3 weeks ago
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Friday at the myWorld Austrian Grand Prix is done and dusted, with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro sitting top of the pile. Before the weekend begun, MotoGP™ Legend Randy Mamola discussed his things to look out for in Austria, and one of those was how strong KTM are currently looking.
“Now we're talking about KTM’s home track. Not only is their home track, but if you remember in the long lockdown that we have had for Covid-19, everybody was sitting at home waiting and waiting, especially our fans. Well, the very first test, the very first time we saw Grand Prix bikes go back on since the lockdown was KTM’s own Pol Espargaro and Dani Pedrosa, at the Spielberg Circuit. So, for sure, they have got a lot of data and a lot of things going.
“The other thing about KTM is coming off their first victory. Coming off their first victory with Brad Binder and there was a good chance that Pol would have finished on the podium or there or thereabouts, you just never know. Now, don’t say anything about Pol and last week. About Brad Binder’s win, KTM have been carrying momentum since the beginning, you know last week I wrote about KTM and their charge towards the front, and I felt that Binder and especially Oliveira were really keeping up with Pol Espargaro who’s been there since the beginning and it was super to see.
“So, going into this race you could imagine between Pol Espargaro, Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira there is so much enthusiasm, and Pit Beirer and everybody, there is so much enthusiasm because of what has just taken place but also the change of things so quickly and that for me has come from Dani Pedrosa making this bike that much better for everyone to ride. And what I stated last week about the race, what I like the KTM at the moment, is that it’s fitting different riders. So, will there be another manufacturer on the podium on the podium this year? I’ll tell you what, it’s going to be hard to keep KTM off the podium. Those three riders have the utmost chance of being up there and it’s going to be fun to see.
“Their best finish at Spielberg in MotoGP class was last year with Miguel Oliveira in 8th position, 16 seconds behind the leaders. They thought that was good. Well, wait ‘till this year. And the last thing to say about that is: who is going to be the top guy out of KTM finishing at the Spielberg race? Is it going to be Pol, who is hunting for victory and podiums, or Brad Binder the new victor, and/or Miguel Oliveira who we know can ride fast...”
“Now we're doing Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati. We’re doing Ducati itself. Why? Because since the beginning of coming back to the Red Bull Ring since 2016 nothing but a Ducati has been on the top step of the podium in the shape of four victories. The first one in 2016 with Iannone, the second one with Dovizioso, the third one was with Jorge Lorenzo, the fourth one, last year, in 2019, was with Andrea Dovizioso. We have had some spectacular finishes right down to the wire, and when I mean the wire, I’m talking the last metre of racetrack to get the victory especially last year’s between Dovizioso and Marc Marquez. It’s been spectacular. There’s only been three different manufacturers to finish on the podium; that is Ducati, the Honda and two times Yamaha. Once Jorge Lorenzo in 2016 with the Yamaha, and last year Quartararo in third place on the Petronas Yamaha as a rookie. So, it’s going to be interesting to see if they can make this 2020 Ducati work.
“What we saw last week was Jack Miller on the 2020 bike finished 9th in Brno, and Dovizioso was 11th and when you look at this you are going to be wanting to make judgments against Zarco’s bike because Zarco finished 3rd last week and it is a 2019 spec bike so the bike should work there. The only thing going against them could be if we have bad weather and they don’t get the racing setup done right (but don’t write this about the weather). It’s going to be interesting to see if they do it. If Ducati does not win one of these two races, with the official bike, it’s going to be very difficult to win this Championship because this type of race track really favours, as we have seen in the last 4 years, the Ducati bike.”
“We’re going to talk about the unique circuit of the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. The mountainous area is one of the most beautiful picturesque scenes we have on the calendar. Something very very special. The circuit seems very simple from the outside because you are seeing 10 corners for a lap, 7 right handers and 3 left, so it seems that it should be easy but it is anything but. And that’s because it’s a lot of hard accelerating and a lot of hard braking and if you make an error anyway, with the closeness of the lap times, then the error ends up being much bigger than you think and that’s what’s really important.
“Staying behind the riders, staying in the fast group, is going to be of the utmost importance for this particular weekend, as we have seen in the past usually the victor comes from the last lap. Riders are very close and that’s because they try and out brake one other going into the final corners, Turns 9 and 10, but it is something very special to see, as I said, and Red Bull puts on a great show.”
“The reason why I chose Suzuki for number 4 is because of the commendable ride by Alex Rins in Brno. Moving from 11th on the grid all the way up to fourth and nearly getting the podium from Zarco on the last lap. It’s so commendable from Alex, still carrying the injury with his shoulder. If you look back at the beginning of the year things looked so good for Joan Mir and Alex Rins in pre-season testing and going through the motions, but for the Spanish GP Alex didn’t race in it because obviously he had injured his shoulder in quali, Joan Mir crashed.
“The second race we thought there would be no way Rins would be able to race, and not only did he race, but he finished 10th, and then going into the Czech Republic, you know, qualifying 11th, obviously a bit stronger, but still carrying that injury, which is a tough injury to have, to make his way from 11th on the grid to 4th place was exceptional. Suzuki and all the riders and the fans and the competitors could not congratulate him enough; it was awesome. The other thing about Joan Mir, I have to talk about his side of the garage, is the fact that I just don’t think he has had the right breaks yet.
“You know he crashed in the first race, probably due to nerves and things like that when Alex wasn't there, but in the 2nd race he finished 7th, only 2 seconds from a podium position at the Andalucia race. And then, last week, in Brno, he qualified 9th, but unfortunately he was taken out by Iker Lecuona. Not his fault. So much like what we saw from Franco Morbidelli and from Bagnaia I think it's just a matter of time for Joan Mir before he gets it right. I’m hoping maybe it’ll be this weekend that we can see more of what the Suzuki really has, and I think they can play a big part in this Championship with a friendly bike.”
“One of the things that caught our eye when we were thinking about number 5 was the podium that we saw last week was so exceptional it was fantastic to see a first time winner and not only in the shape of a rookie in Brad Binder, but a first time for a manufacturer at the same time. How big was that? That was just incredible. And then second place going to Mr nice guy, Franco Morbidelli, first time on the podium, a second place. And of course our favourite long lap rider, and I think it’s going to be a while before anyone finishes on the podium after doing a long lap, but long lap wizard Johann Zarco.
“Each manufacturer, going through this official team vs satellite team, we’ve got Yamahas that are leading the Championship at the moment. In fact, two of them are from the satellite team of Petronas, with Morbidelli in 3rd now, Quarta obviously first, and the official bike of Maverick in the middle at the moment, and Dovi sitting tied in third but really 4th. The Ducatis have two podiums, one in the shape of the factory bike of Andrea Dovizioso but one now of the shape of the satellite bike of Zarco. I think it’s interesting to see going into the next race how this plays out. Whether or not some manufacturers go back to old things that sometimes work better than the new stuff and we’ll see how it goes. I’m super excited about this race and whoever is writing these columns for me I want to say thanks and let me know if you need anything else let me know.
“The fact that we have got these three guys up at the front, bam! It happened, it was awesome to see, we’re still buzzing about it. And we’re still going, ‘what happened’? When you look back at what happened, finishing 7th for Quarta, 11th for Dovi and 14th for Maverick, the guys who are running 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the Championship to get beat that bad by these guys. Let’s see who comes out on top after Spielberg on Sunday. And don’t forget we’ve got a back to back.”
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