Ducati’s return to MotoGP’s winner’s circle, Johann Zarco’s decimation of the Moto2 field, and how Romano Fenati lost the most-coveted Moto3 ride in the paddock…if we’re talking about all these things then it must be the Austrian GP, and it must be Episode 35 of the Paddock Pass Podcast.
This installment of your two-wheeled racing addiction sees David Emmett, Neil Morrison, Tony Goldsmith, and Scott Jones covering all the major topics from MotoGP’s first stop at the Red Bull Ring, along with some pointed insights.
The Austrian track is officially the fastest circuit on the GP calendar, and unofficially it might be the most picturesque as well. The guys talk about the new venue, and the racing it produced. There’s a lot to cover though, so the show is a healthy hour and thirty minutes. We think you’ll enjoy it though.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
The rain finally came at 7:30pm, just as we were leaving the track. From Saturday night, the threat of rain at 2pm on Sunday – race time, local time – had hung over the Red Bull Ring in Austria, scaring riders at the prospect of racing on the circuit in the wet.
Though everyone feared the effect of the rain on the excessive asphalt run-off, some were more worried than others. After two dismal results in the wet, Jorge Lorenzo had to get his championship back on track. In the cold and the wet, Lorenzo struggled. In the sun, Lorenzo could shine. Even against the Ducatis.
He got his wish, as did the reported 95,000 people in the crowd, who had flocked to the Austrian circuit for their first taste of Grand Prix motorcycle racing in the country for the better part of twenty years.
And what a taste it was. A brutal, thrilling opener of a Moto3 race, competitive to the line, with a new and popular winner. A fierce fight in Moto2, which took two-thirds of the race to settle. And a scintillating and intense MotoGP race that had the crowd holding their breath.
The Spielberg track may not be a classic motorcycle track, but it produced some fantastic racing from the Grand Prix bikes.
So much for Ducati domination. Sure, the two factory Ducatis are on the front row, Andrea Iannone on pole, Andrea Dovizioso in third, but they did not destroy the competition in qualifying the way they did so in practice on Friday.
Austria is still Ducati’s best chance of a win since Casey Stoner left for Honda at the end of the 2010 season, but it is no longer the sure thing it seemed on Friday.
What happened? A lot of things, but most of all, the weather improved dramatically. That certainly helped Jorge Lorenzo find some confidence, and put him back into contention after a couple of tough races. Valentino Rossi found some acceleration, and improved his pace.
Marc Márquez worked on making up on the brakes what he is losing in acceleration. That puts the Ducatis, the Yamahas, and Márquez all within a tenth or two of each other in race pace. We really are going to have to wait for the fat lady to start singing on this one.
It’s the Sachsenring all over again. Or almost: when the MotoGP bikes were here in July, air temperatures were in the low 30s, and track temperature was around 50°C. During FP1, the air temperature was just 9°, and track temperature was 14°C.
“The temperature this morning was pretty extreme,” Jorge Lorenzo said after practice was over. “Only a few times in my life have we been riding in such cold conditions.”
Cold temperatures meant cold tire crashes, especially in the morning. The most obvious was Dani Pedrosa’s crash, who fell at Turn 9 as he touched the front brake, the front folding as if the track were wet.
The crash caused the session to be red-flagged, as Pedrosa’s Honda ended up puncturing the air fence and landing on top of the tire barrier.
The crash seemed to be a warning of the excesses of tarmac run off, but Pedrosa was happy that there wasn’t a gravel trap at the edge of the track. “I crashed in fifth gear, so I was going very fast,” Pedrosa said.
“From one point of view I think, most of the run-off area was asphalt so maybe the bike didn’t decelerate enough. But on the other side I was very lucky it was only asphalt, because I crashed so fast that if I went into the gravel I would have tumbled over and over with a lot of speed.”
There are upsides to asphalt run off sometimes.
Andrea Iannone was to be the next Alien. Throughout his career in MotoGP, he has shown that he has plenty of talent, having bagged five podiums since his ascension into the factory Ducati team. But his decision making has always been questioned, Iannone having a history of rash moves.
All that seemed to change in 2015, with the Italian showing a new found maturity all year. His risk assessment was better, not making moves that would probably not come off, and settling for available points rather than throwing a good result away.
Some people, including myself, put the difference down to the shoulder injury he was carrying, making him think a fraction longer before acting. Whatever the cause, the end result was a fifth place in the 2015 championship.
Having been given the chance to heal over the winter, his shoulder is much stronger in 2016. Iannone’s decision making, however, is now much worse. The Italian stands eighth in the championship, despite having racked up two podiums in nine races.
The second day of testing at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria saw the Ducatis continue to dominate the timesheets, as times continued to tumble.
It was Andrea Iannone’s turn to top the timesheets, the Italian posting a very fast lap to beat his teammate Andrea Dovizioso by nearly half a second.
Test rider Casey Stoner set the third fastest time, though a late fall at the end of the session hampered any further improvement. Stoner put the fall down to using soft tires for the first time in four years.
He was unhurt in the crash, but ran out of time to get back out on track. Stoner has spent all his time testing the GP16 without wings, while the two factory riders tested the bike with wings.
The Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, venue for the Austrian round of MotoGP, appears to be a Ducati track. At the end of the first day of testing for the MotoGP riders in Austria, Andrea Dovizioso topped the timesheets, nearly six tenths clear of his factory Ducati teammate Andrea Iannone.
Scott Redding set the third fastest time of the day, just ahead of official test rider, Casey Stoner. There is persistent paddock gossip that Stoner is using this test to gauge his competitiveness, with a view to racing as a wildcard at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Given Stoner’s long association with Red Bull, and the fact that nobody has raced at the Red Bull Ring (except for Valentino Rossi, who raced a 125 there in 1996 and 1997, and Jack Miller, who raced a 125 there in 2011 in the German IDM championship), it gives him the best chance of being competitive.
Maverick Viñales was the first non-Ducati in fifth place, but he was squeezed in between three more Ducatis, with Hector Barbera, Eugene Laverty and Danilo Petrucci taking slots six through nine.