Marc Marquez outsmarted his title rivals as the Repsol Honda rider blew away the opposition at Brno to extend his lead in the MotoGP World Championship.

In contrast, Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi threw away his chance of challenging for victory after an inexplicable race strategy, although the 38-year did manage to fight his way back to finish fourth after mounting an inspired comeback.

On an excellent day for Honda, Dani Pedrosa claimed the runner-up spot as he celebrated his 150th podium, while Maverick Vinales rallied to finish third for Yamaha after running as low as 10th on lap seven. Marquez is now 14 points ahead of Vinales, with Rossi 22 points adrift in fourth, one point behind Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso.

The race in the Czech Republic was started in wet conditions but a dry line was already appearing on the warm-up lap as the riders made their way round to form up on the grid.

Marquez flew off the line from pole to take the lead but was soon passed by Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo. He began to drop down through the pack and was lying in 10th place on lap two, but Marquez – who started the race on a wet medium front and a wet soft rear – promptly pulled into pit lane at the end of the lap to change to his second bike, shod with slicks.

Rossi had moved into second place on lap two and was chasing after Lorenzo, who had pulled a gap of 1.5 seconds. Rossi, though, quickly reeled in the Ducati rider and took the lead on lap four as the pair remained on the track on wets after most of the leading contenders had followed Marquez’s lead, pitting to switch to slicks.

Lorenzo finally made his stop at the end of the fourth lap but incredibly, Rossi opted to complete another lap. Marquez was already slicing through the field and was into fourth by the time Rossi eventually pulled in to change to his second bike at the end of lap five.

That left Johann Zarco in the lead on the Tech 3 Yamaha, but the French rider was virtually the only rider left on track with wet tyres. However, his stint as the race leader lasted only seconds as he was swiftly overtaken by the flying Marquez.

The Spaniard’s swift decision at the start of the race had left his rivals playing catch-up and with Zarco belatedly making his change, Marquez was now 19 seconds clear at the front ahead of Aleix Espargaro and Scott Redding, with Rossi languishing in 13th.

Marquez already had the race victory in his grasp and with such a commanding lead over the rest of the pack, he simply managed his pace to clinch one of the most comfortable victories of his career.

Behind him, team-mate Pedrosa was making rapid ground on the second factory Honda and on lap nine, he made a double pass on Redding and Espargaro to take second place. Pedrosa quickly pulled away to settle into a safe second place and he was never troubled for the remainder of the race.

It was now a damage limitation exercise for Rossi, who had gained a few places to move into ninth on the YZR-M1.

With the Repsol Honda pair of Marquez and Pedrosa clear at the front, a battle developed for third involving Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati), Espargaro (Gresini Aprilia) and last year’s winner Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda. As the trio swapped places, Vinales began his charge and the title contender soon swept past Crutchlow and Petrucci respectively to move into the final rostrum spot by lap 15.

Rossi had been working his way through the field and was now making eye-catching progress, hauling himself up to fifth place as he began to hunt down Crutchlow. The gap between the pair on lap 20 was 0.6 seconds and although the British rider put up a valiant fight, he was unable to prevent Rossi snatching fourth on the last lap.

Espargaro was penalised three places by Race Direction for an ‘unsafe release in pit lane’, which caused Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone to fall as he came in to change bikes on lap three. The Spanish rider eventually finished eighth.

Dovizioso crossed the line in sixth place behind Crutchlow followed by Petrucci, Espargaro and his brother Pol, who sealed a solid ninth place for KTM.

Jonas Folger finished tenth on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha after passing Alex Rins (Suzuki) and his team-mate Zarco on the final lap.

Karel Abraham (Aspar Ducati), Jack Miller on the EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda and early leader Lorenzo claimed the final points as they finished 13th, 14th and 15th respectively.

Alvaro Bautista and Loris Baz were both fallers, while KTM’s Bradley Smith was a retirement.


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