Round 11 – Red Bull Ring
Once again, the heaving, howling, unpredictable circus that is MotoGP delivered big time.
While the Red Bull Ring did not provide the race-long slug-fest that was Assen, it nonetheless served up a race that was a true classic.
“It was an incredible race,” Lorenzo gushed after the flag. “Maybe one of the best of my career – quite simply spectacular.”
For once, the mercurial Mallorcan was not exaggerating, His closing-stages duel with Marquez was breathtaking.
But it all started kinda weird.
Free Practice One was dry, and it saw three Ducatis, Dovizioso, Lorenzo and Petrucci at the sharp end, with Marquez gnawing at their tyres in fourth.
Perfectly understandable and entirely expected. The Ducatis love Austria. It’s a track where they have traditionally done well. It’s the fastest track on the calendar and consists of huge mega-speed straights and bugger-all corners.
Rossi had motorcycle issues and found himself languishing in 11th. No biggie, right? The Doctor always brings an extra helping of chocolates on Sunday. And there was FP2, FP3 and Qualifying to go.
Except the weather did not co-operate and the remaining practice sessions were wetter than an otter’s pocket. There’s a reason why that part of the world looks like a stupid green postcard from Sound Of Music.
The Doctor subsequently found himself in QP1 (which was still damp) at the end of which he found himself starting the race from 14th position. The hapless Vinales did a little better and settled for 11th.
I’m sure they both drew some comfort from the unprecedented apology Yamaha’s MotoGP project leader, Kouji Tsyua offered up before the media the day before. But it was very cold comfort.
Put simply, and Rossi himself has put it very simply, the Yamaha’s are pretty shit this year and Yamaha needs to get serious about its efforts or Rossi will remain displeased. Rossi’s displeasure at Yamaha’s inability to provide a bike that accelerates is no laughing matter for Yamaha. While it can happily ignore Vinales’s thin-lipped and mostly silent angst – much like Aprilia shrugs off Redding’s ranting about how shit its bikes are – ignoring Rossi when he’s pissed off is not really an option.
Tsyua declared Yamaha will be testing its titties off at Misano before Silverstone and at Aragon after Silverstone. I think Rossi would have liked it if Tsuya had honourably opened his belly up with a sword to drive home the apology. It might have made looking at Bautista’s back tyre on the grid less galling.
Anyway, following a heart-stopping QP2, it was Marquez who secured pole by a crazy two-one-thousandths of a second ahead of Dovi. Lorenzo was in third and the top 10 were all within a second of the reigning World Champion.
When the red light flicked off, we were treated to an opening lap of epic argy-bargy – all conducted at ferocious speed. It’s obvious the Spielberg track is really mental fast – it’s all block passing and hatred – and the fastest of them all as they sorted themselves out was Marquez. He edged a little ahead of the two factory Ducatis, and it looked like their shared pit garage would remain a cold and loveless place. Dovi and Lorenzo are not chummy. And they were not any chummier at the end of the race. A more awkward hug in Parc Firme has yet to be seen.
The three slowly gapped the field a little, and while Rossi brilliantly and relentlessly worked his way up through the pack, the group of riders contesting fourth consisted of Crutchlow, Petrucci, Pedrosa, Zarco, Rins and a hopeful, terrified Rabat. Rossi pasted almost all of them but needed a few more laps to reel in Petrucci and Crutchlow, who finished fifth and fourth respectively.
So the middle part of the race was all about jockeying for fourth, Rossi passing people in mid-field and block-passing them with purpose, while the three up the front wondered whose tyres would go off first.
Marquez led for most of the race. Behind him it looked like Lorenzo was holding up Dovisoso, who could see Marquez eking out a bit of a lead. I seriously expected the notorious Suggest Map 8 to appear on his screen, but the Mamba had other plans. And it’s been established he doesn’t read his dashboard anyway.
He turned it up. Right up. And we were treated to a Battle Royale.
Once again, Marquez wrassled his Honda out of several impending catastrophes (I’m pretty sure the bastard is some kind of witch), dicing for the lead with Lorenzo, who was riding like he was 18 again.
I beheld the last four laps standing. It was just too tense to just sit down and enjoy. I’d recommend watching it to anyone who has not seen it. Stirring stuff – proper high-end racing.
Three laps from the end, Lorenzo muffed turn Three, Marquez retook the lead, but nothing beats a Ducati for grunt out of a corner, and Number 99 came back at him. For the whole last lap it looked like Marquez was going to make one of his Hail Mary attempts, but Lorenzo held his nerve and the throttle to the stop and denied Marquez the win.
I don’t blame Jorge for strutting large onto the podium. It was a richly deserved win.
The next race is Silverstone – a very different proposition to the naked speed-fest of Austria. It’s a long track and surrounded by Englishmen who have been drinking heavily.
Anything could happen.
2018 MotoGP Round 11 – Austria – MotoGP Race Results
- LORENZO Jorge SPA Ducati Team 39’40.688
- MARQUEZ Marc SPA Repsol Honda Team 0.130
- DOVIZIOSO Andrea ITA Ducati Team 1.656
- CRUTCHLOW Cal GBR LCR Honda 9.434
- PETRUCCI Danilo ITA Alma Pramac Racing 13.169
- ROSSI Valentino ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 14.026
- PEDROSA Dani SPA Repsol Honda Team 14.156
- RINS Alex SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 16.644
- ZARCO Johann FRA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 20.760
- BAUTISTA Alvaro SPA Angel Nieto Team 20.844
- RABAT Tito SPA Reale Avintia Racing 21.114
- VINALES Maverick SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 22.939
- IANNONE Andrea ITA Team Suzuki Ecstar 26.523
- SMITH Bradley GBR Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 29.168
- NAKAGAMI Takaaki JPN LCR Honda 30.072
- SYAHRIN Hafizh MAL Monster Yamaha Tech 3 30.343
- ESPARGARO Aleix SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 31.775
- MILLER Jack AUS Alma Pramac Racing 34.375
- MORBIDELLI Franco ITA EG 0,0 Marc VDS 40.171
- REDDING Scott GBR Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 53.020
- ABRAHAM Karel CZE Angel Nieto Team 53.261
- LUTHI Tom SWI EG 0,0 Marc VDS 54.355
- SIMEON Xavier BEL Reale Avintia Racing +1 lap
MotoGP Championship Points Standings
- MARQUEZ Marc SPA 201 Repsol Honda Team
- ROSSI Valentino ITA 142 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
- LORENZO Jorge SPA 130 Ducati Team
- DOVIZIOSO Andrea ITA 129 Ducati Team
- VINALES Maverick SPA 113 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
- PETRUCCI Danilo ITA 105 Alma Pramac Racing
- ZARCO Johann FRA 104 Monster Yamaha Tech 3
- CRUTCHLOW Cal GBR 103 LCR Honda
- IANNONE Andrea ITA 84 Team Suzuki Ecstar
- RINS Alex SPA 66 Team Suzuki Ecstar
- PEDROSA Dani SPA 66 Repsol Honda Team
- MILLER Jack AUS 61 Alma Pramac Racing
- BAUTISTA Alvaro SPA 57 Angel Nieto Team
- RABAT Tito SPA 35 Reale Avintia Racing
- ESPARGARO Pol SPA 32 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
- SYAHRIN Hafizh MAL 24 Monster Yamaha Tech 3
- MORBIDELLI Franco ITA 22 EG 0,0 Marc VDS
- ESPARGARO Aleix SPA 17 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
- SMITH Bradley GBR 15 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
- REDDING Scott GBR 12 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
- NAKAGAMI Takaaki JPN 11 LCR Honda
- KALLIO Mika FIN 6 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
- ABRAHAM Karel CZE 4 Angel Nieto Team
MotoGP Constructor Standings
- Honda 236
- Ducati 208
- Yamaha 183
- Suzuki 118
- KTM 41
- Aprilia 27
MotoGP Team Standings
- Repsol Honda Team 267
- Ducati Team 259
- Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 255
- Alma Pramac Racing 166
- Team Suzuki Ecstar 150
- Monster Yamaha Tech 3 128
- LCR Honda 114
- Angel Nieto Team 61
- Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 47
- Reale Avintia Racing 35
- Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 29
- EG 0,0 Marc VDS 22