Take two: MotoGP™ ready for another stunner in Spielberg

Rise and shine! After a history maker of a Styrian GP, we’re ready to go again at the glorious Red Bull Ring

You know how it is, you wait all summer for a MotoGP™ race weekend… and then two come along at once! The venue remains the same as we race back-to-back at the emblematic Red Bull Ring, but there’s plenty to talk about on take two as we return for the Bitci Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich, not least of all our first time winner: Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing).

A quick blitz through the stats: rookie, first Independent Team rider to win on a Ducati, first Pramac Racing win with Ducati, first rookie to win with an Independent Team, and only fifth rookie to win in MotoGP™: Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and the legendary Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo are the other members of that club. And Martin did it from his second pole position of his rookie season, with little drama and a whole load of speed. That must make him a favourite as we return to the track, but likewise the man he just defeated: Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar).

The reigning Champion has a great record in Austria; it’s where he took his first Grand Prix win and later, his first premier class podium too. He’s added another to that in the Styrian GP, which is his best of the year so far, and he also set the fastest lap for the first time in MotoGP™. So Mir will surely be a threat, but can he take another step forward to go one better on Sunday?

Given he’s now moved up to third overall in the standings, a few of his rivals will be hoping not – even more than the rest. Ducati Lenovo Team duo Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller are the two key names shuffled down in the standings, and they’ll want to come back stronger on take two… especially having watched the Red Bull Ring remain Ducati territory, just not theirs. Bagnaia at least had a good qualifying and first start to set him up for more this time around, and Miller had a good weekend too – until he crashed. The Australian didn’t have the pace of the Martin-Mir duo in the lead, but he was stalking Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) for the podium and has made looking for redemption work for him before.

Quartararo, meanwhile, already found some for Yamaha at a venue that’s usually a tougher one for the Iwata marque. When you’re leading the Championship and realise you can’t win, what do you do? The next best thing possible, which a podium more than fulfilled for the Frenchman – and he was ultimately a few places ahead of closest challenger Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) to compound the good day’s work. Can he do it again if the likes of Bagnaia and Miller come out swinging? Time will tell, and it will for former polesitter at the venue Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) after more bad luck for the Spaniard.

On the note of Zarco, however, the more veteran Pramac rider did start the last lap fourth and only one place behind Quartararo. He had a solid weekend and was the second Ducati home, after all. But he didn’t come home in fourth, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) saw to that, and he’ll want to figure out his teammate’s secret to the Red Bull Ring and take back some ground on Quartararo as a minimum.

So what about KTM and the aforementioned South African? The weekend was a rollercoaster for the Austrian marque from the off. Dani Pedrosa’s (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) wildcard put him top KTM on Friday, and drama hit early for Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) as the Portuguese rider highsided and was left riding through the pain barrier thereafter. Meanwhile Binder spent the day, and the day after, MIA from the top ten… but the story changed somewhat on Sunday.

From P16 on the grid, taking fourth place is an impressive performance. Doing so in a race where there were no big dramas ahead on track and on a day that, despite the weather forecast, stayed dry, made it even more so. For a final flourish, the South African also managed to get past both Zarco and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) on just the final lap alone… so can he repeat his incredible race, and from a starting position giving him a little less work to do? It was a spectacular reminder of just how and why he was the most recent rookie winner before Martin.

So Binder could be one to watch, and Oliveira will have hopefully gained from some days off to heal and get some better Sunday luck to pick up where his form left off before summer. Both will likely be getting some more Pedrosa feedback as the MotoGP™ Legend returns to test duty too. Can KTM territory ring more true on take two?

Honda, meanwhile, had a mixed bag too. Nakagami was top Honda on Sunday and whilst he did lose out to Binder, he gained on Zarco and the result was a top five. That’s encouraging after a tougher season at times, and likewise the performance of teammate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) as he got back in the top ten and showed some serious pace. Can they build on that in the Austrian GP?

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) did pip Alex Marquez in the end and took eighth – via a couple of higher profile moments – but he’ll want more this time around. And his teammate Pol Espargaro too, after a late penalty compounded a tough weekend, as did the restart. Can they find more in the second run at it?

Finally, for Aprilia the promise was there but the luck was not. For Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) less than anyone as the Italian made contact with Pedrosa’s fallen bike and the results made for a dramatic Red Flag moment. He was up and ok after the incident, but an ankle fracture was found in further checks and after surgery, he’s sidelined. On the restart Aleix Espargaro then suffered a retirement, so he’ll be looking to restart his consistent run of form this season as we get back in business at the Red Bull Ring, alone in the Noale garage this weekend at least.

A rookie winner, a Ducati winner… a reigning Champion on a charge and a Yamaha locking out the podium was quite a spread of headlines. What will Spielberg deliver in the Bitci Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich? Find out on Sunday as the lights go out at 14:00 (GMT +2).

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