From a worst ever qualifying for Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and tough race day in Brno, it seemed unlikely that Ducati would be able to keep their 100 per cent winning record at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday, but keep it Dovizioso did. Giving the Borgo Panigale factory their 50th MotoGP win in the process, the Italian turned the screw lap by lap to cross the line with a little breathing space, writing himself another chapter in Ducati lore and moving back up to second overall in the standings. The devil is in the details and that’s what Dovizioso cited as the secret – the work done over previous visits – to the turnaround from Brno. That won’t be going anywhere, so the number 04 must remain the favourite heading into the BMW M Grand Prix of Styria. Which is automatically another milestone for whoever wins, because it will be the 900th premier class race.
“After last Sunday’s victory, I was able to disconnect a little bit during these three days, and now I’m preparing again for the second GP at the Red Bull Ring. Last Sunday’s race will be a good reference to try to fight again for the victory, and now we have also understood that many of our rivals are strong and that they also have the potential to win. We’ve improved a lot in braking, but we can take another step forward by working on other aspects. The weather conditions will be decisive, and as we have already seen, they can change a lot of times during the weekend.”
Although Dovizioso won, it was Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) who initially led on Sunday and the Australian could prove both a dark horse and another who threatens to keep that Ducati record intact as we take on the Red Bull Ring again. Ending the race so close to second, he could be ruing his tyre choice on the restart but he really had little choice as he had no new medium fronts left in his allocation and had not tried the hard, thus tried to make the new soft front last the distance in the restarted race.
“It was a hectic race and a hectic weekend, and I think we’ll need to find some more speed for next week when we’re back here again. Austria has been a bogey race for me, so it was good to get a healthy haul of points and I got the monkey off my back. These back-to-backs are always hard and everyone seems to lift their games, so hopefully we can do that too. One place more next week would be good, two places would be better – I’d take that.”
Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) will be hoping to move forward as well; already a race winner on Borgo Panigale machinery but struggling with a tougher 2020 so far.
“Racing for two consecutive weekends on the same race track helps, because you get to the second race most prepared, with clear ideas and a clear goal: improving the result of the previous weekend. I know I can stay with the front riders, but I need to qualify better. It is the key to not having to recover positions during the race. I am confident that we will leave Austria with more positive feelings.”
The real dark horses on Sunday were Suzuki and KTM, however. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) took his first premier class podium as the Hamamatsu factory – not traditionally having been a threat at the Red Bull Ring – emerged as serious contenders. After some tougher races for Mir it will have been a welcome return to the front, and nothing could be better than returning to the venue to try and do it again. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) too, despite still recovering from his shoulder injury, showed some serious speed and even took the lead – before sliding out – but the Suzukis will be cause for concern for many hoping to take to the rostrum…
Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager
“Last weekend it was great to see Joan on the podium, especially as we’ve known for a long time that he is capable of it. On the other hand, it was disappointing that Alex went out of the race while fighting for the lead. As a team we are feeling really positive coming into this new race weekend, because we know what our bike can do here, but we still need to work hard and see how it plays out.”
“It was an amazing feeling last weekend to get my first MotoGP podium, especially as it was my first time riding here with the GSX-RR. It was nice to celebrate with all the team after so much hard work and some bad luck in the previous weeks. I’m looking forward to this weekend because I really like this track, but I need to stay focused on the job and take it day by day.”
“I will give 100% again this weekend, as I did last weekend. We know now which is the best way to set up the bike for this circuit, so we won’t have a lot of work to do in terms of the bike, we’ll just make some minor changes and check everything. Of course the weather could make a difference too. But I feel positive and ready to fight, so I will aim to qualify well and have a strong race!”
So too will KTM, despite the fact that Sunday didn’t quite turn out to plan. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) seemed the favourite on FP4 pace alone, and he led on the first start before the Red Flag came out. After that it was a tougher prospect, and ultimately it ended in disaster as the Spaniard and fellow KTM rider – Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) – came together and both crashed out, an incident about which there will be hearings with the FIM MotoGP Stewards on Thursday. But both were quick, and second time around they will be expecting to be frontrunners again.
That role for the Austrian factory was left, after that incident, to Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). 17th on the grid for the first start, it had been a tougher weekend for the rookie after his stunning ride to victory in Czechia. But he was unflappable, moved up before the Red Flag, made the most of a better starting position second time round and came home in an incredible fourth place – with a whole host more experience of the track on a MotoGP machine that he’ll now be looking to put to good use a week later. Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) will want to do the same in terms of what he’s learned from the track too, having taken his best finish yet in the Austrian GP.
“I’m very excited to start the second race. After the disappointment of the last round, I look really forward to just finish the race, get good points for me and the team, so that we can finish these three rounds in a positive way and keep strong and motivated for what is ahead of us.”
“This weekend here in Austria I just want to continue the way we started here during the first weekend, because we were growing and learning a lot, plus we finished the race, which is probably the most important thing. I just want to continue to improve together with the team, because for the moment, I’m really happy. We will see what happens next week.”
For Yamaha, it’s still somewhat difficult to tell what will await them this weekend. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) qualified on the front row and then – even aside from the shock of the huge crash at Turn 3 that dominated the headlines – also suffered a mechanical problem early on the restart and a run off in the initial race, respectively, giving them both more of an uphill struggle once the lights went out for the second time. But both impressed to make the best of it, with Quartararo steadily heading forwards and Viñales initially forced backwards by his problem before slicing back through half the field by the flag.
“Last Sunday was a bit mixed. Valentino and I were very lucky not to get hurt in the incident in Turn 3, but I‘m disappointed about what happened during Race 2. Thankfully, we have another opportunity this Sunday to show what we can do. My pace was really quite good towards the end of last week‘s race, so I think that if we work hard, we can take some championship points back this weekend. That‘s our target.”
Fabio Quartararo didn’t challenge for the lead last weekend but remains the MotoGP World Championship points leader heading into this weekend’s fifth MotoGP race of the year.
“Although this isn’t one of the strongest circuits for the Yamaha, we had a really good pace last weekend. It was a shame about the issue with the brakes because I think we could have finished in the top-five. This weekend is another race though and we have to take each one as they come. The team is working hard to make sure we don’t have the same issue and I’m confident that we can have a better result on Sunday. I’m hoping that we can be within that top-five and score as many points in the championship as possible.”
Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), who is a little behind in the title fight after his DNF in the first race at Jerez, but whose consistency since is starting to really rack up. He came fifth and was top Yamaha, so even as we await eagerly what they can do in the race against the rest, it was also be an interesting one to see who comes out on top for the Iwata marque too.
“Last weekend‘s race was scary. In the end all riders are okay, and that‘s the main thing, but there is a lesson in this for all of us, especially the riders. We all have a lot of fun on track trying to finish in front, we all enjoy the battles, but in the end your own safety as well as that of the other riders is more important than any amount of gained positions. With this in mind, I think we will all be able to enjoy this upcoming GP even more. I did a good Race 2 last Sunday, and fifth was okay, but I think that we can do better, so let‘s see what we can do this weekend.”
Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), one of the riders involved in the crash that brought out the Red Flag, was also still very much in that battle near the top at the time – so what can he do second time around at the Red Bull Ring?
“After the race I came back to Italy to rest at home. I’ve been resting these past few days and making sure I am as prepared as possible for this weekend. I am thankful that I am fine and that I didn’t end up with a serious injury – the right side of my body is still sore, but better than I could have expected after that crash. I’m really looking forward to starting the weekend and focusing on racing again. I want to see how I feel on the bike on Friday, but I’m confident that I’ll be ready. I know that we might have another tough weekend ahead and we need to score as many points as possible. My team has worked so hard to give me the best bike possible and I hope to go out this weekend and achieve a great result for them.”
Honda will be asking the same question, with the second race at the same venue likely a positive for them. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was the lead Honda, taking sixth for yet another solid performance as he makes his presence felt in 2020, and the experience is even more valuable for rookie Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and test-rider-turned-reigning-Champion-replacement Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team).
“A couple of nice days enjoying some mountain biking in Austria between races was good. We also did some filming with Red Bull and the Honda RC213V-S on Monday before going to Hangar 7 with Servus TV, it’s really nice to go there and see all the bikes, planes and cars Red Bull has. Initially I learned the lines of the Red Bull Ring quite quickly so now with a second race we can dive into improving some areas. I was really happy with the feeling before the red flag last week and I think we can have that again. The potential is there I feel, so let’s go out and work hard like always.”
“I am happy to be able to work with the Repsol Honda Team again for a third week, each time we have improved and I am interested to see what it is like racing at the same circuit twice – this is the first time for me. Our weekend will depend on the weather and also the programme we create with Honda, so far in two races we have been able to do a lot. Let’s see how the weekend goes.”
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) will want more too as he recovers from a broken scaphoid, and that’s something that will also be affecting Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) now. The Frenchman has undergone surgery and is aiming to try and ride this weekend.
Zarco was one of the riders, along with Morbidelli, involved in the crash that brought out the Red Flag – and both will be having hearings with the Stewards on Thursday. Crutchlow raced under similar circumstances so it’s possible, but it will likely dent the Esponsorama rider’s chances of being in the same place in the battle at the front second time around.
Finally, can Aprilia move forward? Both Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and teammate Bradley Smith scored points in the Austrian GP, which was a key positive, but on paper the track should be a better prospect for them.
Ducati remain undefeated, Dovizioso undaunted and the Red Bull Ring the near-perfect layout for the Borgo Panigale factory. But MotoGP is as unpredictable as ever in 2020, so can anyone dethrone Ducati this weekend?
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.