Battle lines drawn: Reload for the Red Bull Ring

The fight for victory at Brno was a classic. Can Spielberg serve up a repeat?

Only a few days after the Czech GP it’s already action stations for Austria as MotoGP™ returns to the Styrian Alps and the stunning Red Bull Ring – Spielberg. Altitude and acceleration are the buzzwords and Ducati are the reigning kings of the mountain. Winners in 2016 and 2017 at the track that plays into the hands of the Borgo Panigale factory’s machinery perfectly, the omens are good for Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and teammate Jorge Lorenzo as they arrive in Austria in the wake of their 1-2 at Brno. ‘DesmoDovi’ won the duel for the win last season, and Lorenzo is now a serious threat on the other side of the garage. Can anyone depose the Ducatis from the top step?

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) is the man who came so close to ending their rule at the Red Bull Ring last season. The number 93 stayed with Dovizioso to the end and the two men staged the first of a series of duels: first came Spielberg, then came Motegi, then Qatar…but it wasn’t quite the same at Brno. Marquez was right on the tail of the red machines ahead of him, but the reigning Champion couldn’t make a move against Lorenzo stick. Revenge at the Red Bull Ring would be sweet – but would a bigger Championship lead be even sweeter? To get that it’s a Yamaha Marquez would likely need to beat: Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP).

Yamaha remain on the hunt for that next win. Rossi put up a good fight at Brno until the final stages – nevertheless still able to beat Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) to the line – but Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was involved in an early incident that sent him into the gravel, ending a run of 19 races in the points and meaning no rider has scored in every race this season. It also ruled him out of the Brno test, so can Yamaha field their A game in Austria and push forward at what’s traditionally a more difficult venue for the Iwata marque? 

The fight for top Independent Team rider is hotting up now too: Crutchlow, Brno’s top Independent, is now only seven points off the lead of Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in the chase for that title – and Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) is between the two. Will Ducati power and acceleration see him strike back? And what of the rookies? Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) remains ahead of Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) by just two points, but that hangs in the balance every weekend.

Meanwhile Team Suzuki Ecstar want more from Austria and Andrea Iannone is a former winner at the venue, but for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, despite good progress cutting the gap to the front, it’s not quite the fairytale return to their home venue in the hills they were planning. Test rider and oft-racing wildcard Mika Kallio is out after a crash in the German GP and the bad luck kept rolling in Brno: Pol Espargaro will now also be sidelined after his crash there. So for KTM, home hopes are pinned on Bradley Smith. The Brit was on good form in Czechia as he qualified P15, before he was involved in a multi-rider crash and wasn’t able to race to the end. A bounce back will be on the cards in Spielberg.

Last year, Crutchlow finished the Austrian GP in fifteenth just 28.096 seconds behind race winner Dovizioso – the closest premier class top 15 at the time. It’s now sixth on the list as competition continues to amaze but Brno is the closest top ten, and that incredibly tight finish to decide the podium? The third closest in the MotoGP™ era.

So how will Austria play out? The battle lines were drawn at Brno and Spielberg has been Ducati territory too. Will there be a new king of the Red Bull Ring? Find out on Sunday 12th August at 14:00 (GMT +2) for another shot of Austrian adrenaline.

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