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Back with a bang: Ducati domination of the #AustrianGP

Iannone and Dovizioso end the drought for the legendary manufacturer

The Italian Job

After testing ahead of the NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich, the word penciled in next to the victory was undoubtedly Ducati. Following the timesheets from the test on the horsepower-dominated circuit, the venue appeared to be neither a ‘Honda track’ nor a ‘Yamaha track’ but a new breed altogether – a ‘Ducati track’. That left the Borgo Panigale factory’s riders fielding questions throughout the weekend about the possibility of the first Ducati win since 2010 as the pressure mounted, but both Iannone and Dovizioso stayed cool and topped all the sessions but one heading into the race. In that race, the two red machines made a break for it and history was made.

"A lot of people at Ducati have worked a lot of hours - really a lot of hours - for four years. So I want to thank them for creating this situation." Andrea Dovizioso

Explaining Iannone’s last minute tyre swap

Iannone was the only rider to switch to the medium tyre allocation, which proved decisive in the final laps as the 'Maniac' held off teammate Dovizioso in the veteran's 250th GP. 'DesmoDovi'  didn't have enough grip on the right hand side of the tyre. Iannone's victory ended a six year drought for the team – as well as being his first win – and Dovizioso crossing the line second for a 1-2 marks the 2016 Austrian GP as the first time since Phillip Island 2007 that the Ducati Team has achieved that feat. The project has been a long one for Borgo Panigale – but it also seems to be gradually changing from a project of goals into one of achievements.

The Ducati domination at the Red Bull Ring locked out the 25 and 20 point-scoring positions for the men fighting at the top of the table, and championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was the man who suffered most as the Spaniard crossed the line in P5. Even before the gloves came off, the championship looked as though it could have been thrown wide open on Saturday morning as Marquez lost control of his Honda and narrowly avoided collecting teammate Dani Pedrosa – who had also run wide – on his trip towards the gravel trap. Marquez uncharacteristically took some time to get to his feet and shake the crash off, with the 2-time MotoGP™ champion holding his shoulder as he walked back towards the scooter.

Watch Marquez's brutal crash from all angles

After a check up and subsequent further investigation at the local hospital, the Spaniard was given the all-clear to race with no further damage – the only consequence having been a brief dislocation of his left shoulder. The incident was the second for the Repsol Honda Team, after Pedrosa suffered a crash with no warning in FP1 on Friday and sat the rest of that session out – rider uninjured, confidence dented and bike puncturing the air fence. Pedrosa gained two seconds in his overnight improvement from Friday to Saturday and crossed the line in P7 on Sunday.

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP had a more positive weekend at the Red Bull Ring, although Friday began with both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi struggling to find the initial pace of Iannone, Dovizioso and Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Saturday saw big improvements in warmer conditions, with  a resurgent Lorenzo topping qualifying until the final few seconds saw him lose the provisional pole – and teammate Rossi crossed the line to knock his old rival off the front row as the veteran Italian split the Ducatis in P2. Once the lights went out on Sunday, it was Lorenzo who came out fighting as the 5-time champion dueled for the lead – including a sublime double overtake – and lead the chase after the Ducatis in the initial front group of six riders lead by the Borgo Panigale factory.

Lorenzo: "A black period is over"

As the second half of the race ticked closer, it was Lorenzo and Rossi left to try and play catch-up to the Ducatis. After three difficult races for Lorenzo, the Spaniard proved once again why he is the reigning world champion as he put together an almost-perfect performance under pressure to lock out the podium – beating teammate Rossi over the line by a safe margin as the Italian legend was unable to quite get close enough to mount a pass. The third place and points for Lorenzo made the Spanish Yamaha rider the only man in the top three to make a net gain in the championship fight at the top of the table, with leader Marquez in P5 and the man just behind Lorenzo in the points - Rossi - also behind the Mallorcan over the line.

Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) was the top independent team rider in the Austrian GP, as the Brit converted a solid qualifying into a good top 8 result. Redding, who had crossed the line fourth in the two previous GPs when weather was wetter, was satisfied with the result in the dry and made gains on both key rivals Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) in the independent championship standings. It was a more difficult weekend for fellow independent rider Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), who suffered a hairline fracture to a vertebrae and was declared unfit to race. However, the Assen winner is motivated to pass the medical to race in the upcoming HJC Helmets Grand Prix České Republiky. Another injury suffered during the Austrian GP was a broken finger for Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who attempted to race on Sunday before it became too much and was sadly forced to pull into pitlane.

The last corner of the Austrian GP had one last gasp of drama for the field after the leading group had crossed the line, as Eugene Laverty (PULL&BEAR Aspar Team) and Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) battled over P11 and the Italian lost control of his Ducati – taking down the Irishman within sight of the end of the lap. The error was an uncharacteristic one for Petrucci in a weekend that saw the Italian struggle – and an apology was quick to come. Race direction looked into the incident and awarded the Pramac rider a 3-place grid penalty for the upcoming Czech GP, as well as one penalty point – and Petrucci’s P11 from the Austrian GP remains.

#AustrianGP: MotoGP™ Full Race

Highlights: Zarco makes it 4 out of 5

In Moto2™, Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) increased his lead in the championship with a sublime victory of patience as he cut through the field from a bad start, and Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli converted an impressive P2 qualifying into second in the race as he overtook Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) on the last lap. Luthi also lost out in the final corner to championship contender Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) as the late-charging Spaniard took him in the final corner to complete the podium. Luthi crossed the line P4 ahead of Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team), who enjoyed his best finish to date in the intermediate class after an impressive weekend, with EG 0,0 Marc VDS rider Alex Marquez converting his best qualifying into a solid P6 as the Spaniard gets back up the grid to fight near the front.

Highlights: Mir takes maiden win in Moto3™ thriller

Moto3™ was another hard-fought battle that saw rookie Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) convert his first ever pole position into his first victory on the world stage, as the Mallorcan beat Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) over the line after an incredible weekend for both riders. The podium was completed by Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3), with neither of Binder’s key title rivals scoring. Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) crashed out after having made up 10 places in a stunning comeback from a difficult qualifying, and Romano Fenati has been suspended by Sky Racing Team VR46 for behaviour not in line with what was expected within the team. Fenati’s future remains unknown.

The next stop for the FIM MotoGP™ world championship sees the paddock head north to Brno in the Czech Republic for the HJC Helmets Grand Prix České Republiky – back on familiar ground and ready for another weekend of classic wheel-to-wheel action.