Posts Tagged ‘Red Bull Ring’

MotoGP Red Bull Ring Results

August 11, 2019

© Bruce Allen. Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Dovi punks Marquez again in Austria 

In another classic late-race duel between the top two riders in MotoGP, Ducati royal Andrea Dovizioso went through on Repsol Honda savant Marc Marquez in the last turn for a heart-stopping win, his fifth in six close encounters of this kind.  Dovi’s first win since Round 1 in Qatar provided warm fuzzies by the gross for Ducati but had virtually no impact on the championship. The battle for second took a hit, as Dovizioso’s win put 36 points of daylight between him and teammate Danilo Petrucci.

Two streaks were up for grabs today. The first was a possible triple—Germany, Brno and Austria—for Marquez, which no one really wanted to see. The other was an Austrian four-peat for Ducati, to which many folks, including plenty in the grandstands, were looking forward. If one considers that German industrial monolith Audi owns Volkswagen Group, which, in turn, owns Lamborghini, which, in fact, owns Ducati, you could almost call it a home win for the locals, making it four in a row, Red Bull Ring remaining the only circuit on the calendar where Marquez has never won. Take that, scheißkopf. The “forever” part of that previous statement was negated this weekend when Dorna announced a new five-year deal with Red Bull for the Austrian Grand Prix. 

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Marquez and Dovizioso entering Turn 10, Lap 28.

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Same two riders exiting Turn 10.

Practice and Qualifying 

We learned one thing during FP1—the track record was going to get whacked on Saturday, weather permitting. Less than a second off during FP1, led by Dovizioso, Marquez and Vinales. Miller, Rossi, Quartararo, Rins and Zarco all within 4/10ths of the Maverick. FP2 featured much of the same cast as Act I.

Saturday dawned as summer Saturdays do in Austria, clear and mild. FP3 would separate the lambs and the goats. At the end, the top nine riders were under 1:24. The last-minute maneuvering to avoid having to deal with QP1 left Cal Crutchlow, Miguel Oliveira and Franco Morbidelli disgruntled; Crutchlow, notably, gets a Chernobyl-like Zone of Exclusion around himself for 30 minutes after these things.

Lucky to automatically advance to Q2 along with The Usual Suspects were Valentino Rossi (on his last lap, as per usual), Alex Rins and Pol Espargaro, all of whom would say things went according to plan, all of whom were thanking their lucky stars they could sneak in one way or another. Marquez, late in FP3, on a pair of soft tires, turned a 1:23.251, a tenth off the track record, with Q2 yet to come. Ho hum.

Crutchlow and Pecco Bagnaia managed to advance through Q1, at the expense of rookie Miguel Oliveira, who had been salivating at the prospect of moving his KTM machine on to Q2 for the first time. The following is a recording: “Marc Marquez seized pole and set a new track record at (fill in before releasing) Red Bull Ring on Saturday, obliterating the field in the process.” He was joined on the front row by Fabulous Quartararo and Desperate Dovi and what looked increasingly like another Marquez clambake on tap for Sunday.

The Race

Lap 1 had too many changes to track, but at the end showed Quartararo leading Dovizioso, Rins, Miller and Marquez. Between Lap 1 and Lap 6, where the real action started, things got sifted. Dovi and Marquez went through on a hot and wide Fabulous after Rins had faded. Miller, running 4th, crashed out unassisted on Lap 8, promoting Rossi to 4th and Vinales to 5th. The three Yamahas held onto places 3-5 for the duration, with Quartararo earning his first premier class podium, holding off and showing up the factory riders yet again.

Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso, on Lap 6, happily went off on their own for a cage match which would last until the dash to the flag. Two consummate professionals on million-dollar machines fighting for pride, in themselves, their countries, and their employers. For Marquez, consistently finding a way to lose these things would be a concern were he not usually leading his Italian rival by 50 points or so during most of them. After the race he was his usual gracious, intelligent self, but one suspects this whole getting-bombed-by-Dovi-in-the-last-turn thing is starting to get on his nerves.

KTM Bombshell

Over the weekend the Austrian hosts issued a bit of a release concerning their plans for 2020 and beyond. To wit, they would be re-branding all of their Moto3 bikes with the Husqvarna label, apparently in an effort to spur sales of Husky’s world-class dirt bikes. They casually mentioned that they would no longer provide chasses for Moto2 teams, leaving five teams and nine riders high and dry at this point. KTM says it will devote the resources freed up by these changes to building its MotoGP program and defending itself from lawsuits. For Herve Poncharal, with a Tech 3 team in both Moto2 and MotoGP, this was your basic good news/bad news weekend. He’s kind of screwed in Moto2 but life should improve in MotoGP, especially with today’s Moto2 winner, Brad Binder, replacing the hapless Hafizh Syahrin next year in MotoGP.

Sudden Silliness

Jack Miller, clearly jacked off about getting jacked around by Ducati concerning his bike and contract for next year, let it be known that his current employers are in discussions allegedly trying to re-acquire Jorge Lorenzo for the Pramac team next season. This rumor, which, if true, would set off a chain reaction in the paddock, appears to be getting put to rest, as the counter-rumor, that Ducati brass were flying in on Sunday to anoint the young Australian for another year, gained traction. The whole thing—Lorenzo to Pramac, Lorenzo to Petronas Yamaha (??), Miller to WSBK, Quartararo to Repsol, Tinkers to Evers to Chance—sounded fishy from the outset. Perhaps the salient point is to establish some interest between the parties in contracts that will begin in 2021.

You Say Tranches, I Say Tranches 

After Brno: 

Tranche 1:  Marc Marquez

Tranche 2:  Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Franco Morbidelli, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, Fabio Quartararo, Cal Crutchlow, Valentino Rossi

Tranche 3: Maverick Vinales, Aleix Espargaro, Pol Espargaro, Joan Mir, Takaa Nakagami

Tranche 4:  Jorge Lorenzo, Johann Zarco, Miguel Oliveira, Pecco Bagnaia

Tranche 5:  Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat, Andrea Iannone

After Austria: 

Tranche 1:  Marc Marquez

Tranche 2:  Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, Fabio Quartararo, Valentino Rossi

Tranche 3: Maverick Vinales, Pol Espargaro, Joan Mir, Takaa Nakagami, Cal Crutchlow, Franco Morbidelli, Pecco Bagnaia

Tranche 4:  Jorge Lorenzo, Johann Zarco, Miguel Oliveira, Aleix Espargaro

Tranche 5:  Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat, Andrea Iannone

I’ve left Dovi in #2 because he’s just come off two of the best Ducati tracks on the calendar with his deficit to Marquez unchanged. Leaving Oliveira in #4 due to one solid outing; he needs to show me more. Cal Crutchlow is wearing me out, as is Aleix Espargaro; tired of making excuses for these guys. As they say in the dogsledding business, no matter where you’re harnessed, if you’re not the lead dog, the view’s pretty much the same.

On to Silverstone

Two weeks to the British Grand Prix, two weeks of listening to guys like Matt and Steve hammer on about Cal Crutchlow’s home race and the irrational exuberance of Sam Lowes. I will post some notes at Late-Braking MotoGP about the sensational Austrian Moto2 and Moto3 races later this week. In the meantime, as previously noted, we shall ignore MotoGP until such time as they see fit to provide us with a scrap of competition for the 2019 trophy.

A Little Local Color

MotoGP Red Bull Ring Preview

August 6, 2019

© Bruce Allen. August 6, 2019

Marquez brothers crushing it 

For the first time in recent memory, MotoGP enters a race weekend resigned to predictable results in both the premier and Moto2 classes. The Ducati contingent—Andrea Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller—will be tearing up the big bikes. Marc Marquez will end up on the podium. Alex Marquez will finish in the Moto2 money along with two other guys. The best race of the day will likely be the lightweights—ha!—of Moto3. 

Recent History in Austria 

Recent history at the Red Bull Ring has been, well, recent. The track re-joined the calendar in 2016 after an 18-year breach in the running of the Austrian Motorcycle Grand Prix. Selecting Red Bull Ring as the sponsoring venue, with its nine or ten turns depending, gave Ducati Corse a bulletproof squat they could dominate with their eyes closed until KTM gets its hometown Austrian act together. In 2016, Ducati’s Dueling Andreas led the factory Yamahas on a merry chase through the lush Austrian countryside, followed by everyone else. At the flag, Iannone handled Dovizioso (this was the year everyone but Scott Redding won a race) while a tumescent Spartan outgunned The Doctor for the last step on the podium.

2017 would have been a carbon copy lol of 2016 with the exception of Dovizioso winning, JLo taking Iannone’s seat and finishing fourth, and, ahem, those pesky, unwelcome factory Hondas, Marquez and Pedrosa, hogging the second and third steps on the podium. This was one of those races, similar to what we saw several times last year, when Marquez, in hot pursuit, and Dovizioso went knives-in-a-phonebooth, Spain vs. Italy, Honda vs. Ducati, and Dovi ended up on top, as he usually does. The kind of competition that gives motorcycle racing a good name.

For the third year in a row, MotoGP 2018 riders tried to dislodge Ducati Corse from the pronounced advantage they enjoy here. In 2016, it was Lorenzo who failed to flag down Iannone and Dovizioso. 2017 was Marquez trying valiantly, and ultimately failing, to overtake the determined Dovizioso. Last year, it was Marquez losing again by a tenth, this time to a rejuvenated Jorge Lorenzo, in a last lap duel that was entertaining, if not riveting. 

Sloppy Seconds from Brno 

Marquez brothers exhibition spin 2013 at Valencia

2014–Alex Marquez takes a victory lap at Valencia accompanied by Big Brother. Is it even conceivable that the two could be teammates in 2021?

Most of the conversations I’m hearing, standing in my kitchen by myself, have to do with Moto2 and especially Moto3; until further notice, MotoGP is essentially over for this year.

For those of you who haven’t noticed, Alex Marquez is currently doing to the Moto2 grid what his brother has been doing to MotoGP for the last few years—pummeling it into submission. He won the Moto3 title in 2014 at age 18, when Rabat won Moto2 and Marc won MotoGP, the three training partners on top of the world in Valencia. Alex was rumored to be faster than Marc; expectations for little brother were off the charts. He graduated to Moto2, to the high-profile Estella Galicia/Marc VDS team, then running Honda engines, and proceeded to lay eggs for four full years, becoming a poster child for Underachieving Little Brothers Everywhere. Things were heading that way again this year, capped by a P24 in Jerez, for God’s sake, when someone lit a fire beneath him.

The punching bag has become the knockout artist. Other than getting collected by BadAss Lorenzo Baldassarri at Assen, where he was fast again, he is undefeated since Le Mans, trying to convince the world—he’s convinced me—that he’s ready to move up. He has made the smart choice of staying in Moto2 for another year to wait for a winning bike on a winning team in 2021. He’s 23—it’s not like he’s old. He will be 24 when he hits MotoGP on a factory bike for someone (!). Redemption stories generally make one feel good, except here, where Moto2 suddenly provides no competitive relief from MotoGP.

Leaving things to Moto3, a class I ignored until, like, 2014. Back in the day the lightweights were running 125cc bikes that sounded like nuclear pencil sharpeners. Having owned and ridden an 80cc Yamaha (top speed, pegged, maybe 50 mph with chunks of the head gasket flying off) I had no respect for riders on such small bikes. Imagine my horror upon reading that, way back in the day, guys were famously winning 50cc championships.

The switch this year in Moto2 from 600cc Honda to 765cc Triumph engines seems to have inspired a number of Moto3 riders to aggressively position themselves for promotions. One cannot imagine a Moto3 racer not wanting to saddle up on a big Triumph, with around three-quarters of the grunt of a premier class bike. For them, if 250cc is fun, 765cc would be a lot more fun.

The list of Moto3 riders with credible resumes for Moto2 gigs is long. Names like Aron Canet, Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Niccolò Antonelli, Tony Arbolino, Jaume Masia  and Marcos Ramirez. John McPhee. Even Romano Fenati, for whom the lithium seems to be helping, would be the devil himself on a Moto2 bike. There were moments during the Brno race where Arbolino and Antonelli were trading moves, and it was impossibly good stuff. My notes— “these two guys can ball.” Canet and young Masia are KTM guys the Austrians rightly see as having bright futures.

Here’s the deal. These guys all need to earn a promotion to a credible Moto2 team for next season. Then, they need to do well in Moto2 right away, unlike, say, Jorge Martin and Marco Bezzecchi, whom I had expected to be consistently top ten this year. And the Jack Millerreason is the MotoGP contracts mostly roll over after the 2020 season. Late next year is a prime opportunity to catch a MotoGP ride for 2021-22. And you really can’t do it from Moto3. Had he not podiumed last week, I would have played the “Paging Jack Miller” card here. 

Your Weekend Forecast 

The weather for metropolitan Spielberg this weekend calls for temps in the low 70’s with the best chance of rain on Saturday, much like last week. Hard core fans like me will watch the MotoGP and Moto2 races for information rather than enjoyment. The fun will be in Moto3, and the weather doesn’t really matter, as any of a dozen different riders will have a chance of winning regardless of the conditions. Last week at one point the lead group consisted of 17 riders. Dalla Porta and Canet lead the championship by a mile, but no lead is safe in Moto3. Too bad it comes on at 5 am EDT, 2 am PDT. I will be getting up early on Sunday; I expect some of you will be staying up late on Saturday.

Whatever. We’ll have results and analysis right here after the races. After many of you old MOrons sleep it off.

MotoGP Red Bull Ring Results

August 12, 2018

© Bruce Allen     Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Lorenzo edges Marquez in another Teutonic classic 

For the third year in a row, MotoGP riders have tried to dislodge Ducati Corse from the pronounced advantage they enjoy here in Austria. In 2016, it was Yamaha icon Jorge Lorenzo who failed to flag down Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso. Last year, it was Marc Marquez trying valiantly and ultimately failing to overtake winner Andrea Dovizioso. Today, it was Marquez losing again by a tenth, this time to Jorge Lorenzo, in a last lap duel that was entertaining, if not riveting. 

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Red Bull Ring, neat as a pin

Practice and Qualifying 

The weather gods had themselves a few laughs this weekend. In order to complete the picture postcard surroundings, they summoned bright sunshine, big old rain, and cloud formations worthy of National Geographic. The results were, in a word, havoc. A dry FP1 turned out, as feared by many, to be the determinant of the Q1/Q2 splits, as FP2 was hard rain and FP3 was run on a drying track. The results, as is customary in these rain god kneeslappers, found Q1 comprised of the usual suspects, with the addition of Tito Rabat and the deletion of Valentino Rossi, who got aced out 10th place by teammate Vinales and 49/1000ths of a second. Marquez, running fourth, found himself surrounded by Ducatis and Italians, not for the last time.

Q1. I would have bet my house on Valentino going through. Instead, he put up a rather submissive 4th place finish after getting punked late in the session by Alex Rins and the new improved version of Alvaro Bautista. Bradley Smith made a valiant effort to put his KTM into Q2 in front of the hometown fans but missed by 15/1000ths of a second.

Q2. My boy Danilo Petrucci, who had been sniffing around the top three all weekend, kept things interesting for the eventual front row, but finished looking quick and dangerous sitting fourth. Marquez put down the fastest lap of the session (.099 off the track record ☹) and withstood a late scorcher by Dovizioso to hold onto pole by 2/1000ths of a second. More Ducatis, more Italians. Lorenzo kind of backed into third, unable to improve on a quick mid-session lap. Crutchlow and Zarco, sitting fifth and sixth respectively, looked happy just to be within striking distance.

Per announcers Matt and Steve, the consensus amongst the paddock was that Marquez, Dovi and Lorenzo would fight for the podium, with Petrucci, Crutchlow and perhaps Zarco or Rins lurking. Meanwhile, with the same two, and a suit from Yamaha corporate, pronouncing the Yamaha program “embarrassing” it may be that a familiar name, a Jarvis or a Maragalli, may be shown the door in the foreseeable future. Having the two factory Yamaha riders starting the Austrian Grand Prix in 11th and 14th places is unacceptable. And since it’s both of them, it pretty much has to be the bike which, at this point, would have trouble beating the 2016 iteration of itself.

If the Standings were Closer, the Race Would Have Been Better

Going into the race holding a 49-point advantage over a struggling Valentino Rossi, everyone knew Marquez could crash out of the race and still enjoy a meaningful lead. At the same time, Marquez had been nursing some hurt feelings since he got punked at the flag last year by Dovizioso. Not to mention that Red Bull Ring is one of increasingly few venues where #93 hasn’t won in the premier class. So, we found ourselves at the start watching the expected lead group of Dovizioso, Lorenzo and Marquez take shape and remain largely intact all day.

Most of the day was spent watching Marquez deal with the Ducati doubleteam. As per usual, Marquez was faster in the tighter sectors of the track, while Dovi and JLo had a major advantage in the straights. By Lap 19, while Lorenzo and Marquez were taking turns going through on one another, Dovizioso ran hot and wide into Turn 1 and lost touch with the two Spaniards. For the two riders who will wear Repsol Honda colors together for the next two seasons, it was suddenly High Noon, Mittag to the locals, with ten laps to go. And away they went.

Finally, with three laps left, both riders rolled up their sleeves, exposing their matching Multiple World Champion tattoos. Lorenzo, with soft tires front and rear, saved enough of them to have plenty of grip late in the day. Marquez, who had gone medium/hard, had plenty of grip but not enough grunt. He tried one last block pass in Turn 10 of the last lap, but Lorenzo anticipated the move, skirted it, and kept enough drive to beat Marquez to the line. A sweet win for Lorenzo. Marquez’ small disappointment at having missed the top step of the podium today was tempered by his adding another 10 points to his 2018 championship lead, which now stands at 59.

Here and There

Cal Crutchlow was happy to break a small personal string today. Having finished 15th here in 2016 and 2017, he improved to a highly respectable fourth place. As Cal will tell you, Red Bull Ring is his least favorite circuit, tied with 17 others not named Silverstone, and so he never really expects to do all that well here.

Points from Mugello – Red Bull Ring (6 Rounds)

Marc Marquez                  106

Valentino Rossi                  86

Jorge Lorenzo                  114

Andrea Dovizioso               83

Maverick Vinales                54 

2019 Promotions

  • Jorge Martín will move up to Moto2 with Red Bull KTM Ajo, filling the spot vacated by Miguel Oliveira, on his way to MotoGP with KTM Tech 3.
  • Pecco Bagnaia will join MotoGP with Pramac Racing in 2019.
  • Joan Mir will move up to join MotoGP Team Suzuki Ecstar as a teammate to Álex Rins in 2019.
  • Marco Bezzecchi and Philipp Öettl will move up to Moto2 with Red Bull KTM Tech3 and MV Augusta bikes, replacing Bo Bendsneyder and Remy Gardner.

KTM is the Ducati of Moto3. High top end, not as nimble as the Honda. And is Marco Bezzecchi not the second coming of Marco Simoncelli? Tall-ish, rockstar haircut, exuberant, aggressive and Italian to the core. Nice win for him today on home turf. Pecco Bagnaia showed again why he’s earned a Pramac Ducati seat for 2019 in a 20-lap showdown with KTM’s Miguel Oliveira, the last five of which were riveting, the last two turns of which were a replay of Marquez and Dovizioso in 2017. Wait a minute. Perhaps Bagnaia is the second coming of Simoncelli…

MV Agusta returns to grand prix racing in 2019 in Moto2 building bikes for Forward Racing. Moto2 will adopt the new Triumph inline triple 765cc which will be, if not faster, sexier-sounding. All throaty. It wouldn’t surprise me if Honda’s 600cc four-banger outperforms the larger Triumph, which may say as much about me as it does the British factory.

Let’s Tranche Again

Tranches After Brno

Tranche 1:   Marquez

Tranche 2:   Rossi, Dovizioso, Lorenzo, Petrucci, Crutchlow

Tranche 3:   Bautista, Pedrosa, Zarco, Rins, Iannone, P Espargaro, Viñales

Tranche 4:   Morbidelli, Syahrin, A Espargaro, Miller, Rabat, Smith

Tranche 5:   Redding, Nakagami, Abraham, Luthi and Simeon

Tranches After Red Bull Ring

Tranche 1:   Marquez

Tranche 2:   Rossi, Dovizioso, Lorenzo, Petrucci, Crutchlow

Tranche 3:   Bautista, Pedrosa, Zarco, Rins, Iannone, P Espargaro, Viñales, Rabat

Tranche 4:   Morbidelli, Syahrin, A Espargaro, Miller, Smith

Tranche 5:   Redding, Nakagami, Abraham, Luthi and Simeon

These rankings have more or less coalesced of late. Either that or I’m losing interest in them. Audience participation is welcomed.

Two weeks to Silverstone. The championship may, in fact, have already been decided for 2018. But as today showed, there is still plenty of high quality racing going on at the great tracks of the world. And Red Bull Ring, too.

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Austria, as it turns out, is Lorenzo’s Land

MotoGP 2016 Austrian Grand Prix Results

August 14, 2016

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com.

Iannone wins; Ducati 1-2 first since 2007

By any measure, today’s Austrian Grand Prix was an eventful race.  The starting grid featured an all-Italian front row for the first time since Motegi in 2006.  Andrea Iannone, late of the factory Ducati team, won his career first premier class race, several whiskers in front of teammate Andrea Dovizioso.  Ducati bikes finished 1st and 2nd for the first time since Phillip Island in 2007.  But once the celebration dies down, the Bologna factory may need a reality check, as explained below.

First Things First

The practice sessions on Friday and Saturday made it seem like the world had been turned upside down.  Maverick Vinales, on the Ecstar Suzuki, and the factory Ducatis dominated the proceedings in cool weather, while the Aliens of the factory Honda and Yamaha teams were loitering in the middle of the pack.  Marc Marquez trashed his RC213V early in FP3 and got a free helicopter ride to the local hospital to have his shoulder and head examined, pronouncing himself fine a bit later.  “Fine,” in this instance, meaning only a dislocated left shoulder and a near concussion.

A bracing Qualifying 2 saw the top four places change completely in the final 30 seconds of the session.  Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Rossi and, finally, Iannone topped the timesheets, with Rossi having owned it for roughly two seconds.  Ducs finished 1st and 3rd, Yamahas 2nd and 4th.  Repsol Hondas in 5th and a discouraging 12th for Pedrosa, a full second off the pace.  Suzuki Ecstars in 6th and 9th.  Overall, the factory Ducatis must have felt gratified; the Yamahas relieved; the Hondas (with a wounded Marquez) lucky, and the Suzukis disappointed, especially Vinales, who was a blur during the first three practice sessions before backing off in FP4.

Confusion at the Start

Moments before the red lights went out, four back markers jumped the start, including WSBK defector Stefan Bradl, satellite Ducati pilots Yonny Hernandez and Hector Barbera, and malcontent Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda.  Three of the four took their ride-through penalties like men.  Barbera, lacking some spatial awareness (Pitboard?  What pitboard?) and with a faulty “Call Home” light on his dashboard, failed to realize his sin until he was black-flagged around Lap 11.  Jack Miller, who had pronounced himself fit for the first time this year on Friday, suffered his third fall of the weekend during the morning warm-up and was held out of the race with hairline fractures to his wrist and several vertebrae, a mudhole in his chest, his customary limp back in place.  Those of us who thought his win in Assen was a fluke are being proven right.  Monty Python fans worldwide are starting to call Miller The Black Knight.

Marquez, hurt but not injured, approached the race in damage control mode.  The lead group materialized early, consisting of the factory Ducati and Yamaha teams.  With Marquez settling into fifth place and Vinales into sixth, Dani Pedrosa showed up out of nowhere in seventh; these three riders would hold their respective spots all day.  The action, and plenty of it, would be amongst the front four.

The setting was ripe for drama.  The factory Yamahas had recently experienced two rounds of hell on wheels, a “black period” in Lorenzo’s words.  Rossi had crashed out at Assen and finished eighth in Germany, while Lorenzo had a tenth and a 15th to show for his last two rounds.  The Ducs, meanwhile, started the race with bad history and completely different tire configurations, Iannone opting for softer options on the front and rear than Dovizioso.  With the track as hot as it had been all weekend, a number of viewers, myself included, suspected The Maniac of being overly aggressive in this choice.  We would be proven wrong.

Racing Gods Wore Red Today

The first quarter of the race featured a lot of jostling, a verb we seldom use, as all four riders took faint, uncommitted runs at one another.  By Lap 7, the Ducatis had established a slight margin over the Yamahas, who were trailing but well within striking distance.  For most of the next 13 laps, the order consisted of Dovizioso, Iannone, Lorenzo and Rossi.  Anyone who had watched the race in Argentina early in the season suspected this alignment would not last.  Iannone’s reputation as a destroyer had many of us expecting the worst for the Bologna factory’s representatives.  These expectations were magnified by his tire choice.

Iannone proved everyone wrong.  He went through cleanly on Dovizioso on Turn 9 of Lap 20, cementing the final finishing order in the process.  The expected challenge from Rossi never materialized; he appeared satisfied to simply finish in front of Marquez, unwilling to flirt with disaster by trying to go through on Lorenzo.  Lorenzo appeared capable of challenging Dovizioso and probably would have at any other circuit.  But the Red Bull Ring is just too fast, the fastest track on the calendar.  The superb handling of the YZR-M1 never came into play today.  At the end, the lone remaining challenge left to the four riders was the same as it always is—beat your teammate.  In this, Iannone and Lorenzo prevailed.

In their post-race comments to Dylan Gray, Dovizioso sounded like he had finished 13th, so great was his disappointment at not having been able to track down perhaps his least favorite rider on the track.  Lorenzo, on the other hand, was jubilant, having emerged from the “dark days” and taken five points out of Marquez.  Now, if he can take five points out of Marquez every round through Valencia, he will only lose the 2016 title by three points.  An unlikely prospect, to be sure, as Marquez is a quick healer, and there is a chance of rain between now and November.

Curb Your Enthusiasm 

Early in this writing, I alluded to the notion that today’s celebration in the Ducati garage should be tempered slightly by the context in which it was earned.  Certainly, with 100 races between today’s win and their last at Phillip Island in 2010 a celebration is justified.  But consider:

  • The circuit layout was ideal.
  • The weather was ideal.
  • The Michelins were superb.
  • Marc Marquez was off his game.
  • Jorge Lorenzo, coming out of his funk, trailed Iannone by only 3.4 seconds at the finish.

Certainly, a win is a win is a win.  I’m just sayin’ that it was facilitated by a confluence of conditions unlikely to repeat themselves until, well, next week at Brno, with Phillip Island another more remote possibility.  Ducati has put themselves back in the winner’s circle.  To assert they’re all the way back is premature.

The Big Picture

So the top five riders for the season remain unchanged. Iannone and Dovizioso leapfrogged their way into Tranche 2 past Pol Espargaro who, now sitting eighth, remains the top satellite rider on the grid, and Hector Barbera, who got KO’ed today.  Scott Redding, the top Brit finisher today in eighth place, remains the top Brit for the season, completing the top ten.

Eugene Laverty, the Urgent Ulsterman, was running comfortably in 11th place when disaster struck in the last turn of the last lap, when he crashed.  Based upon his lap time, it appears he hoisted the bike on his shoulders and carried it across the finish line, finishing 18th but doing nothing to hurt his merit for a premier class ride somewhere next season.

One of our readers, who had predicted an all-Ducati podium, was closer to being right than I expected.  This same reader is, at this moment, expecting me to crack wise on Cal Crutchlow.  Sorry to disappoint, but I’m confident Cal will come out with something in an interview today or tomorrow far more embarrassing than anything I could dream up.  Something questioning the parents’ marital status at the time of his birth of the wanker who claimed he jumped the start of the Austrian Grand Prix.  In a gesture of conciliation, I have decided to ignore Cal’s scurrilous 15th place finish today and promote him to Tranche Four.

At MO, we are determined to keep things fair and balanced.

MotoGP 2016 Austrian Grand Prix Preview

August 9, 2016

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcyle.com

Ducati has the Inside Track for Round 10

Based upon the test results after Round 9, it appears MotoGP Chief Cheddar Carmelo Ezpeleta has finally located a circuit at which the Ducati teams can compete for a win, their first since 2010.  The two-day test, at which the Repsol Honda and Tech 3 teams were AWOL, found seven of the top eight times on Tuesday clutched by Ducati pilots.  Wednesday, it was the top four and six of the top ten, with the factory Yamahas and Suzukis claiming fifth through eighth.

Ducati Corse’s battle cry heading into the year was, “Back to winning races in 2016!”  Due to some back luck (Andrea Dovizioso) and bad judgment (Andrea Iannone) this has yet to be the case.

For the Ducati Desmosedici, which is blisteringly fast in the straights, but still difficult to manage in the turns, the ideal circuit layout design is shown below, two long straights with but two turns.

Two turns

The next best layout would look rather Daytona-ish, with only three turns.   Three turns.png

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5-mile oval layout would be great, too, with only four turns:Four turns As we saw back in July, the Red Bull Ring, consisting of nine (9) turns, is overtly Ducati-friendly.  It favors the Ducati so much it is easy to imagine, like, two of the Italian machines on the podium this weekend.

Red Bull Ring is as close as MotoGP is likely ever to get to the Bonneville Salt Flats.Circuit_Red_Bull_RingAccording to some F-1 sites, the racing surface is relatively low grip, low abrasion and bumpy in places; what we kickball pitchers used to refer to as “fast and bouncy.”  Tire choices, as always, will be important, with the softer options predicted to be in high demand.  One thing is certain—the track is fast, meaning Jorge Lorenzo will have a puncher’s chance to improve his 2016 fortunes this weekend.

When Last We Left our Intrepid Heroes

Speaking personally, it seems like 2015 since MotoGP has been front of mind.  These back-to-back vacations (one race since June 26) are great for the riders and the teams, miserable for the hack journalists (me) trying to maintain some readership during the summer months.  For those of you who share my general lack of recall, let’s review where we are and how we got here.

  1. Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, 170 points.  Three wins, eight podiums, in the points every time out despite a slide-off in France.  Looking consistent and mature, riding eerily like he did in 2014.  Perhaps because he’s on a 2014 frame.  With a 48-point lead heading into the back nine (38 of which he’s gathered since Montmelo during the Great Yamaha Collapse), he is the man to beat.  Now showing the maturity to settle for second place when a win isn’t in the cards.
  2. Jorge Lorenzo, Movistar Yamaha, 122 points.  Three wins, five podiums, two DNFs.  Since winning at Mugello, he crashed at Catalunya, finished 10th at Assen and 15th at The Sachsenring, the latter two in wet conditions.  Cannot maintain his signature high corner speed in the rain.  Unless he can make a major move this weekend and the following week at Brno, his chances to repeat and earn his fourth premier class title would appear to be toast.  Heading off into the wild red yonder next season with Ducati, where world championships are as scarce as hen’s teeth.
  3. Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha, 111 points.  Two wins, four podiums, three DNFs, including an unforced off at Assen that has hurt his chances for a 10th premier class title in 2016.  Blew an engine at Mugello in a race he might have won otherwise.  Despite a new two-year contract at Yamaha, he will need all his skill and a pile of bad luck for Marquez if he is to challenge this year.  In a déjà vu to 2008, he will have a fast, young, aggressive teammate next season in Maverick Vinales, who could push him farther than he seems to be going in 2016.
  4. Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda, 96 points.  No wins, two podiums, one DNF.  Though he denies it, Pedrosa, to me, appears to have lost his passion for racing.  He understands he will never win a premier class title.  He is not competitive on a bike being designed for his teammate.  He is signed with the Repsol team through 2018, but I don’t know why.  He is able to provide good feedback to the engineers, none of whom appear to be listening to him.  He has tax issues.  He flirted with Suzuki earlier this year before re-upping with Honda.  He is in danger of losing his Alien card, and is starting to remind me of Colin Edwards late in his career when he could be counted on to finish fifth.
  5. Maverick Vinales, Suzuki Ecstar, 83 points.  No wins, one podium, one DNF.  Ticketed to the factory Yamaha team for next season, his star is rising as quickly as Pedrosa’s is falling.  He could take Pedrosa’s Alien card from him next year, 2018 at the latest.  According to many he is The Next Great MotoGP Rider.  Last year’s Rookie of the Year turned 21 this past January and has a lot of racing in front of him.
  6. Pol Espargaro, Tech 3 Yamaha, 72 points.  No wins, no podiums, one DNF at The Sachsenring.  Prior to crashing out of the last round he had finished in the points every time out.  Top-ranked satellite rider on the grid, slated to join the nascent KTM factory team for its maiden season next year.  At 25 years old, he will likely never hold an Alien card, but he is fast and consistent.
  7. Hector Barbera, Avintia Ducati, 65 points.  Winless, he has finished in the points every time out in the midst of his best ever premier class season.  Having accumulated a grand total of 94 points in his last three seasons combined, he is getting lots of speed out of his two-year old Ducati.  Qualified in the middle of the first row in Germany.  At 29 years old, he is getting a little long in the tooth for this sport.  Were he to earn a newer version of the Desmo next year he could see some top five finishes.
  8.  Andrea Iannone, Factory Ducati, 63 points.  No wins, two podiums, four DNFs in a dumpster fire of a season in which I had tagged him for Alien status.  He has changed his nickname from Crazy Joe to The Maniac; to me, he is Loose Cannon, having taken both his teammate Andrea Dovizioso and rival Jorge Lorenzo out of races.  The most dangerous rider on the grid, he was encouraged by Ducati management to find new employment starting next year, and has been picked up by Suzuki Ecstar, where he will make life interesting for teammate Alex Rins in 2017 and 2018.  Has shortened the ubiquitous “win or bin” motto to just “bin.”
  9. Andrea Dovizioso, Factory Ducati, 59 points.  Two podiums, four DNFs and an empty bottle of Tums to show for his 2016 season.  He’s been poleaxed by Dani Pedrosa, chop-blocked by Andrea Dovizioso, and had an engine come loose on him before finally having earned a DNF in Race #2 at Assen, after leading Race #1 when it was red-flagged.  At age 30, having flirted with Alien status earlier in his career, he appears to be a good wingman for Lorenzo starting next year.  Steady, mature, reliable, drama-free, Dovizioso should not be sitting in ninth place at this point of the season.
  10. Eugene Laverty, Aspar Ducati, 53 points. #3 satellite rider on the grid, finished in the points every time out on his beat-up old Ducati.  Seems significantly faster than brother Michael who, it must be acknowledged, was stuck with even worse machinery than Eugene.  As of this writing Laverty is unsigned for 2017, despite being the highest placed Brit on the grid, if not the noisiest or most irritating.  In my unsolicited opinion he has earned a MotoGP seat for next season with one of the Ducati satellite teams.

Ihr Wochenende Prognose

As regards the weather in the Spielberg metro area, cool, wet conditions midweek are expected to give way to drier and gradually warmer weather for the weekend, with Sunday looking like the warmest day of the three.  The track is likely to be dirty from lack of recent use and a couple of days of rain.  FP1 and FP2 could present some surprises, with the slow track, riders not very familiar with the layout, and cool weather.  All of which leads me to predict that some unfamiliar names will show up in Q1.

As for the race itself, I can’t help but think the Dueling Andreas of the factory Ducati team should be in the mix, along with Lorenzo and Marquez.  Rossi, pressing, can be expected to threaten the podium, too.  The dramatic changes in elevation resemble the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, and we all know who owns that joint.  Put a gun to my head and I’ll say Marquez, Lorenzo and Dovizioso on the podium Sunday; no idea as to which of the three will stand on the top step.

We’ll have results and analysis right here on Sunday afternoon.