Czech MotoGP: Lorenzo eyes title after Brno victory
Jorge Lorenzo won the Czech MotoGP Sunday with the kind of precision performance that has become his hallmark.
The Spaniard led from start to finish, vanquishing reigning champion Marc Marquez to a distant second and -- crucially -- his Movistar Yamaha team mate, Valentino Rossi, to third.
In front of almost 139,000 spectators, it was the type of imperious performance befitting a champion in waiting. For the first time this season there was also the distinct impression that Lorenzo is ready to try the crown on for size.
"Luckily I had a little bit more pace than Marc and I could win this very important victory for the championship," he told the official MotoGP reporter in parc fermé. "Because now I lead in the championship with Valentino, and for Marc now it is more difficult to recover.
The victory draws Lorenzo level on points with Rossi at the top on 211 points, but by virtue of his superior win record, it is the Spaniard who now leads. Marquez remains in third place, with 159 points.
Lorenzo launched his YZR M1 from pole position on the grid like a missile, taking an immediate and unassailable lead. Marquez kept pace at first, but gradually his Repsol Honda lost ground on his compatriot's bike.
The top three riders had all chosen different tires for the race, and Lorenzo conceded his choice of medium soft rubber was a gamble.
"I could manage to open the gap after six laps and then little by little open a bigger gap, but it was difficult to keep on the bike because it was sliding a lot. You had to be very careful with the throttle," he explained.
Earlier in the week Marquez had told reporters he had nothing to lose and would go all out for the win, but he seemed to settle for pragmatism on race day. "My target was to try and be in front of Valentino, and I did," he said after the race.
"In the beginning I tried to follow (Lorenzo) and I know that with the new tire for the first five or six laps I was able to do it; but then when the tire dropped we were struggling a lot with the rear grip."
Rossi's problem all season has been his qualifying performances, which have seen him regularly starting well behind his rivals. Yet in Brno he delivered an impressive third on the grid, which had appeared to bode well for the race.
However, a poor start immediately saw the Italian back in familiar territory, down in sixth. He quickly made up ground, battling past the impressive Ducatis of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso, but it was too late. Lorenzo and Marquez had bolted.
The 36-year-old, seeking his tenth world title, cut an uncharacteristically deflated figure in parc fermé. "Unfortunately my start was bad, and I lost some time in the first laps," he said. "But anyway I didn't have the rhythm; Jorge and also Marc were faster than me, I was a bit in trouble to ride the bike so I tried to push but I wasn't fast and strong enough (to) stay with them."
Beside the Italian, Lorenzo had mounted his bike's fuel tank, where he stood upright, flag in hand, punching the air.
With Silverstone next on the calendar, a flowing track that suits the Spaniard's style, he looks every inch the champion in waiting.