#AustrianGP Red Bull Ring – weekend preview: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3

 In MotoGP, News

MotoGP

Not since 2003 has there been a first win for a manufacturer in the premier class, but that’s exactly what KTM did at Brno as Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) stormed the Czech circuit to write not one, not two, but a whole host of chapters in the record books. The rookie, winning only his fourth MotoGP™ race, joins Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa on the list of more recent debutants to have achieved that feat, and he became the first ever South African premier class winner in doing so. The timing could barely have been better for him to take KTM to the top step for the first time either, as we now head for their home turf at the spectacular Red Bull Ring.

Betting against Binder and KTM achieving the feat at some point would likely have afforded some pretty poor odds: the South African has never failed to impress with his impeccable record in Grand Prix racing, and the Austrian factory have been reeling in the frontrunners since they joined the MotoGP™ grid full time, sometimes in hundredths, other times in leaps and bounds that served as a warning shot for the rest of the field. But to do it fourth time out together really is something. Now the question is, can they do it again?

In the orange corner, there’s Binder, momentum, and a whole lot of data. Add to that the experience of Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), the first podium finisher for the marque, and the ever-improving Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), who took his best result at the time at the Austrian GP last year, there’s reason to believe it’s unlikely to have been a one off. It’s a big ask to go back to back though, and whilst they’ll be racing to win and knowing they can, there are a good few faces standing in their way in Austria.

Ducati have won every time MotoGP™ have raced at the track since it returned to the calendar, and the man who’s taken half those victories heads up the red corner: Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). Last year’s last corner move was one of the truly great moments in MotoGP™ history, and the track is made for the marque. 2020 is proving a season of tougher races so far, however, with the Borgo Panigale factory struggling slightly to replicate their form of the last few seasons. If there was ever a track to turn it around though, Austria would be it. So can Dovizioso get back on top? Can Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) get back in the mix? And what about Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), who only just missed out on a podium in the Spanish GP and was up there in Andalucia before a crash? Was Brno a blip for them?

If it was, it certainly wasn’t for Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing). The Frenchman took the team’s first podium, his first on a Ducati, was back on the box for the first time since Malaysia 2018, and did it from pole – via a Long Lap Penalty. One of the most spectacular moments of the race – not something often said – Zarco didn’t let it get in his way. And as we head for Austria, he’s on the bike that won last year…

Then we have the blue corner, and Yamaha. The Red Bull Ring doesn’t play to the strengths of the Iwata marque, and they’ve never finished higher than third. What will their approach be? Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) certainly had a tougher time of it in Brno as he came home seventh – his worst result since Malaysia last year – but the Frenchman stayed on, took the points and therefore still increased his Championship lead. There was no falling apart or silly mistakes to be seen despite the uphill struggle, and it’s only his second season. He’s also one of the Yamaha riders to have taken that best result of third place in Austria.

His teammate Franco Morbidelli, meanwhile, turned the tables and took his first premier class podium in Brno – bolting off the line and daring the rest to catch him if they could. Unfortunately for the Italian, Binder did, but it was the best we’ve seen from Morbidelli. And what can Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) do? He has shown some speed at the Red Bull Ring, both now and then – he’s been on the front row after MotoGP™ returned to the venue, and he took his first podium at the track in 1996. Then there’s Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)…

The Spaniard was second to Quartararo in the first two races of the year, and in serious touch in the Championship. But Brno was a seriously tough Sunday, with the number 12 eventually crossing the line in 14th. “Bounce back” will be buzzwords in Austria, but in terms of the title fight so far, it’s Quartararo at least that he needs to be keeping an eye on at a tougher track for Yamaha.

For Honda, Austria could likely prove a better venue than Brno, where all four riders seemed to struggle. After that difficult weekend – and still missing Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), who is once again replaced by Stefan Bradl – it will be an interesting one to see what they can do. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) has been the man ahead so far, but can recovering teammate Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) strike back? And what can Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) do, suffering as he is now from a serious points deficit to fellow Rookie Binder?

Finally, Suzuki and Aprilia will be facing down two different weekends ahead. For the Hamamatsu factory it could well be tougher as the track is a challenge on paper given the strengths of their bike, although Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) had a stunner in Brno despite still recovering from injury and will evidently not be stopped. His teammate Joan Mir suffered some back luck as he was swiped out, but Austria will bring better memories: he took his first Grand Prix win at the track in Moto3™, and then did it again the following year. Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro will be looking to make life tough for them though, as Brno saw him equal the Noale factory’s best MotoGP™ qualifying and then take a top ten. With their 2020 machine, the Red Bull Ring likely looks pretty appetising for Aprilia…

In an era of hyperbole, Binder needed none in Brno to make some real history. Now it’s reset, reload and race at home for KTM – and another weekend of incredible battles is guaranteed. Find out if the orange machines can continue their rampage or if the field can hit back as the lights go out at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday the 16th of August at 14:00 (GMT +2).

Moto2

After two race wins in a row for Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team), the Italian has gone from dark horse to bone fide favourite in Moto2™. First in the heat of Jerez and then around the very different challenge of Brno, his two most recent performances have put him 15 points clear at the top of the table. If that wasn’t bad news enough for his rivals, the ‘Beast’ is excited about the myWorld Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich: “My favourite part of riding is braking.”

There’s plenty of that in Austria.

That said, it wasn’t an easy ride to the win last time out, with Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) right on Bastianini’s rear wheel by the time the two crossed the line. Can the 2020 v2.2, super consistent Lowes go one better at the Red Bull Ring? He’s already fourth in the Championship and that’s despite missing the season opener. It’s unlikely to be a simple duel though, with Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) likely keen to hit back, and former Championship leader Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo) too. The Japanese rider has had a season of two halves so far, with two podiums and then two tough races making it hard to call where he’ll shuffle into the pack in Austria…

His teammate Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is another to watch, and both he and Nagashima have that home race pressure – or incentive – for the Red Bull-backed Ajo squad. Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) is also making closer friends with parc ferme too, taking a first podium in the Andalucia GP. But to speak of first podiums is also now to speak of Joe Roberts after the American’s rostrum finish at Brno. He was so close in Qatar before a tougher time in Jerez, but the Tennor American Racing rider was right back in the fight at the front – after also going #BackToQatar on settings for Brno. Will his speed transfer to Austria now? He believes so, and two pole positions and a podium so far in 2020 back that up.

Meanwhile, Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team Moto2) keeps reeling in the points. It was definitely a tougher weekend for the rookie in Czechia but he still keeps his place in the top five in the standings, and took another top ten. Teammate Hafizh Syahrin beat him for the first time this season in Brno as well so he’ll want to hit back. Can fellow Speed Up rider Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) and teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio move forward too? So far they’ve not shown the form expected after impressive 2019 campaigns. That’s true of a few, but there are plenty kilometres to go this season.

Moto3

Brno had a little of everything in Moto3™, as we’ve come to expect. Drama for some title contenders, a classic freight train battle and a new Grand Prix winner to boot, it gave the fascinating 2020 season so far another shake and stir. Now we head for the Red Bull Ring for the myWorld Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich, the braking zones and overtaking opportunities will stage another sure-fire show.

It’s Albert Arenas (Valresa Aspar Team Moto3) who arrives centre stage, now 18 points clear at the top despite the sizeable mistake of crashing out in the Andalucia GP. Although there’s plenty racing left to do in 2020, Arenas’ advantage is such that only Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) on 52 points and John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) on 51 would be able to overhaul the Spaniard’s lead – and only if they were 1st or 2nd and Arenas took home another nil points. That seems unlikely, so the long game is now trying to stay ahead of him on Sunday and claw back that deficit bit by bit.

Impressive though that lead is, it’s actually Ogura who’s been the king of consistency so far: his 0 wasn’t his own fault. That bodes well for impressive Japanese sophomore, who has been pure class since he joined Moto3™ full-time last year with a rookie season that even included a podium to add to a ream of top ten finishes. He was incredibly close to the win in Brno, so he’ll be one to watch once again. McPhee should be an expected threat too, already back on the podium since his crash in the Spanish GP, and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) will be quick. The number 24 was on a roll before his crash in Brno, and seemed pretty mad about it in the gravel trap. He’s another, like Arenas and McPhee, who already knows how to win.

Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) can now add that claim to his CV too. His stunning first victory at Brno will see him heading into Austria with a little of that “Moto3™ Junior World Champion” pressure lifted from his shoulders. The Italian said he’s still looking to feel like he’s adapted fully to the Honda he’s riding in 2020, but could this be a turning point? And what about his teammate Jaume Masia, who has had the pace much of the time so far and then failed to deliver on race day?

The likes of Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) and Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) have also been fast in many a session before not quite managing to execute in the race, so can they take a Sunday step in the right direction? And what about last year’s Red Bull Ring winner, Romano Fenati? The Sterilgarda Max Racing Team rider took the new Husqvarna’s best result yet last time out, and Spielberg staged his most recent, redemptive win…

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