Aug 08

Race to the hills: the title fight goes on red alert in Austria

NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich

Red Bull Ring bullThe scene is set for another about-turn in the Championship at the Red Bull Ring.  Straight back in action, MotoGP™ is now heading for the NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich in another spectacular location: the Styrian Alps. This time, the hills will be alive with the sound of horsepower.


The stunning venue is one of the fastest and its intricacies soon seemed to suit a certain manufacturer when the paddock first graced the updated venue last year: Ducati are firmly penciled in as pre-race favourites. After reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took a dominant flag-to-flag win at Brno and extended his points advantage to 14, the Borgo Panigale factory’s form in Austria is sure to give the standings a shake up once again. Following a P6 finish for Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in the Czech GP, the timing couldn’t be better.

Last season, ‘DesmoDovi’ took second. Since then, the rider from Forli has won three MotoGP™ races and led the Championship earlier in the year. He surely arrives as favourite if everything plays by the formbook, and the venue should be a positive one for new teammate Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo completed the podium in 2016, and was only beaten then by the Desmosedicis ahead of him. The red machines will be in attack mode.

Looking to defend his position as much as possible is Marquez. Now with the most breathing space of anyone, the rider from Cervera has a 14 point cushion as the paddock arrives at a venue that was more difficult for him last year. Using the post-Czech GP test to prepare for Austria, however, leaves the number 93 more confident of putting up a bigger fight this year. Teammate Dani Pedrosa, who gained on everyone except Marquez by coming second in Brno, will be a key rival, too – with both men firmly pitched against each other as well as the rest of the field. 150 podiums into his career, Pedrosa remains a threat.

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi are two more who will want to spring a surprise and take the spoils. Viñales was back on the podium in Brno for the first time since Mugello, with Rossi just off it in fourth and making useful points gains on Dovizioso – not something they’ll want to see eroded only a week later. The Yamahas followed the Ducatis home in 2016, which should hearten both as a good springboard. Viñales came sixth, too.

Octo Pramac Racing fielded the first Independent Team rider in 2016: Scott Redding, and their Ducati machinery will be a threat again. Redding is now on the bike that won last year, and teammate Danilo Petrucci on the GP17 along with Dovizioso and Lorenzo. Having just missed out on victories this season and having often made his name at the front, Petrucci will see a big opportunity at the Red Bull Ring to kickstart the second half of his campaign. Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) and teammate Karel Abraham also have Borgo Panigale machinery, as well as Reale Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera and Loris Baz.

In the green corner, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad will want to get in the way as much as possible, with both Jonas Folger and Johann Zarco having had more difficult Czech GPs. Both podium finishers by now, a trip to parc ferme as top Independent Rider will be a serious target – the trip made by Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) at Brno. The experienced Brit always has his own designs on the front group.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing are an interesting question at their home race. With good experience at the track and lots of testing – although at various stages of development – the incredible ninth position taken by Pol Espargaro at Brno will have them walking tall on the way to the Red Bull Ring. There will be pressure to perform, of course, but the squad should be well armed as they look to keep ticking off the ‘firsts’ – and test rider Mika Kallio is on track as a wildcard.

Last year, Austria staged its own first: the first premier class victory for Andrea Iannone. Now on Team Suzuki Ecstar machinery, the ‘Maniac’’s expectations will have been adjusted for 2017 – but the memories of the venue will make it a happy hunting ground. The Hamamatsu factory took solid results last year as an added bonus, and made good use of the Brno test.

The showdown at Spielberg is at 14:00 (GMT +2) on Sunday as normal – with headlines to be made, points to be taken and gaps to be closed once again on the incredible rollercoaster of 2017.


MotoGP World Championship Classification
1 – Marc Márquez (SPA – Honda) 154 points
2 – Maverick Viñales (SPA – Yamaha) 140 points
3 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA – Ducati) 133 points
4 – Valentino Rossi (ITA – Yamaha) 132 points
5 – Dani Pedrosa (SPA – Honda) 123 points


On the offensive: the gap has halved as Austria awaits


After a six-lap sprint at Brno, it’s very much game on for the Championship

The colour of the 2017 Championship changed dramatically over the course of 6 laps at Brno: the shortened sprint was won n spectacular style by Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten), who blasted back into close contention with a 25 point haul – as Championship leader Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) crossed the line in eighth. Now only half what it was, the gap is 17 points as we head into the second half of the season proper – where Lüthi is known for gaining good traction.

Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) was another who gained in the Czech GP. Similarly bolting away from the pack at Brno, the Jerez and Catalunya winner took a valuable second place – and still wasn’t quite at full power following his crash in the German GP. Now equal on points with Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) behind Lüthi, their threat can’t be counted out.

There’s only one previous event at the track to compare form and much is different this season, but it makes for good reading for the top three: Morbidelli was second, Lüthi fourth and Marquez sixth. Oliveira, even as a rookie, scored points – so it should be a good battle.

Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) took a best ever result last time and will be ready to fight – as will American Joe Roberts (AGR Team) after taking an incredible top ten result first time out. Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing), whose Czech GP was ended early and peppered with bad luck, will be fired up, and Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) wants to make amends after crashing out of his 200th GP start. Moto2™ is a deep field, and they’ll all be reloaded waiting to attack the Austrian GP.

It’s 10:55 (GMT +2) on Friday for FP1, and 12:20 on Sunday for the race.


Moto2 World Championship Classification
1 – Franco Morbidelli (ITA – Kalex) 182 points
2 – Thomas Lüthi (SWI – Kalex) 165 points
3 – Álex Márquez (SPA – Kalex) 133 points
4 – Miguel Oliveira (POR – KTM) 133 points
5 – Francesco Bagnaia (ITA – Kalex) 87 points


Rookie no more: eyes on the prize as Mir returns to Austria


Last year’s first time winner is now this year’s odds-on favourite

At the Austrian GP in 2016, Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) cemented his bid for Rookie of the Year by taking his first ever pole position and following it up with his first ever win. With the Majorcan Championship leader seeming to slowly erode the morale of his competitors on a regular basis this season, he’ll be walking extra-tall on the way into the Red Bull Ring.

Key rival Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) arrives with a little less track time at the venue, too. Last season the Italian didn’t race after splitting with his previous team following qualifying, although he was set to line up in P11. So he knows the track, but hasn’t had a dress rehearsal for trying to defeat Mir this year.

The good reading for the Championship leader continues: Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) had a tough time last year in Austria, coming home outside the points. But the Spaniard is a different competitor in 2017 as he gains more and more experience, and proved his mettle once more in the Czech GP – coming from way down the grid to complete the podium, and in tricky conditions. John McPhee (British Talent Team) was another who put on a great show from further down the grid to take sixth, and recovered well from a tough qualifying. Now fourth in the Championship and wanting to break clear of those on the chase, McPhee should be another threat.

The man McPhee overtook in the standings – ‘Mr Pole Position’ Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) – broke his leg in Germany and tried to ride in Brno, but was forced to pull out of the event. He was, however, passed fit to try and ride – so he’s a sure bet for another attempt in Austria, following another few days of recovery. He came sixth last year. Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was on the podium last year and Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took a solid top ten in 2016 – along with Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) and Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46): the omens are good for many of the class of 2017.

There’s one home hero on the grid – Maximilian Kofler, who is racing as a wildcard with his Motorsport Kofler E.U. team. And Philipp Oettl (Südmetall Schedl GP Racing), although German, is from closer to the Red Bull Ring than the Sachsenring – making it a home race of sorts. He came fifth in 2016 too, only a few tenths off the win in the final battle to the line in the front group.

Now 42 points clear, Mir is certainly in the driving seat. But as Moto2™ showed at Brno, everything can change remarkably quickly – and there’s still a maximum 200 points to play for. Moto3™ start the Austrian GP on Friday at 9:00 (GMT +2), before the lights go out for the race at 11:00 on Sunday.


Moto3 World Championship Classification
1 – Joan Mir (SPA – Honda) 190 points
2 – Romano Fenati (ITA – Honda) 148 points
3 – Aron Canet (SPA – Honda) 126 points
4 – John McPhee (GBR – Honda) 93 points
5 – Jorge Martín (SPA – Honda) 89 points

source: motogp.com