Can anyone dethrone Ducati in Styria?

2020-08-19 00:45
It’s now five in a row for the Bologna bullets at the Red Bull Ring, but can that become six this weekend? Their rivals will be gunning to make sure it won’t...

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% winning record at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday, but keep it Dovizioso did. Giving the Borgo Panigale factory their 50th MotoGP™ win, 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.

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 – Dovizioso even said point blank he should have stayed on the medium front, not changed to the soft – and there are a few more things for the Queenslander to mull over too. If he can bring those together, can he threaten? 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.

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…

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.

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.

Impressive is also a word for 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. 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?

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). 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 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. But for Zarco focus will first be on his broken scaphoid discovered after the crash, for which he’ll have surgery ahead of the event. 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. What can he do?

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. Will that see them take a step forward in the BMW M Grand Prix of Styria? We’re about to find out.

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? Find out as FP1 starts on Friday at 9:55 (GMT +2), before the lights go out for the race at 14:00 on Sunday.
MotoGP™ Championship Standings
1 Fabio Quartararo - Petronas Yamaha SRT - Yamaha - 67
2 Andrea Dovizioso - Ducati Team - Ducati - 56
3 Maverick Viñales - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - 48
4 Brad Binder - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - KTM - 41
5 Valentino Rossi - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - 38
Will Martin turn the screw or can the field fight back?
A big points lead was lost in the blink of a dramatic eye in the Austrian GP, and we had a new intermediate class Grand Prix winner
The moment of the Moto2™ race – for dramatic rather than positive reasons – was most definitely the crash for former points leader Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) that, along with the aftermath, brought out the Red Flag. No one was seriously injured and the race was restarted for a 13-lap sprint, but Bastianini’s position as Championship leader evaporated as he couldn’t restart. His key rivals could, and one especially took the opportunity: Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46).

New points leader Marini was battling a more difficult grid position before the restart, when the work he’d put in before the Red Flag then repaid him with a front row for the second lights out. That put him straight back in contention for the win, and although he couldn’t take the full 25 points, he took a valuable second place to take over at the top overall. Can Bastianini bounce back from that crash and turn the tables? Or will another name again manage the same?

The winner of the Austrian GP is most definitely the favourite heading into the second race at the Red Bull Ring, at least to take the the top step: Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo). He’d looked threatening at times so far in 2020 despite not taking a victory in Moto2™ until Sunday, but when he did, it was in ‘traditional’ Martin style: bolting from the front and able to pull clear with incredible pace and precision. Was that a turning point? His rivals will be looking to make up the gap with time to analyse the data, but Martin’s advantage over the line was such that it will be a hard slog to do so. In only 13 laps he pulled out over two seconds… and that was just to Marini. Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) was another 2.6 seconds down the road in third.

The three on the podium will certainly be hoping to fight for it again, but can they keep that pace? Will a longer race actually play into the hands of those not able to stay with Martin’s bolt off the line? The likes of Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) will hope so after their mammoth battle for fourth – won by the Briton – and Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team), who started from pole initially but then crashed out, will be another looking for more. Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo) too – the Japanese rider needs to bounce back from some tougher races…

Martin was a force to be reckoned with in the Austrian GP. Now it’s time to reset and reload for the BMW M Grand Prix of Styria, with the Spaniard looking to do it again and move even further up the standings – but plenty eager to stand in his way.
Moto2™ Championship Standings
1 Luca Marini - Sky Racing Team VR46 - Kalex - 78
2 Enea Bastianini - Italtrans Racing Team - Kalex - 73
3 Jorge Martin - Red Bull KTM Ajo - Kalex - 59
4 Sam Lowes - EG 0,0 Marc VDS - Kalex - 59
5 Tetsuta Nagashima - Red Bull KTM Ajo - Kalex - 55
Race to win or play the long game?
With such a sizeable advantage, that’s the decision for Albert Arenas in the BMW M Grand Prix of Styria
Do not adjust your sets: it may look similar to a little earlier in the season, but there has been plenty of incredible track action between now and then in the Moto3™ World Championship. And yet, it remains Albert Arenas (Valresa Aspar Team) ahead of the game, with the Spaniard now 28 points clear at the top. Why? He won, again. In style, again.

Normally odds would say that makes him a clear favourite for a repeat this weekend, but Moto3™ have never played nice with predictions. The experienced Spaniard certainly is a title favourite and a name in the hat for the win if not every win, but it will be far from easy. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) – the former the winner from some late penalties for track limits in Austria, and the latter one of the losers – showed they have some serious pace and will be threats, as will Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) as he was back on the podium and very nearly on the top step on Sunday…

The names don’t stop there. Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) is another who, although the dice didn’t quite fall his way, knows he has pace as we prepare to race at the Red Bull Ring again, and there were three more vital protagonists at the front in the Austrian GP fray: Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power) and Red Bull KTM Tech 3’s Deniz Öncü and Ayumu Sasaki.

For Binder, it’s becoming somewhat of a calling card to suffer a tougher Saturday and then blast through the pack on race day with almost no visible clue that he started outside the top 20. The South African fought it out at the front with typical gusto too; then classified lower than where he crossed the line but with chance to ‘right’ that on Sunday. Öncü, meanwhile, didn’t lose out to a penalty but was by far the quickest we’ve seen from him in the World Championship so far, leading a lightweight class Grand Prix for the first time and then finishing eighth. His teammate Sasaki also showed a fresh flash of pace before he was another to fall foul of the stewards and receive a Long Lap Penalty. That dropped him outside the top twenty with only three laps to go, but the Japanese rider kept it pinned thereon out and managed to come home in the points. Both will surely proves shots of confidence for the Tech 3 squad.

The likes of Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team), polesitter Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3), after fighting at the front, will also want more, and there are the experienced guns like Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) to keep an eye on too, as they went a little under the radar. For Fenati, the 2019 Austrian GP winner, there will be a clear objective this time around: set a solid lap in Q2, as the Italian had his one real push for glory deleted for track limits last weekend.

Arenas remains the favourite, but Moto3™ retains its beautifully chaotic reputation as we head into the BMW M Grand Prix of Styria. The number 75 makes it look easy on paper, but the reality is a classic showdown every weekend – and this will be no different. Tune in on Sunday at 11:00 (GMT +2).

Source: Dorna Sports

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