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
Tuesday, 10 August 2021
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).
MotoGP™ Championship top five:
1 Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – 172
2 Johann Zarco* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – 132
3 Joan Mir – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – 121
4 Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 114
5 Jack Miller – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 100
*Independent Team rider
Can Red Bull KTM Ajo strike back against Bezzecchi?
For only the second time this season, neither Gardner nor Raul Fernandez were on the rostrum. Will that change as Moto2™ returns to the Red Bull Ring?
There has been one constant for the vast majority of the 2021 Moto2™ season so far: one or both Red Bull KTM Ajo riders on the podium. But in the Styrian GP it proved not so, with Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) ruling the venue once more and with some serious speed. As we head into the second back-to-back weekend in Austria, can the orange machines fight back?
Championship leader Remy Gardner (Red Bull KT Ajo), certainly, looked to have the raw speed – and took pole – but the Australian had a couple of uncharacteristic moments, one of which sealed his fate of a finish off the podium. But uncharacteristic is the key word, with the number 87’s form so far this season having been so imperious, and he took a good finish and some good points despite that run off. Bezzecchi also said he’d improved a couple of things in his riding from watching how Gardner attacked the venue, so the two surely lead the bets heading into the Austrian GP…
Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo), meanwhile, had a tougher weekend as he came home in seventh – his worst Moto2™ finish to date. With plenty of talk around the Spaniard and his future it was a busy weekend on track and off, so will some serenity return at Spielberg this time around?
In the end, it was Aron Canet (Aspar Team Moto2) who emerged as the rider putting the pressure on Bezzecchi, so the Spaniard should be one to watch again. He’s also got a bowtie to explain too, which he says he’ll do when he wins. Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) was also back on the podium and although he acknowledged a little luck playing its part there, the Spaniard backed up his speed from Assen. Is there more in the locker? And what about his teammate Sam Lowes, who, like Gardner, also paid the price for a run off and dropped down the order?
Finally, there is another rider who created a little Jaws music on Sunday for those ahead of him: Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia). The Japanese rookie fell foul of track limits, got a Long Lap penalty and then another that took him out of podium contention, but he was fast – fastest lap fast, and more than once. He’d also not only been homing in on a debut Moto2™ podium, but the race lead… so with even more fire from feeling he could have left the Styrian GP with more, can Ogura get back in that fight for victory?
The Bitci Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich sees the lights go out for Moto2™ at 12:20 (GMT +2).
Moto2™ Championship top five:
1 Remy Gardner – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 197
2 Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 162
3 Marco Bezzecchi – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex – 153
4 Sam Lowes – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – 101
5 Fabio Di Giannantonio – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – Kalex – 76
Acosta vs Garcia: a replay in Moto3™?
Sunday was a stunner. But the two were well matched before race day rolled round…
The Moto3™ race at the Styrian GP was an all-time great. Tricky conditions, a little tyre intrigue, and the top two in the Championship leaving the field in the dust for their own duel made for an electrifying contest – and a final lap and corner that will become legendary in the lightweight class. Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Sergio Garcia (Santander Consumer Bank GASGAS Aspar) were in a league of their own on Sunday, and now we’re going to do it all again. Can they?
The first thing we learned from the Styrian GP is that Acosta only continues to deserve his hype. He didn’t need to win, but he put it on the line to do just that – and pulled it off. A few points would have been fine for the rider now 53 points clear at the top of the standings, but Pedro Acosta doesn’t really race for a few points. He also showed he’s still a master of the Red Bull Ring as the stakes rose from five Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup wins in a row to his first Moto3™ appearance at the track. So heading into the Austrian GP, there’s a clear favourite at the top – and that gap is even bigger.
The second thing we learned, however, is that Garcia will also put it on the line… and the stakes for the Aspar rider were arguably even higher than those for Acosta. His lunge down the inside, squarely underlining a belief in rubbing sometimes very much being racing, was a statement in itself – even if it didn’t ultimately secure him the win. If he hadn’t remounted and managed to hold onto second, he could have ended up taking himself out of real contention for the crown, and he was still willing to go for it. Looking ahead to the Austrian GP, there’s no reason to expect him to turn down the chance on take two. And he and Acosta were already firm favourites in Free Practice in the dry…
A few more fast faces made a good mark in der Steiermark too though. Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) was back on the box, already has winning form there and went for a late move, also completing the PR dream to make it a KTM, GASGAS, Husqvarna podium. Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was back in a frontrunning postcode after a tougher rollercoaster so far, and Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) returned from injury to get straight back into the top five, as ever aiming for more next time out.
Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing), meanwhile, somehow outpaced everyone else on slicks by the kind of margin that would normally contain the entirety of the points scorers… and took a top six. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) deserves a shoutout too for his pole position – the first for Turkey – and then taking the gamble, which on another day may have proven a masterstroke. But that’s racing, and that’s what we’re returning to the Red Bull Ring to do this weekend.
Acosta remains the man to beat, but Garcia already showed he’s willing to put a lot on the line to try and do just that. What awaits in the Bitci Motorrand Grand Prix von Österreich? If it’s anything like last weekend, we’re in for a treat! The lights go out for Moto3™ at 11:00 (GMT +2).
Moto3™ Championship top five:
1 Pedro Acosta – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 183
2 Sergio Garcia – Santander Consumer Bank GASGAS Aspar – GASGAS – 130
3 Romano Fenati – Sterilgarda Max Racing Team – Husqvarna – 96
4 Dennis Foggia – Leopard Racing – Honda – 86
5 Jaume Masia – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 85