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Race report: Austrian MotoGP

Photo: Andrea Dovizioso/Facebook

RED BULL RING, Spielberg, Austria, August 13 – Whether it was the Austrian track and its amazing scenery, the Michelin tire mix (huge variety of choice from the racers), a lot of riders still feeling pumped after the summer break, or some of each, the Moto GP circus delivered another breath-taking performance at the 11th race of the 18-race series.

The victory went to Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, his third of the season and only his fourth ever, after a spectacular duel with Honda’s Marc Marquez. It’s not usual that the defending world champion gets out-muscled, but this time Dovi jammed his Spanish rival back every time Marquez got past, giving at least as good as he got and surviving a last-lap-last corner near collision to win by 0.176 second.

Dovizioso wasn’t all that happy with the move, waving angrily at Marquez as he crossed the line and later saying, “I was more angry than happy because he tried to overtake me in that way … everybody know very well Marc, and I manage in the best way the last corner.”

Marquez, on the other hand, said, “I arrive on the limit and I try on the last corner, because if not, I cannot go to sleep quiet, I have to try.” He added, “Dovi deserves [the win], he had a little bit more. When he was behind me, he was very comfortable – when I was behind him, I was on the limit.”

Third went to Marquez’ Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who rocketed up from the third row. He briefly looked like challenging the two riders who finished ahead of him but couldn’t quite make it work, and settled in for a solid third place, 2.6 seconds behind the winner.

Fourth went to Jorge Lorenzo and Ducati, after a good qualifying performance found him on the front row. He rocketed into an early lead but quickly ran into trouble with degradation of his soft-compound tire choice and first Marquez, then Dovizioso, then Pedrosa got by. At that, he was fortunate not to fall farther back, as Tech 3 Yamaha ace Johann Zarco was eating up buckets of time on the Spaniard but ran out of laps, finishing half a second behind, with Yamaha factory rider Maverick Viñales only two-tenths father back.

Zarco’s fifth place was due mostly to his astounding ability to manage the softer tires. Both the factory Yamaha riders, Viñales and Valentino Rossi, were on the harder-option rear, but couldn’t make any inroads on their satellite semi-team-mate. Both factory riders were close to the front early on, but both made big mistakes, running wide in the fast first turn on different laps and losing places, which they were never able to make up.

Viñales said, “I expected to be at the front, fighting for the win. But we were quite unlucky, especially with the rear tires, they were sliding a lot. But I don’t think it was the problem of the rear tires, I think it’s the problem of our bike.” Rossi agreed, adding, “We stress too much the rear tire – and especially Honda, Ducati find something to be fast without using too much the rear.”

The remainder of the top 10 all rode excellent races. Alvaro Bautista and his Aspar Ducati grabbed eighth after a great run up the field, Frenchman Loris Baz ran solidly in the top 10 all day on his Avintia Ducati, making a case for the team retaining his services in 2018, and 10th went to Mika Kallio, the test rider for KTM, after a superb ride. The Finn is looking to get back into racing rather than just testing and development, and wild-card performances like this won’t hurt.

Kallio said, “I think it was almost like a victory for us, to be top 10 for KTM at our home race with lots of spectators and guests. Also for me this was something where I can demonstrate my speed is still there even if I’ve been the test rider for a while and not done too many races in the last two years.”

The results tightened up the championship standings, with Marquez still leading, but Dovizioso moves ahead of Viñales. The two are still within 25 points, one race win, of Marquez, and both Rossi and Pedrosa aren’t that far behind.

Moto 2

Franco Morbidelli fought back against rival Tom Luthi, taking a victory over his team-mate Alex Marquez and Luthi after a difficult race. While Morbidelli eventually edged away from his two competitors, Marquez and Luthi had a hard battle, looking as though they traded paint more than once.
Morbidelli has now pumped his lead over Luthi up to 25 points – still, that’s only one race win for Luthi and a DNF for Morbidelli, so the season’s far from over in Moto 2.

The front-runners all got away well, which was just as well, as two separate accidents on the first lap saw nine riders out of the race. Fortunately there were no serious injuries.

Takaagi Nakagami returned to form after a few dismal races, collecting seventh just ahead of an ever-improving Brad Binder, coming back from injury. It’s a good time for Nakagami to start running at the front again, as he’s widely pipped as moving up to Moto GP next year with the LCR Honda team, and his recent results haven’t exactly indicated any reason to give him the jump to the next class.

Moto 3

Joan “Miracle” Mir grabbed his seventh win of the 2017 season in fine fashion, actually pulling away from the Moto 3 pack for his win, almost unheard of in this argy-bargy class. German Philip Oettl was delighted to finally grab a dry-weather podium with a fine second place, while Spaniard Jorge Martin was equally ecstatic at taking third despite still suffering considerable pain from his nasty leg accident at the German race before the summer break. Mir now has a huge lead in the series, 215 points to the 151 of Romano Fenati, the Italian bad boy running well wide early and never able to connect back with the leaders, eventually finishing 13th.

World Moto GP Championship Standings after 11 of 18 races
1. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 174 points
2. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 158
3. Maverick Viñales, Spain, Movistar Yamaha, 150
4. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha, 141
5. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 139
6. Johann Zarco, France, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 99
7. Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team, 79
8. Jonas Folger, Germany, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 77
9. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., LCR Honda, 76
10. Danillo Petrucci, Italy, Pramac Ducati, 75

Next race, August 27, Silverstone, U.K.

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