, a circuit it normally excels at.

A 10th and 11th – from even lower starting positions – was hugely at odds with what was expected, but Zarco’s pole and podium, though richly deserved, does rather suggest Ducati may be longing for the GP19 again if it has any chance of scoring in what is a relative open goal in Marquez’s absence.

The so-called 'Young Sharks'

Was Marc Marquez the biggest winner – even in absentia – in Brno? Perhaps not, but the Spaniard watching from home will have probably cracked a wry smile over the fact his perceived title rivals didn’t come close to capitalising fully on his lack of presence in Brno.

Jack Miller called Marquez’s budding successors ‘young sharks’ smelling blood in the water, but most found themselves blindly heading in the wrong direction in Brno.

To his credit. Fabio Quartararo slugged out a strong showing despite never feeling entirely comfortable on the Petronas SRT Yamaha all weekend, with his eventual seventh place the result of his tyre rather than a general lack of pace.

Granted the same could be said for Maverick Vinales, but while Quartararo wrung the Yamaha M1’s neck for nine points, Vinales’ only direction on Sunday was backwards to 14th. Not a customary position by any stretch, but it’s not the first time we’ve seen Vinales turn in the odd anomalous result that raises questions as to his title credentials.

If Marquez needed any more motivation to get fit in time for Austria this weekend, the tepid efforts of his rivals will probably spur him on to get back sooner…

Honda

…then again, he may have gotten some extra push from watching a torrid weekend for his Repsol Honda team as it showed just how much they need their world champion as Alex Marquez and Stefan Bradl barely made an imprint on proceedings.

On a weekend that saw his Moto2 title rival Binder blossom into a superstar, Alex Marquez qualified at the back and could only manage a single point as he continued to wrestle with the rigours of a Honda set-up for his more compact brother.

While the signing of Pol Espargaro for 2021 is primarily to avoid these situations, it’s come a little too late for a title-winning team that looked anything but in Brno.

Honda won’t want Marquez to return too early and risk more damage to its prized asset, but if he doesn’t make it back for one of the Austrian races, it’s going to be a very long couple of weeks for team (and Alberto Puig).

 

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