The CryptoDATA Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich signals the most important weekend of the season for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing as the Austrian factory aim to do something they’ve done twice in the last three visits to the Red Bull Ring: win.
After a sensational start to the season with Brad Binder picking up a rostrum in Qatar and Miguel Oliveira claiming a sodden victory in Indonesia, KTM have gone without a podium since. However, Silverstone plated up plenty of promise that they’re returning to form, with Oliveira finishing in P6, just 2.7s shy of race winner Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team).
Of course, KTM will be hoping for more than a P6 at the Red Bull Ring – a place at which they haven’t exactly been starved for success recently. Oliveira and Binder are both winners in KTM and Red Bull’s backyard in the last two years; the Portuguese rider in 2020 and the South African in that unforgettable, rain-effected 2021 battle last year. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) is also a rostrum finisher with KTM when the Spaniard finished P3 behind Oliveira and future KTM star Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) in 2020 at the Styrian GP.
With the likes of Aprilia, Ducati, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and at times Suzuki performing at such a high level, KTM’s difficulties – especially on a Saturday afternoon – have been heightened. As Oliveira demonstrated at Silverstone, they’re not far away from challenging the podium places again and if it wasn’t for Binder’s tyre choice mistake in the UK, then it could have been a double top six heading into their home Grand Prix.
The good news is both riders are fond of the circuit and with weather forecasts suggesting rain is set to play a lead role in proceedings this weekend, KTM should be heading into Round 13 of the campaign confident that additional success can be achieved on familiar turf. That aforementioned Oliveira’s triumph in Mandalika was the only wet race we’ve had this season, is Sunday’s the next?
Time will tell on that matter. But even if it’s dry, KTM are clawing back the deficit they’ve faced in 2022. Qualifying remains the Achilles’ heal though. Oliveira came from 13th to finish 6th at the British GP and only has two top 10 results to his name on a Saturday. Binder, meanwhile, has had three top 10s in qualifying – the first two came in Qatar and Indonesia, and the other was a P10 at Assen. Oliveira commented after Silverstone they need a better bike in qualifying.
There’d be no better place for a rostrum return than the Red Bull Ring for KTM. A good Saturday outing will give them a great chance of doing so – and so might the weather.