As the dust settles on yet another frantically fantastic qualifying day in 2020, we’ve decided to check out who is looking like they’ve got superior race pace at the myWorld Austrian Grand Prix, based on the Free Practice 4 timesheets.
There are two standouts. One is Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro – “riding angry” after the disappointment of the Czech GP – and last year’s race winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). To put it simply, Pol Espargaro’s FP4 long run was stunning until a crash at Turn 9 with around six minutes to go.
With a new front-hard and medium-rear, Espargaro strung 12 flying laps together – 13 if you count the chalked off lap time – at an average of a 1:24.478. The Spaniard only strayed above a 1:24.5 on three occasions, with his second best time coming on his 13th lap, before the number 44 followed elder brother Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) into the Turn 9 gravel trap. And on that lap, Polyccio had set his personal best first sector. The signs are good for Pol Espargaro and KTM as the Austrian factory get set to challenge for their second win on the bounce.
But two-time Red Bull Ring race winner Dovizioso will be hoping he can have a say in proceedings. Judging by the FP4 timesheets alone, Dovizioso only did five 1:24s in the 30-minute stint, three of those came on a rear-soft tyre that was at least 12 laps old though, and a front-medium that was at least seven laps old. A best time of 1:24.408 put Dovi third in the session, but his final lap of 1:24.849 was done on tyres that were 15 and 20 laps old – not bad. Like always, expect Dovizioso to be fighting for the win in Ducati territory.
What about Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT)? The Frenchman starts from P3 and finished ninth in FP4, but his final run on heavily used tyres saw Quartararo set a 1:24.774 – his quickest time of the session – and a 1:24.879. El Diablo maintains it’s about damaged limitation in Austria, but the 21-year-old is definitely in with a rostrum shout.
Fellow Frenchman Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) did four mid-to-high 1:24s on a 10-lap old rear soft tyre in his first run, with Zarco also able to get into the 1:24s on his second run with eight and 15-lap old tyres. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and teammate Joan Mir also look pretty good in race-spec, judging from FP4.
Without a doubt though, Pol Espargaro showed superior race pace than anyone else in FP4. But 30 minutes in FP4 is completely different from the pressure cooker that will face the riders on Sunday afternoon, with a lot of riders probably not showing their true colours in FP4. We also have to factor in what the weather might muster up, with rain expected on race day at the Red Bull Ring.
Rain or shine, we’re set for another classic in Austria. KTM have a real chance of home glory with Pol Espargaro, but anything can happen. Tune in for race day at 11:00 local time (GMT+2) where Moto3™ will kick off proceedings, with Moto2™ (12:20) and MotoGP™ (14:00) following.