The scene is set for another about-turn in the Championship at the Red Bull Ring
2017 MotoGP content on MCNews.com.au brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils
2017 MotoGP content on MCNews.com.au brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils

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.

Red Bull Ring - Austria - MotoGP 2016
Red Bull Ring – Austria – MotoGP 2016

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.

Following a P6 finish for Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in the Czech GP, the timing couldn’t be better.
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.

First MotoGP win for Andrea Iannone and first Ducati victory since 2010 Pos 1: Andrea Iannone, Pos 2: Andrea Dovizioso
First MotoGP win for Andrea Iannone and first Ducati victory since 2010 unfolded at Red Bull Ring last year.
Pos 1: Andrea Iannone, Pos 2: Andrea Dovizioso

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.

Marc Marquez - Red Bull Ring 2016
Marc Marquez – Red Bull Ring 2016

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.

Spielberg MotoGP - Red Bull Ring
Spielberg MotoGP – Red Bull Ring

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.

MotoGP 2016 - Red Bull Ring - Podium - MotoGP
MotoGP 2016 – Red Bull Ring – Podium – MotoGP

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.

Red Bull Ring Spielberg - Image provided by MotoGP/Dorna
Red Bull Ring Spielberg – Image provided by MotoGP/Dorna

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.

Red Bull Ring - Austria - MotoGP 2016
Red Bull Ring – Austria – MotoGP 2016
MotoGP 2017 – Round Ten – Brno – MotoGP Championship Standings
  1. MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA 154 Repsol Honda Team Honda
  2. VINALES Maverick 25 SPA 140 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha
  3. DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA 133 Ducati Team Ducati
  4. ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA 132 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha
  5. PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA 123 Repsol Honda Team Honda
  6. ZARCO Johann 5 FRA 88 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
  7. FOLGER Jonas 94 GER 77 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
  8. PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA 75 Octo Pramac Racing Ducati
  9. CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR 75 LCR Honda Honda
  10. LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA 66 Ducati Team Ducati
  11. BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA 44 Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati
  12. MILLER Jack 43 AUS 43 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda
  13. ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA 40 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
  14. REDDING Scott 45 GBR 33 Octo Pramac Racing Ducati
  15. BAZ Loris 76 FRA 31 Reale Avintia Racing Ducati
  16. IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA 28 Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki
  17. ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE 23 Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati
  18. RABAT Tito 53 SPA 23 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda
  19. BARBERA Hector 8 SPA 21 Reale Avintia Racing Ducati
  20. ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA 21 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
  21. RINS Alex 42 SPA 12 Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki
  22. SMITH Bradley 38 GBR 8 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
  23. PIRRO Michele 51 ITA 7 Ducati Team Ducati
  24. LOWES Sam 22 GBR 2 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
  25. GUINTOLI Sylvain 50 FRA 1 Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki
Michelin on the Red Bull Ring challenge at Spielberg
Michelin on the Red Bull Ring challenge at Spielberg

After a six-lap sprint at Brno, it’s very much game on for the Moto2 Championship
Moto2 Austria Red Bull Ring 2016 - Image by AJRN
Moto2 Austria Red Bull Ring 2016 – Image by AJRN

The colour of the 2017 Championship changed dramatically over the course of 6 laps at Brno: the shortened sprint was won in 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.

MotoGP 2017 – Round Ten – Brno – Moto2 Championship Points Standings
  1. Franco MORBIDELLI Kalex ITA 182
  2. Thomas LUTHI Kalex SWI 165
  3. Alex MARQUEZ Kalex SPA 133
  4. Miguel OLIVEIRA KTM POR 133
  5. Francesco BAGNAIA Kalex ITA 87
  6. Mattia PASINI Kalex ITA 73
  7. Takaaki NAKAGAMI Kalex JPN 69
  8. Simone CORSI Speed Up ITA 63
  9. Luca MARINI Kalex ITA 54
  10. Xavi VIERGE Tech 3 SPA 51
  11. Dominique AEGERTER Suter SWI 50
  12. Marcel SCHROTTER Suter GER 44
  13. Hafizh SYAHRIN Kalex MAL 44
  14. Lorenzo BALDASSARRI Kalex ITA 39
  15. Jorge NAVARRO Kalex SPA 39
  16. Fabio QUARTARARO Kalex FRA 32
  17. Brad BINDER KTM RSA 29
  18. Sandro CORTESE Suter GER 18
  19. Xavier SIMEON Kalex BEL 16
  20. Yonny HERNANDEZ Kalex COL 16
  21. Remy GARDNER Tech 3 AUS 13
  22. Axel PONS Kalex SPA 13
  23. Isaac VIÑALES Kalex SPA 7
  24. Ricard CARDUS KTM SPA 7
  25. Joe ROBERTS Kalex USA 6

Rookie no more: eyes on the prize as Mir returns to Austria
Moto3 Austria Red Bull Ring 2016 - Image by AJRN
Moto3 Austria Red Bull Ring 2016 – Image by AJRN

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. 

MotoGP 2017 – Round Ten – Brno – Moto3 Championship Points Standings
  1. Joan MIR Honda SPA 190
  2. Romano FENATI Honda ITA 148
  3. Aron CANET Honda SPA 126
  4. John MCPHEE Honda GBR 93
  5. Jorge MARTIN Honda SPA 89
  6. Marcos RAMIREZ KTM SPA 88
  7. Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO Honda ITA 85
  8. Andrea MIGNO KTM ITA 83
  9. Juanfran GUEVARA KTM SPA 69
  10. Enea BASTIANINI Honda ITA 59
  11. Nicolo BULEGA KTM ITA 54
  12. Philipp OETTL KTM GER 44
  13. Bo BENDSNEYDER KTM NED 38
  14. Tatsuki SUZUKI Honda JPN 38
  15. Darryn BINDER KTM RSA 35
  16. Jules DANILO Honda FRA 29
  17. Livio LOI Honda BEL 24
  18. Gabriel RODRIGO KTM ARG 17
  19. Niccolò ANTONELLI KTM ITA 16
  20. Ayumu SASAKI Honda JPN 16
2017 MotoGP content on MCNews.com.au brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils
2017 MotoGP content on MCNews.com.au brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils