Posts Tagged ‘Red Bull Ring’

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.