Jonas Folger’s resurgence continued as the German claimed his second Grand Prix victory after disappearing into the distance on a drying track at Brno. Overnight rain left large parts of the circuit wet for the start but Folger left the championship contenders trailing in the opening stages.
A ‘wet race’ had been declared but all-but two riders started on slicks. However it was one those who didn’t that got away quickest with Efren Vazquez using the extra grip and confidence from his wets to grab the lead within half a lap, despite starting eleventh. Zulfahmi Khairuddin moved up a place to second while Folger rose to third but the leaders will have been astonished by the identity of the riders following them.
With title contenders Maverick Vinales, Sandro Cortese and Luis Salom down in seventh, eighth and ninth respectively, the chasing pack was being led by British wildcard John McPhee after a fearless first lap. The young Scot was running fourth ahead of home favourite Jakub Kornfeil with his compatriot Miroslav Popov up to sixth on his first appearance of the season, a gain of 23 places from his grid position.
Folger quickly demoted Khairuddin before setting off in pursuit of Vazquez whose wet tyres were slowly becoming a hindrance rather than a help. With only three and a half laps completed, Folger had reeled him in and breezed past at turn eleven. Vazquez was only going to head in one direction from here and he was knocked off the podium within another four laps but incredibly, it was the Czech pair who had gone past him. Having eased past Khairuddin and McPhee, Kornfeil was now up to second with third-placed Popov putting Mahindra in nosebleed territory.
At half distance, the expected frontrunners were finally getting up to speed with Cortese leading Vinales, Salom and the two Estrella Galicia riders through the field. On lap nine, Vazquez had been swallowed up and although McPhee put up a bigger fight, he was overhauled a lap later.
Khairuddin had retaken Popov for third but both riders would be easy prey as well Cortese taking third on lap twelve. Vinales had managed to keep his rival in sight and was lurking in fourth while Salom and Alex Rins were right behind thanks to the demise of Khairuddin who’d crashed out on lap fifteen.
Folger was ten seconds clear at the front so the focus centred on the battle for second with Jakub Kornfeil hanging on by his fingernails. The dream of a home podium lived on until the penultimate lap when Cortese finally saw him off, diving through at the final corner. Vinales successfully followed through but Salom opportunistically passed the pair of them, leaving the polesitter fourth with one lap left to run.
It was clear that Vinales couldn’t get close enough to mount a challenge to Cortese so it was left to Salom and the RW Racing rider did his compatriot a favour by diving past the KTM at the penultimate corner, snatching second. Folger was oblivious to the action behind him with such a comfortable lead and took the chequered flag five seconds ahead of Salom with Cortese a frustrated third. He did at least extend his lead over Vinales though with the Avintia Blusens rider fourth over the line.
Alex Rins pushed Kornfeil down to sixth spot while Danny Kent recovered from a difficult start to claim seventh ahead of Romano Fenati and Miguel Oliveira. With the race ending in fully dry conditions, Miroslav Popov and John McPhee predictably fell down the order but Popov would give up any chance of points after colliding with Alexis Masbou coming onto the home straight. McPhee did keep out of trouble though and was rewarded with the final point for fifteenth. Meanwhile, Vazquez’s wet tyre gambled backfired so dramatically that he fell back to 25th.