Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team went into the tenth Grand Prix of the year at a hot Brno circuit optimistic of their race pace with the KTM RC16 and with the knowledge that a bright start would see Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith again challenging the top ten of the premier class.
Espargaro was focussed on making key final tweaks to his set-up in the morning warm-up session but his day and weekend was wrecked by a fall after just eight laps. The Spaniard was given medical treatment and a broken collarbone meant he was ruled out of the 21-lap sprint later in the afternoon. The team are waiting for a more detailed diagnosis of the injury but #44 will return to Barcelona on Monday morning.
Smith launched away from the fifth row of the grid and was determined to be in the heart of the action in the opening throes but ended up in the gravel trap with Stefan Bradl and Maverick Viñales after the German’s overtaking move on Turn 3 skittled the other two. Smith will now recalibrate his efforts towards the post-Grand Prix test on Monday.
Smith: “It was very frustrating but it has to be expected back there when everybody is jostling for position. The whole weekend was super-tight again. I was braking into Turn3 and Stefan took a lunge up the inside and tucked the front. His bike slid into mine and then I slid into Maverick and we all went down. We’ll have a lot to do now in the test and I’ll have a busy day but we got through a lot of stuff this weekend anyway. We still have a long list and I’ll be first out on track tomorrow and the last to leave.”
Mike Leitner (Team Manager): “Not a good weekend for us. We’re happy that Bradley is OK after his crash and I think it was not his fault. His front wheel was taken by Stefan’s bike. This is just a part of racing and we know this category is very tight. We were worried about Pol. He had a big crash this morning. He is lucky he did not hurt himself more and the only clear information we have at the moment is that he has a collarbone fracture, although we don’t know yet how complicated it is. He will go back to Barcelona tomorrow morning for further checks and we can then make a plan.”
Again the Moto2 class did not disappoint when it came to close racing and tense action. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Miguel Oliveira was running at the front of the field from the first moments courtesy of his second-best qualification performance of the season o nthe KTM Moto2 bike. The Portuguese managed his tyres and stayed in contention against four other protagonists to eventually defeat Luca Marini by seven hundredths of a second. The triumph (and sixth podium in ‘18) drew #44 to the peak of the championship standings by just 2 points over Pecco Bagnaia. Teammate Brad Binder rode to 6th position and Swiss Innovative Investors’ Sam Lowes battled back from outside the top twenty to reach 9th spot.
Oliveira: "It was a very fun race. From the start I understood that the pace wasn't going to be very fast, so the key was to overtake and not lose much time. On the final laps I knew I had to be further up at the front, then when Baldassarri passed us all I thought I maybe had something extra up my sleeve. I suffered a bit of chatter and sliding, but I wanted to be up at the front. I tried to ride smoothly and without making mistakes, and on the last lap I knew that Marini was going for the win, but finally I managed the last laps well and I was able to finish first. I'm very happy; it is an important victory for us and we hope to continue like this. Our goal now is to continue enjoying ourselves and working well. We know there are things to improve with the bike, and we are working on it tirelessly to try to make the dream come true at the end of the year."
Aki Ajo (Team Manager Moto2): "It's a great feeling that we have today. We went into the summer break with a victory for Brad Binder at Sachsenring, and we've started the second half of the season with a victory for Miguel Oliveira here at Brno. The whole team are very happy. Miguel had a great race today; I would say that the end of the race was the 'Miguel Oliveira Show.' I have great respect for Miguel, who never gives up and who put on a great performance. Brad wasn't too happy with his race today, but this circuit was not easy for him and in my opinion it was also a good day for him. Both the riders and the whole team should be very happy with the work done today."
The first dash of the day was won by Fabio Di Giannantonio but only a second covered the first seven riders across the line. In 3rd place and ecstatic with his first podium finish of the season – and first since 2016 – was Redox PruestelGP’s Jakub Kornfeil on the KTM RC250 GP; the local man was cheered heartily to a memorable trophy.
MotoGP moves straight into the lush climes of the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg for the Grand Prix of Austria next week and where Red Bull KTM will enjoy a passionate and ‘orange’ home support.