Only a few days after the Czech GP it’s already action stations for Austria as MotoGP™ returns to the Styrian Alps and the stunning Red Bull Ring – Spielberg. Altitude and acceleration are the buzzwords and Ducati are the reigning kings of the mountain. Winners in 2016 and 2017 at the track that plays into the hands of the Borgo Panigale factory’s machinery perfectly, the omens are good for Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and teammate Jorge Lorenzo as they arrive in Austria in the wake of their 1-2 at Brno. ‘DesmoDovi’ won the duel for the win last season, and Lorenzo is now a serious threat on the other side of the garage. Can anyone depose the Ducatis from the top step?
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) is the man who came so close to ending their rule at the Red Bull Ring last season. The number 93 stayed with Dovizioso to the end and the two men staged the first of a series of duels: first came Spielberg, then came Motegi, then Qatar…but it wasn’t quite the same at Brno. Marquez was right on the tail of the red machines ahead of him, but the reigning Champion couldn’t make a move against Lorenzo stick. Revenge at the Red Bull Ring would be sweet – but would a bigger Championship lead be even sweeter? To get that it’s a Yamaha Marquez would likely need to beat: Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP).
Yamaha remain on the hunt for that next win. Rossi put up a good fight at Brno until the final stages – nevertheless still able to beat Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) to the line – but Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was involved in an early incident that sent him into the gravel, ending a run of 19 races in the points and meaning no rider has scored in every race this season. It also ruled him out of the Brno test, so can Yamaha field their A game in Austria and push forward at what’s traditionally a more difficult venue for the Iwata marque?
The fight for top Independent Team rider is hotting up now too: Crutchlow, Brno’s top Independent, is now only seven points off the lead of Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in the chase for that title – and Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) is between the two. Will Ducati power and acceleration see him strike back? And what of the rookies? Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) remains ahead of Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) by just two points, but that hangs in the balance every weekend.
Meanwhile Team Suzuki Ecstar want more from Austria and Andrea Iannone is a former winner at the venue, but for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, despite good progress cutting the gap to the front, it’s not quite the fairytale return to their home venue in the hills they were planning. Test rider and oft-racing wildcard Mika Kallio is out after a crash in the German GP and the bad luck kept rolling in Brno: Pol Espargaro will now also be sidelined after his crash there. So for KTM, home hopes are pinned on Bradley Smith. The Brit was on good form in Czechia as he qualified P15, before he was involved in a multi-rider crash and wasn’t able to race to the end. A bounce back will be on the cards in Spielberg.
Last year, Crutchlow finished the Austrian GP in fifteenth just 28.096 seconds behind race winner Dovizioso – the closest premier class top 15 at the time. It’s now sixth on the list as competition continues to amaze but Brno is the closest top ten, and that incredibly tight finish to decide the podium? The third closest in the MotoGP™ era.
So how will Austria play out? The battle lines were drawn at Brno and Spielberg has been Ducati territory too. Will there be a new king of the Red Bull Ring? Find out on Sunday 12th August at 14:00 (GMT +2) for another shot of Austrian adrenaline.
Brno was a big result in the Moto2™ World Championship and a fitting race for the 150th in the class. Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) led the way in the title fight from the first race until the summer break, but Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) hit back right when it mattered – ahead of both KTM and Red Bull’s home race. That leaves the two men at the top just two points apart heading into the occasion.
Last season, Bagnaia had great rookie form in fourth but it was Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) who was the top finisher of the 2018 grid at the Red Bull Ring, with the 2014 Moto3™ Champion finishing just behind winner and eventual Champion Franco Morbidelli. Meanwhile, Oliveira crashed out – but he was gaining some big ground after a more difficult weekend running up to the race. And he was ahead of Bagnaia at the time. How will the tables turn now? Home pressure can be a help or hindrance, and the chance to strike on enemy territory has propelled many a rider to the top of the podium.
The form book may not tell us anything, however, and Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) is a good example of a rider writing their own plot twists. He began the year in the top ten before a couple of more difficult races and then got hit by injury, but in the last two Grands Prix Marini has been a serious force at the front – taking his first podium before then backing it up by taking Oliveira down to the wire. Not the last lap or even the last corner, but the finish line. On a roll, Marini could prove a joker in the pack for those squabbling for Championship position at the top – as could Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), as he was at the Sachsenring when he took his first ever intermediate class win. There’s much at stake for the South African too.
Will it be a tale of two teams as the home heroes face down their biggest competitors? Or can the likes of Marquez, his rookie teammate Joan Mir, Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP 40) or veteran Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) get back in that fight at the front? Find out from 12:20 (GMT +2) on Sunday 12th August.
When former points leader Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) broke his wrist on Friday at the Czech GP, another shockwave went through the Moto3™ World Championship and nearest challenger Marco Bezzecchi (Redox Pruestel GP) was left with something of an open goal. But it was far from an easy task to make big gains after the Italian had a tougher weekend than many he’d enjoyed so far this year, eventually taking sixth from 14th on the grid and only just taking over at the head of the table.
Three points is the advantage the Italian now holds as we get ready to race at the Red Bull Ring. Will Martin be able to ride? He’ll need to be passed fit on Thursday and even then the challenge will be an uphill struggle if he’s to take on the whole weekend and score. Bezzecchi will have a keen eye trained on his rival.
Meanwhile, we have a new race winner. Martin’s teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio, who crossed the line first in Le Mans but was subsequently given a time penalty, finally took his first Grand Prix win as he outclassed the field for victory. Those 25 points were also a big boost and move him up to third in the Championship – 17 off the lead and 14 off his teammate. That’s not an unsurmountable gap.
Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) is another who knows that, having come second to ‘Diggia’ but taken an important 20 points. Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) isn’t so far off in fifth, either, and with the swinging pendulum of momentum this season and 225 points still up for grabs, anything is possible. Philipp Oettl (Südmetall Schedl GP Racing) could also be a force to be reckoned with at the Red Bull Ring having taken second last season, which was his best result at the time. And for the Bavarian, it’s not home turf but it is the track closest to it – with the Sachsenring far, far away in the north east of Germany.
All of Bezzecchi’s closest rivals took solid results in Austria last year, and Martin was on the podium. The number 12, however, crashed out – and early on. Will that play on his mind? Or will the incredible twists and turns of the season so far prove enough for the Italian to be able come out swinging once again – and increase that lead?
We’ll find out on the 12th August at 11:00 local time (GMT +2), when the lights go out for the lightweight class.
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