The race for the MotoGP world title is tighter than ever following Jorge Lorenzo’s victory at the Czech Republic Grand Prix.
The Spaniard is officially at the top of the leaderboard but has the same points as team mate Valentino Rossi with seven races left.
Spain’s Lorenzo was all smiles after claiming his fifth victory of the season and 38th career MotoGP win.
Lorenzo made the perfect start from pole position blasting his way out in front.
He was followed closely by two-time reigning world champion and compatriot Marc Marquez.
28-year-old Yamaha rider Lorenzo gradually carved out a small advantage over the course of the 22-lap, 5.4-km Brno circuit.
He eventually crossed the line first just under four and a half seconds clear of Marquez with Valentino Rossi third for his 11th podium in as many races this season.
Lorenzo and Italian multiple world champion Rossi now have 211 points from the campaign 52 points clear of Marquez.
The next race is the British Grand Prix on Aug. 30.
Zarco moves closer to title as Antonelli enjoys maiden win
In Moto2, French rider Johann Zarco has moved a step closer to the title after claiming his fourth win of the season in Brno, while in Moto3, Niccolo Antonelli, who had never been on a podium before, celebrated his first career win.
Kalex rider Zarco made it four wins this season in the Moto2 class crossing the line ahead of Spanish teammates Tito Rabat and Alex Rins.
The 25-year-old Frenchman started from pole and never looked back and he made his tenth podium finish from the past 11 races.
It solidified his position at the top of the general standings – with seven races remaining he holds a comfortable 79 point lead over reigning champion Rabat.
Meanwhile in the Moto3 class 19-year-old Italian Antonelli celebrated a first victory of his career at Brno.
The race was shortened from 19 to 15 laps and delayed for 30 minutes due to two multiple crashes on the very first lap.
After the restart Antonelli was one of a ten man pacesetting group.
The Honda rider then raced clear of his rivals with two laps left to claim the victory ahead of compatriot Enea Bastianini and South African Brad Binder.
Britain’s Danny Kent finished seventh but retained his championship lead.
Back in Brno 1996
Antonelli was not the only driver to celebrate his maiden win in the Czech Republic.
On August 18, 1996 a seventeen year old Italian enjoyed the first of many victories throughout his career in the 125cc category.
Valentino Rossi’s World Championship debut came at the 1996 season opener in Malaysia but it wasn’t until five months and 11 Grand Prix later he was popping champagne corks on top of the podium.
He beat Spain’s Jorge Martínez into second and Japanese rider Tomomi Manako into third.
It would become familiar territory for the Italian but not for the end of his debut campaign which was marred by several crashes and retirements.
The Czech GP would be his only race win that year.
The following year, however, he dominated the 125cc class winning eleven of the 15 races to be crowned world champion.
A move up to the 250cc category proved also fruitful as he won the title at the second time of asking in ’99.
The next step was to join the fast and furious in the 500cc class where he immediately proved his worth.
He went on to win motorcycling’s elite class seven times amassing 85 race wins along the way.
In all categories he’s won 111 GPs, a run that began exactly 19 years ago in the Czech Republic.
A close call
We end Speed this week with some impressive images of the Rajd Rzeszowski, in Poland.
Bryan Bouffier was the winner but the star of the show was a spectator who kept a cool head in the face of on-coming danger. (See clip above).