MotoGP:Red Bull Ring I

© Bruce Allen

The myWorld Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich offered something for every taste and budget on Sunday. A lead group in Moto3 consisting of 15 riders separated by less than a second. Red flags in both the Moto2 and MotoGP races, two amazing crashes that, miraculously, left no rider seriously injured. The narrow escape provided to Valentino Rossi in the main event–one motorcycle, upside-down, flashing directly in front of him, when another, a split second later, this one airborne, barely missed his head, forcing him to duck–proves that he has been blessed by God to ride motorcycles for as long as he wants.

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At the flag, it was Andrea Dovizioso, followed by a jubilant Joan Mir and a disappointed Jack Miller. It was in a script somewhere that Dovi, who only 24 hours earlier had announced his intention to leave Ducati at the end of the season, would take a decisive win on the Desmosedici for Ducati’s first win of the season. We got to witness the first of what promises to be many podium celebrations by Suzuki rising star Joan Mir. Jack Miller, who had gambled on soft tires for the 20 lap second race, lost his wager after having led in the early laps of the race.

MotoGP Qualifying and Practice, Etc.

The changing of the guard amongst the riders was in full view on Friday. The combined sheets for FP1 and FP2 showed two veterans in the top ten, Dovizioso and Zarco (it took the Frenchman awhile to get to MotoGP). Younger bucks took eight of the top ten times during FP1, as FP2 started way wet and gradually dried, but not enough for anyone to get within two seconds of their FP1 times.

The culling of the herd into Q1 and Q2 that takes place in FP3 was further evidence that the character of the neighborhood is changing. Veterans Pol Espargaro and Dovi occupied spots 1&2, followed by eight young(-ish)  fast movers. Of the 12 riders not cruising into Q2 unaccosted, two were subs and seven were veterans, including, notably, Rossi and Crutchlow, who is old for his age. (The three remaining cull-ees were rookies, two of them on KTM, including Brad Binder, at a track where he should excel, in front of the corporate brass, placing 16th on the time sheets after FP3. This is the same Brad Binder who won at Brno last time out. Young Brad had some work to do later on Saturday.)

Team Yamaha managed to put three of their four bikes directly into Q2. Left on the outside looking in, and not for the last time, was the estimable Valentino Rossi. Many, including myself, expected to see Rossi sail into Q2, neither, in the lyrics of Arlo Guthrie, tired nor proud, ready to go to work for a spot in the front row. He barely managed to slide under the tag on his last Q1 lap; had this been a soccer match, his game-winning goal would have come during injury time, well after the clock showed all zeroes. Johann Zarco, looking quick on the Esponsorama Ducati, laid down a fast lap early in Q1 and joined Rossi.

QP2 was its usual thrilling self. At one point at least six riders held the top spot during the 15 minute session. When the smoke cleared, it was Vinales, Miller and Quartararo in the front row, followed by Dovizioso, a steely-eyed Pol Espargaro and Joan Mir, apparently starting to get this whole qualifying thing figured out. Morbidelli, Rins and Zarco comprised Row 3, while Takaa Nakagami, Miguel Oliveira and, yes, Valentino Rossi made up Row 4. His last-lap heroics in Q1 still left him sucking canal water.

With the addition of KTM to the ranks of manufacturers with race day credibility, there is just more competition out there. In Q2, half a second is all that stood between teammates Vinales on pole and Rossi wiping up the rear. Honda, its lack of rider depth exposed by Marquez’ injury, placed a grand total of one (1) rider in the top 12.

Oh, and Dovi and Ducati are splitting at the end of the current season, initiating a feeding frenzy from the top levels of MotoGP to the dregs of Moto3. Nature, it has been observed elsewhere, abhors a vacuum, and a sudden vacancy on the factory Ducati team creates a powerful one. Riders, considered and/or discarded, suddenly become viable again, like dominoes standing back up after having been knocked down. Bagnaia, Zarco and even multiple world champion Jorge Lorenzo are suddenly back in the conversation for a factory seat on the big red machine. Is this Andrea Dovizioso retiring? Or considering a move of some kind to KTM after a gap year? Fascinating if you’re into that kind of thing.

Race Day in Austria

The premier class race was proceeding swimmingly, with KTM pilot and defector-in-waiting Pol Espargaro leading the parade, followed in close order by Miller and Dovizioso on Ducatis and Alex Rins, playing hurt, in fourth. Suddenly, behind the lead group, Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli got tangled up, both drivers going down hard and both bikes, released from their tethers, getting the wind in their sails and refusing to fall over. The consequences, to either or both Vinales and Rossi, could have been lethal. That neither rider suffered a scratch is nothing short of a miracle. Out came the red flags, to Espargaro’s everlasting dismay.

Race #2, a 20-lap affair, offered relatively little drama. A lead group of Miller, Dovizioso, Espargaro and Rins congealed up front. It was anybody’s race. Espargaro and fellow KTM traveler Miguel Oliveira crashed out on Lap 9 in a collision I missed and the broadcasters failed to replay. Rins crashed out of the lead on Lap 11 after putting on a great show getting to the front. After Rins dropped out, his place was taken by teammate Joan Mir, smelling blood, not having to deal with the likes of Marc Marquez, Espargaro and Rins. On the last lap, an apparent Ducati 1-2 was broken up by Mir, who went through on Miller late for his first premier class podium. Rossi and Vinales were never serious players in today’s race, as Vinales could only manage tenth, while Rossi, who has become Colin Edwards, hung around long enough to claim fifth.

Heading from Spielberg to Spielberg this week, the standings for the year show a baffling Fabio Quartararo (8th today, having been as far back as 20th) still leading the class, trailed by Dovizioso, Vinales, Brad Binder (4th today after starting 17th for KTM) and Rossi. Three young guys in the top five, seven in the top ten. Oh the times they are a-changing.

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The Undercards

The Moto3 race was another fire drill, as per usual. If anyone at Race Direction were to bother to count up the total number of overtakes in this race, not just within the lead group, I expect it would approach 300. Back and forth, the entire time, in the lead group, behind the lead group. At the front, where the slipstream shoots the relatively light 250cc bikes like snapping a whip. Series leader Albert Arenas stole this one  for KTM on the last lap, after keeping an eye on Jaume Masia, Ai Ogura and Darryn Binder all day; Scot John McPhee was in and out of there, along with polesitter Remy Gardner for awhile. For the year, Arenas stretched his lead over McPhee to 28 points, with Ogura breathing down McPhee’s neck. If ever the phrase “on any given Sunday” applied to a sport, Moto3 would be right up there.

The Moto2 race was red-flagged on Lap 4 after series leader Enea Bastiannini high-sided out of the lead in a bad place, leaving both rider and bike sitting in center field, exposed. The Italian got himself out of harm’s way, just in time to watch Hafez Syahrin, pulling out of someone’s slipstream, hit his used bike while accelerating, immediately blasting both machines to smithereens and sending Syahrin flying. The Malaysian rider, conscious and with feeling in all his extremities, is going to ache tomorrow. The 13-lap sprint following the track clean-up belonged to young Jorge Martin, who gave KTM their second win of the day and his first in Moto2, beating out Marini and Marcel Schrotter. Over in Mudville, the locals were celebrating another top ten finish for homeboy Joe Roberts.

For the year, Luca Marini takes over the series lead from Bastiannini, followed by Martin and Sam Lowes, tied for third, and Tetsuga Nagashima fifth. A mere 23 points separate the top five. This one should get decided in Portimao.

Let This One Percolate for a Few Days

A return visit to Red Bull Ring is just what MotoGP needs this week, after two red flags and more drama than I can get my head around in one day. Maybe we’ll do a little work with our tranching tool. Maybe not. Suffice it to say that The Year Without Marquez has been pretty damned good so far.

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16 Responses to “MotoGP:Red Bull Ring I”

  1. Starmag Says:

    DesmoDovi : Hot poker up the backside of Ducati.

    Methuselah : Great ride and concentration after dodging TWO bullets. Amazing for a 140 yr old, or even a 40 yr old. Likely he used up a cat life here.

    Pol : Same braking mistake, same dive back to the racing line, same outcome two races in a row. This time he took someone with him. When you make the mistake, it’s bad form to throw a tantrum. Good luck to Honda next year with the hot head in tow.

    Zarco : Many are saying he’s responsible for the carnage that ensued by passing then immediately braking with Morbo in his slipstream. Hmm.

    Binder : Not bad for a rookie, somewhat of a letdown after last race of course. Placement aided by crashers.

    Top Gun : Why didn’t anyone else toast their clutch?

    El Diablo : Inconsistent as Top Gun, lucky for the re-start.

    Rincycle : You would think he would have been more careful after that leathers-soiling moment he had in the same corner on the previous lap, but no.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Vrooom Says:

    Rossi is a lucky man, and rode a great race given neither Quartaro or Vinales could get close to him. Definitely resurrect the Tranching tool! Binder is a threat, and thousands of Australians are saying I told you so after Miller finally emerged from a disappointing start to the season.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Old MOron Says:

    “Riders, considered and/or discarded, suddenly become viable again, like dominoes standing back up after having been knocked down.”

    That’s a good simile, Bruce. Golden.

    They did show the collision between Pol and Miguel. As Starmag points out, it was the same as last week. Pol runs wide, then tries to barge his way back onto the line. I’m very sorry for Miguel, but Pol had it coming. He really put on a sorry show when the race was red flagged. Sure, frustration in the heat of the moment is understandable, but even after he saw the video replay of all the carnage, we was sulking at the camera in disgusting fashion.

    Today’s races were filled with seemingly a decade’s worth of spectacle and drama. Honestly I didn’t enjoy them too much. It’s amazing that no one got seriously injured. I would expect that fact to liberate me to enjoy all of the heroics. But that was pure luck, and the accompanying poor sportsmanship casts a long shadow.

    Like Bruce says, digest this one for a while. But even at first blush, I can say that we got the best possible outcome. Ducati jerk Dovi around like he’s some sort of pawn, so he tells them off, then goes and wins the race. Brilliant!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Starmag Says:

      I would have just upvoted you, but I haven’t in the past or the future because just doing that requires a separate sign in and I don’t like giving my email out more than I have to. What a PITA just for that. Same for all who comment. I’d like to upvote you but won’t create a separate account for just that. Great write up Bruce, as usual.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Old MOron Says:

    Cheers, Starmag. You would have upvotes from me, but for the same hesitations.


  5. Allison Sullivan Says:

    Both those crashes could have ended very, very badly. I can only imagine that from Rossi’s seat it must have looked like a game of Asteroids, with debris coming from all directions. And poor Syahrin never stood a chance … that so many of the riders before him missed Bastianini’s bike was a minor miracle, but you could see him standing in the gravel trap, helpless to do anything but watch until the inevitable happened.That nobody was seriously hurt yesterday was pure luck.

    I sat and laughed for a good minute after Dovi crossed to line. Red hot poker, indeed. His championship chances are right back on track, given that the Yamaha pilots seem to be having all sorts of trouble.We definitely have a horse race this season, and it’s great to watch.

    Poor Miguel Oliveira. He must be getting might tired of being speared into the gravel trap by practically everyone on the grid. Bonus points when it’s your own team mates twice so far this season.
    Did you have a drink for Mir’s podium, Bruce? Given that you’ve been jocking the kid for two seasons now, that must have been satisfying.

    Good weekend for my top picks though – a top 10 for Tatsuki Suzuki in in Moto 3,and a win (!!!) for Jorge Martin in Moto2. Yay team.


  6. Mad4TheCrest Says:

    Great review of the action, Bruce, but you have to give Remy Gardner a little love and put him in his proper class – Moto2. He’s left dancing around in Moto3 to the younger youngsters and now goes bowling with the bigger kids.

    As for a repeat of the Bull Ring next week, I bet more than a few riders will be thinking of the safety committee and the discussion they might have before the weekend.


  7. Ozzy Mick Says:

    Took me awhile to work out that you’re no longer writing for that other publication, Mr. Allen. Is that the case?
    All the best for the rest of the season and keep up the good work.
    I’ll try my best to get the enthusiasm levels up, but it’s been a challenge, though not as big as where you reside, l imagine.
    May you and your readers and families stay safe.


  8. Motogrady Says:

    Ya, yes yes yes. Exciting.

    With no MM again this week, one begs the question, any news on how The Franchise heals?


    • Bruce Allen Says:

      Welcome to the conversation. No word on Marquez, but my sense is that he will be back for Misano and will probably be in good enough shape to podium. Wait until I tell the guys we have a new reader!


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