Austrian GP, Red Bull Ring: Race Weekend Preview – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
It’s been three weeks since the roar of the MotoGP™ World Championship erupted from a racetrack, fans and riders alike itching for action to begin again. The wait is almost over as the NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich is here, the World Championship heading to Austria for the first time since 1997.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) is the only rider in the premier class to have raced in a Grand Prix in Austria before; ‘The Doctor’ took second in the 125cc race at the old Spielberg circuit. Since then the track has undergone several changes and is now known as the Red Bull Ring – Spielberg. Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) has raced the new layout, back in 2011 when competing in the 125cc German championship. Safe to says his RC213V is a little quicker.
Almost every rider on the grid comes to the circuit with some track knowledge thanks to a two-day private test after the German GP. While times were unofficial, laps in the 1’23s look to be the benchmark around the 4.3km long track. Top end speed also looks set to be a key feature, Ducati dominating the two-day test as a result.
Neither Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) nor Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) were in attendance at the test and could throw up some big surprises over the course of the weekend. Marquez heads into the second half of the year with some pressure removed, a comfortable 48-point advantage over Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) meaning he’ll leave the Red Bull Ring as the championship leader no matter what happens.
Both Lorenzo and Rossi need wins after struggles in Assen and Germany, neither able to finish on the podium or even finish inside the top five. These are Yamaha’s worst results since the end of 2007. Top end speed has never been Yamaha’s strongest point; Austria could be another tough weekend.
Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was able to pose a threat to Ducati’s domination during the private test. Both he and Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) are hoping for a dry weekend, the GSX-RR struggling in the past wet races. A focus on electronics during the private test should help them start the GP weekend on the right track.
Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) are the only riders to have not ridden the Red Bull Ring before, Tech 3 not participating in the private test.
Michele Pirro will make another wildcard appearance riding in red for the Ducati Team.
The German GP seems almost a lifetime ago for the Moto2™ World Championship who have had over three weeks away from Grand Prix racing. That’s not to say the riders have been doing nothing during the break, everyone on the grid has kept in top physical condition and some, such as Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten), were out competing in the Suzuka 8-Hour.
With just ten corners, the Austrian circuit is deceivingly simple. As a new circuit you can expect a number of new names towards the top, some riders learning new circuits easier than others and some teams quicker than the rest to find the ideal settings. Most riders on the grid had a chance to run at the circuit during a private test, but a race weekend presents a very different level of pressure.
Now it’s time to get back to the task at hand, for Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) the weekend presents a great possibility to extend his championship lead yet again. The French rider took a decisive win in Germany and arrives in Austria with a comfortable 25-point cushion over his rivals. There’s no past form to rely on at the Red Bull Ring, Zarco looking to attack from the off.
Chasing Zarco is Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) who had been matched on points until Germany. The Spaniard fell while on track for a podium, lucky to escape injury in the fall but needs to start consistently finishing on the podium to catch Zarco. Both of them will more to the premier class in 2017, so this isn’t the last Zarco-Rins battle we’re likely to see.
Like Rins, Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) arrives in Austria looking to get his championship challenge back on track. The Brit got a chance to sample the Aprilia RS-GP during the MotoGP™ track so certainly knows the circuit. He’s 30 points off the championship lead, but you can guarantee he’ll fight right till the end.
Behind the leading trio there are a number of names including Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten), Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) who have shown the speed and ability to fight for the win. The battles are only going to get harder from the Austrian GP onwards, riders and teams looking to sort out and finalise contracts for 2017. What better way to prove you deserve to keep your seat than winning the first Austrian GP?
The Moto2™ riders will get their first official taste of the Red Bull Ring – Spielberg when they head out for Free Practice 1 at 10:55 Local Time on Friday.
It’s all new for the Moto3™ World Championship as the second half of 2016 begins, the class set to tackle the NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich head on. Everyone is fresh and healthy after the traditional mid-season break and ready to try and catch Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo).
The South African didn’t have the most spectacular of weekends in Germany but his championship lead is still more than healthy at 47-points. Binder is one of only two riders to win more than once and has only missed the podium on two occasions. Two races without a podium has him hungrier than ever for the rostrum.
Even with a still healing leg, Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) managed to claw back a point on Binder in Germany. He’s had the entire break to continue his recovery and begins the final nine races of the year determined to win. With the points difference as big as it, win is all the young Spaniard can do.
Behind the leading two are six Italians all fighting for national pride. Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) currently leads them in third place overall, but with only 35 points splitting all six; it’s not over just yet. In fourth Francesco Bagnaia (Pull & Bear Mahindra Team) poses the most immediate threat to Fenati’s ‘top Italian’ crown.
Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46) heads to a circuit on equal footing for the first time in 2016. The Italian rookie has shown he’s a quicker learner and a level playing field in terms of track knowledge could be the boost he needs to get back on the podium.
Bulega isn’t the only rookie to keep an eye on, if it’s wet then Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia) steps forward as an immediate race favourite. The Malaysian has been simply impossible to catch in the wet and is the only rider other than Binder to take more than a single win in 2016.
Marcos Ramirez will, from now on, be the replacement for Danny Webb (Platinum Bay Real Estate) and for this event only, Alexis Masbou (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) is being substituted by Albert Arenas.
The Moto3™ World Championship will be the first on track at the new Red Bull Ring – Spielberg, hitting the circuit at 09:00 Local Time for Free Practice 1.