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MotoGP

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Spielberg: A Titanic Battle, A Title Getting Closer, & Criticizing Struggling Factories

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Riders, teams, journalists, fans, almost everyone likes to complain about the layout of the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg. Three fast straights connected by hairpins, with a long left hand corner thrown in for the sake of variety.

The facilities and setting may be magnificent, but the track layout is pretty dire. Coming from the spectacular, flowing layout of Brno, the contrast could hardly be greater.

And yet the Red Bull Ring consistently manages to produce fantastic racing. The combined gap between first and second place across all three classes on Sunday was 0.867 seconds, and nearly half a second of that was down to Moto3.







The MotoGP race was decided on the last lap again, just as it had been in 2017, though the race was decided at Turn 3, rather than the final corner. Spielberg once again served up a breathtaking battle for MotoGP fans, with a deserved winner, and the rest of the podium riders losing with valor and honor.

If we were to be picky about it, it would be to complain that the protagonists of the MotoGP race were rather predictable.

It is no surprise that the factory Ducatis would play a role at the front of the race: a Ducati had won in Austria in the previous two races, and the long straights from slow corners are almost made to measure for the Desmosedici’s balance of power, mechanical grip, acceleration, and braking stability.







Nor was it a surprise that Marc Márquez should be involved, the gains made by Honda in acceleration giving the RC213V the tools to tackle the Ducatis.

Best Served Cold

Márquez had also just been pipped to the line by Andrea Dovizioso in 2017.

In 2018, he was out for revenge. With a comfortable lead in the championship, at a circuit owned by one of his biggest personal sponsors, and the only one on the calendar at which he has not yet won a race (barring Thailand, of course: no one has won there yet), Marc Márquez lined up gunning for victory, and not inclined to settle for anything else.







That goal is what dictated Márquez’ tire choice. The Repsol Honda rider knew that his best chance of victory lay in trying to whittle down the opposition to as few rivals (or in this case, Ducatis) as possible.

He had put something close to race distance on the mediums in FP1, then the softs in FP4, the only two sessions which were properly dry over the weekend. On Sunday morning, he did a long run with the hard rear, so he had data to base his decision on. It would come down to strategy.

“It was difficult to choose the tire today,” Márquez said after the race. “I was between medium and hard but then I say, okay, I will choose the safe option for me because I know that the hard should arrive better in the end of the race.”

The hard tire would allow him to attack from the beginning. “I chose the hard because my strategy was to push from the beginning. Just push, just try to make a small group for the last laps.”

“The goal was this. To just arrive with one Ducati in the end. I know that if I have the hard, the rhythm was good. They need to use the tire because they need to follow me.”

From Strategy to Reality

He put his strategy into action almost from the start. Andrea Dovizioso got into the first corner in the lead, despite Márquez getting a better jump off the line.

The Repsol Honda rider made his intentions brutally clear in Turn 3, after the run up the hill, trying to dive up the inside of Dovizioso and pushing the Italian and himself wide in the attempt.

Unfortunately, that left the door wide open for Jorge Lorenzo. Márquez had slowed both himself and Dovizioso down so much that Lorenzo could slide up the inside, and allowed Alex Rins and Cal Crutchlow to use their much better drive out of Turn 3 and get past Dovizioso and almost take second place away from Márquez.

That early mistake would come back to haunt Márquez at the end of the race. But there were still a lot of laps left to go.

Down the straight to Turn 4, Dovizioso disposed of the interlopers who had come between Márquez and himself. The order at the front was set, and though Rins tried to get back past the Ducati of Dovizioso, the Italian would brook no challengers.

Having failed once, Marc Márquez tried again at Turn 3 on the following lap. This time, his block pass was more clinical, and consequently more successful. He dived up the inside of Lorenzo on the brakes, occupied the line which the Ducati had hoped to take, and made a gap.

Making a Break

Márquez could try to execute his plan. He put the hammer down and tried to open a gap to the Ducatis behind him. He succeeded, albeit slowly, eking out an advantage a few hundredths at a time. Jorge Lorenzo held second spot, patiently lapping and keeping Márquez in his sights.

Impatience sat on Lorenzo’s tail, in the form of Andrea Dovizioso. Dovizioso is one of the latest brakers on the grid, but even he couldn’t get past the last-second braking of Lorenzo at Spielberg.

Dovizioso was being punished by his choice of the medium rear tire for the race. “At the end maybe the tire choice wasn’t the best,” the Italian said, “but also I couldn’t overtake Jorge.”

“I used maybe too much the rear tire to try to overtake Jorge and I couldn’t overtake him. I was faster in that part of the race, but I couldn’t really prepare in the best way the overtaking.”

Dovizioso pushed and probed, but could not make his way past. It looked as if he was being held up by Lorenzo, and perhaps he was, but all the while Lorenzo was holding Dovizioso up, he was also dragging them both closer to Marc Márquez.

The Ducati pair chipped away at the Repsol Honda rider’s lead, cutting it down from nearly a second to less than the blink of an eye.

No Escape

At the end of lap 17, Lorenzo had brought his teammate with him to latch onto the tail of Márquez.

The Repsol Honda’s strategy appeared to have failed: he had hoped to go to the line with just a single Ducati Desmosedici GP18, yet here he was with two of them snapping at his heels. Did he have a backup plan for disposing of one of the two?

That problem took care of itself. Having arrived on Márquez’s tail, Jorge Lorenzo was determined to make his way past as quickly as possible.

As they howled down the front straight towards the first corner, Lorenzo drew level with the Repsol Honda and went for the pass. Behind him, Dovizioso tucked into Márquez’s slipstream ready to pounce should the opportunity present itself.

But Dovizioso was a little closer than he thought, and he missed his braking point by a fraction. The Italian found himself heading for the rear wheel of the Repsol Honda much quicker than he had expected, and was forced to sit up a fraction and run wide.

Forced to slow in the runoff in Turn 1, Dovizioso had lost the tow. With not enough tire left to stay with the two Spaniards, Dovizioso was left stuck in third.

“I did a small mistake, but already I was in trouble with the right side on the rear tire,” Dovizioso explained afterward. “Unfortunately, I lost too much when I went out of the track.”

“I couldn’t ride in a good way for three laps because the drop of the rear tire was making it very difficult for me to exit the corner in three corners, and I was losing too much.”

Neither Márquez nor Lorenzo had much left either, Dovizioso observed. “At the end also they didn’t have really the tires to make a good lap time. I wasn’t too far at the beginning, but the problem is I lose the grip too early to stay close to them and try to stay with them and fight in the last two laps.”

Serendipity

A small mistake by Dovizioso had given Márquez what he wanted, though was too busy trying to fend off Jorge Lorenzo to notice just yet. After being passed by Lorenzo into Turn 1, Márquez’s plan was to strike back immediately at Turn 3.

He dived up the inside of the Ducati at the top of the hill, in much the same way he had on Lap 2, braking late and putting himself exactly where Lorenzo wanted to be to get the best drive.

Márquez led once again, and this time, he only had a single Ducati to worry about. But he didn’t realize just how worried he should have been: Lorenzo had spent Saturday studying video of himself riding, especially through the third sector of the track, the long left handers before the final double right heading back to the front straight.

It was where Márquez had gained so much in 2017, but this year, Lorenzo easily had the measure of the Repsol Honda rider. He stuck right on Márquez’ tail through Turns 6 and 7, opening up a beautifully clinical pass up the inside of the Honda into Turn 9, holding his line through the final corner and leading again.

“The big improvement I made in the sector three was also key,” Lorenzo told the press conference after the race, “because yesterday I was losing almost two tenths there compared to Marc and Dovi.”

“Then I made a big improvement in one afternoon. Trying to watch some videos, trying to understand which position of my body I need to change to be faster in that sector.”

“It really, really worked. During the race I was improving and improving in that sector and I was catching Marc in that sector where we were losing a lot last year.”

Not Going Down Without a Fight

He may have conceded the lead, but Marc Márquez was in no mood to concede the race. While Lorenzo tried to make a break at the front, Márquez kept him honest.

It was taking some effort, however: Márquez’s strongest point was braking up the hill into Turn 3, but he came close to losing the front on lap after lap there, the bike snaking as he tipped it in to the tight right hander.

With three laps to go, he finally made it through. But once again, his lead would be short lived, Lorenzo closing through gap through the third sector once again and coming back with a much more aggressive pass through Turn 9.

The aggression of that pass had been born of necessity, the ferocity of the battle increasing as the laps ticked off. But it left Márquez closer, and though he was not quite within striking range going into Turn 1, the Repsol Honda rider had another chance at Turn 3.

The same block pass, with the same outcome: Márquez back in the lead, with Lorenzo sitting right on his tail. The Repsol Honda rider needed only to hold the Ducati off for just under two laps. But with Lorenzo in this mood, that would not be easy.

Entering Turn 9 Márquez braked later than before, wary of Lorenzo’s favorite passing point. But that left Lorenzo lined up perfectly behind him entering the straight, allowing him to use the power of the Ducati and the draft of the Honda to launch an attack along the straight.

If the battle had been fierce on the penultimate lap, it was all-out war on the final lap. Lorenzo and Márquez nearly touched along the straight, the Ducati outbraking the Honda going into Turn 1, though both bikes snaked under the strain of desperate braking.

Last Chance Saloon

Lorenzo led, but it was obvious that Márquez was coming. Turn 3 was the obvious spot, and the place where the Repsol Honda rider had been successful on previous occasions. Márquez was close enough, but the effort was too much.

Lorenzo braked hard enough for his GP18 to buck from side to side going into Turn 3. That was the target Márquez had to outbrake: he managed it, but only at the cost of locking the rear on braking, then losing the front as he turned past the apex.

The reigning world champion was lucky to lose the rear at the same time, the back sliding round to help him make the turn.

He may have made the corner, but in doing so, he had given up any gains he may have made. Lorenzo held his usual wide, sweeping line through Turn 3, exiting with more drive onto the back straight and the winding run down to Turn 4.

He had the lead, and the smallest sliver of daylight between himself and Marc Márquez.

Through the last half of the last lap, Márquez did everything he could to try to get close enough to make another pass. But the improvements Lorenzo had made in the third sector were paying off in full.

Both men squeezed everything they had out of their bikes and their tires in the last few corners, but Lorenzo’s control of the race was never in doubt.

Márquez came tantalizingly close, but never quite close enough to be able to make even a wildly optimistic attempt at a pass. Jorge Lorenzo had won this race emphatically, and Marc Márquez had been denied victory once again.

Managing Tires

The key to the race had been tire choice, Lorenzo said afterwards. “It was a great decision to use the soft rear tire, but I needed to manage a lot in the first ten laps,” the Spaniard explained. “I needed to manage a lot not to overheat the tire because it was very hot. It was very, very soft in some parts of the tire.”

It had not been easy, however. “This management of the tire at the beginning was not so much, because Marc was pushing so hard with the hard rear tire,” Lorenzo said.

“So probably I was saving 3%, 5%. Bot so much but enough to keep the life of the tire very well and wait for my moment. When Marc was start to lose a little bit of braking, stopping and especially acceleration I was starting to catch him little by little, so we went from 1.2 of disadvantage to zero.”

“The problem as always is, when you overtake Marc, Marc is with you till the end. He pushes so much, so I knew I had to fight till the end with him. And it was like that, it was a fight of two ambitious riders to the last corner.”

Márquez was disappointed, but happy to at least have had a chance. He had been at the front in Brno, but had never felt he had a chance to win that race. He had felt much better at the Red Bull Ring, he said.

“In Brno I didn’t try because I didn’t feel well, and it was like a waste of time there, because there was more chance to lose than to win, but today I try.”

The Other Ducati

He had been surprised that it had been Jorge Lorenzo rather than Andrea Dovizioso he had faced for victory, Márquez said. “I expected after looking at the race rhythms that it will be Dovi, but this time it was Jorge,” the Repsol Honda explained.

“Even like this I was there, but I saw immediately. I tried because I’m Marc, and I need to try. Every short straight he was able to overtake me, to be in parallel. It was really difficult to defend. But even like this I tried.”

The last lap had been his last chance, Márquez told the press conference. “I tried to lead the race in the last lap. He overtook me in the main straight, then I tried in turn three. I lost both the two tires. I went in too fast and I lost two tires. I nearly crashed, but then I stayed on the bike. I don’t know how, but I did.”

Lorenzo had taken back the lead there, but even if he hadn’t, Márquez knew a win was out of the question. “He overtook me again on the acceleration outside because he carried more speed,” the Repsol Honda rider said.

“But if he doesn’t overtook me there, he will overtake me between 8 and 9. But I tried. I enjoyed it a lot, and I’m happy because we increase the advantage in the championship.”

Jorge Lorenzo’s victory was important for himself, and for Ducati. The way he had won, beating Márquez at a track where the Spaniard was determined to win, had made it special, Lorenzo said.

“It’s one of my best victories, but I don’t know if it’s the best one, because luckily I got very beautiful ones in the past, not only in MotoGP but also in other categories,” he told the press conference.

“For sure, when you beat Marc it’s special. When you win with Ducati it’s special. This victory is going to be one of the special ones, apart from the first in Mugello, especially because I had to fight to the end with a monster like Marc, fight like Marc till the last lap braking very hard and take profit of my strong points. So it’s always very difficult.”

What was perhaps remarkable was the way that Lorenzo’s aggressive riding confirmed what we saw in Brno. Lorenzo rode the Ducati hard, visibly so, and made some very firm passes on Marc Márquez, something he shied away from when he was on the Yamaha.

His transformation into an aggressive Ducati rider bodes well for his transition to the Honda, when he moves there at the end of this season.

Desmo Dovi Is Watching You

Márquez extending his lead in the championship was what Andrea Dovizioso was most bitter about after the race.

The Italian had been hoping to close the gap on the Spaniard at a track which suited the Ducati down to the ground, but had been thwarted by choosing the wrong tire. Third was all there was in it after losing touch with Lorenzo and Márquez with ten laps to go.

Dovizioso may have been defeated, but he made it subtly clear that he still considered himself in the title race.

Asked in the press conference whether he thought he might be able to benefit from a crash if Lorenzo and Márquez had pushed things too far, Dovizioso went clinically through the final lap of the race, listing all the places where Márquez had come up short, or made a mistake.

“I expected some hard moves, because for sure I saw Marc’s style,” the Italian explained. “He wanted to really win this race, until at the end. But Jorge had some parts of the track where he was faster. So I expected a battle until the last corner.”

“In turn four in the last lap, Marc lost too much. He was trying to stay with [Jorge] until the last two corners, but Jorge was faster in the middle of the track, especially in the exit from turn 8.”

“Marc was trying to prepare the last corner, but he braked too late the corner before last, and he went a bit wide and he couldn’t try.”

It was a surgical dissection of Márquez’s last lap, and even Márquez himself was impressed. When Dovizioso was finished, he looked over at the Spaniard, as if to ask for confirmation.

Márquez duly granted it, nodding his head and giving the thumbs up. The message seemed clear. Dovizioso was letting know Márquez know that he was being watched, examined, and his weaknesses noted.

Another Step Closer to the Title

And yet Márquez emerged from the race as the clear victor. He extended his lead in the championship once again, as he has done at every race since Mugello.

He was helped once again by the lack of consistency among his challengers: Márquez extended his championship lead from 49 to 59 points, mainly because Valentino Rossi could manage to finish only in sixth (a strong result, under the circumstances, but more of that later).

Jorge Lorenzo may have boosted his chances by jumping from fifth to third in the title race, but he is still 71 points behind Márquez, and a single point ahead of his teammate Andrea Dovizioso.

Márquez is inching closer and closer to wrapping up his fifth MotoGP world championship, a remarkable achievement given this is his sixth season in the premier class.

Finishing third in every race is nearly enough to see off both Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo, even if either of them win the rest of the eight races left on the calendar.

Finishing second in half the remaining races, then third in the other half would be enough to thwart Valentino Rossi, should the Yamaha suddenly be transformed into a bike capable of winning the remaining eight races.

The real reason Márquez is as good as certain of wrapping up the title with three or four races to go is twofold: first and foremost, the Repsol Honda rider has been terrifyingly consistent. He has won five races, and finished second in three more. His worst result as a points scorer was third place at Brno last week, leaving him comfortably leading the table despite two no scores.

The second reason is just as significant as the first: Though Márquez has faced fierce competition, and been beaten more than he has won, the cast of characters finishing ahead of him has been different each time.

Jorge Lorenzo has won three races now, but he has also had some pretty mediocre results, finishing fifteenth in Argentina, eleventh in Austin, seventh at Assen. Andrea Dovizioso has won two races, but also had three no scores, and a fifth, a sixth, and a seventh place finish.

Valentino Rossi, still second in the championship, has not managed to win a race since last year, but retained his position in the title race by finishing top five nearly ever race, and racking up a handful of podiums. Rossi’s strength is his consistency, but he can’t match that consistency with race victories.

A Tough Season

Wins look a very long way away for Valentino Rossi, or any Yamaha rider at the moment.

The factory team is in disarray, Maverick Viñales at odds with his crew chief Ramon Forcada, and the 2018 M1 lumbered with an engine which is too aggressive to be controlled with electronics, and electronics which can’t mitigate the problems with tire wear.

Though both Rossi and Viñales have been hammering on about electronics for the best part of a year, in Austria, the Italian finally acknowledged there was also a problem with the engine.

“For me, the chassis of our bike is good,” he said. “But I agree it’s not just the electronics, it’s the engine. Because if you go on the track, Honda and Ducati change very, very much in the last year and a half and it’s a combination between engine and electronics. Difficult to understand the percentage of each, but that is the way.”

The fact that the chassis is in such good shape bodes well for the future. When Yamaha finally fix their problems, the bike should be extremely competitive.

A test at Misano this coming weekend should see a modified engine ready for the 2019 season tested, then at Aragon after Silverstone, Yamaha should have an update which can help them for the rest of the year.

But 2018 already looks lost: The Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring made it 21 races in a row without a win for Yamaha. There are tracks coming up which are a great deal more favorable for the M1 than Spielberg was, but the level of the competition is still so high that a Yamaha will struggle to take a win.

A Rabbit from a Hat

Valentino Rossi may only have finished sixth at the Red Bull Ring, but it was a truly remarkable performance, wringing more out of the bike than anyone suspected possible. Starting from a dismal fourteenth on the grid, he had fought his way forward to a very respectable result.

“I enjoyed a lot in the race, because I did a lot of overtaking, and nobody overtook me,” Rossi said. “If I can start a little bit more in front I also can fight with Petrucci for the top five. Unfortunately, already from Crutchlow they are faster than me.”

“But I think depends very much from the track. In some tracks we can suffer more and this is one of the worst. In some other tracks maybe we can suffer less, like Silverstone and Misano.”

“So we need a weekend where we are more close. Maybe it’s not enough for the podium, but stay close to the top three. The top three are a lot of times faster than me this year.”

It was mentally quite tough, Rossi admitted, because his aim this year was to fight for the podium at every race. “It’s very difficult to recalibrate, modify your expectations because when I leave home I always want to try to fight for the podium,” Rossi said.

“But this weekend we suffer a lot, but you need to have the same concentration if you want to arrive sixth instead of eighth. This is the problem! So it’s not easy.”

There have been a lot of races this year where it has been Rossi making the difference on the Yamaha. His podium at Mugello comes to mind, a race where he had no business finishing in the top three, but wrangled the Yamaha onto the podium through sheer force of will.

This race is arguably among his best of the season, snatching a reasonable result from what looked like being a disastrous and miserable weekend for Yamaha.

Character

Rossi’s result stood in stark contrast to that of his teammate, who had started the race in eleventh, and finished down in twelfth. His resilience was perhaps down to his experience in the past, Rossi said, which gave him an advantage over Maverick Viñales when dealing with tough times like this.

“For me it’s a question of experience, because I passed through a lot of bad periods, more than Maverick, who is a lot younger than me,” Rossi reflected. “But it’s also character. But I’m sure if the bike made the step, Maverick can win the first win.”

“So it’s not that he has lost, or that he is not able anymore to ride. He just needs a better bike, and after he can be more competitive the next practice for sure.”

Rossi did lay the blame for poor results firmly at the door of Yamaha, however. The racing getting closer had made the margins between triumph and disaster much slimmer, Rossi said, but that was still no excuse.

“For me, we are the factory Yamaha, so we have to look at the factory Honda and factory Ducati. Not to the rest. So we have to compare with them, not with the other bikes and at this moment we are at a disadvantage.”

That disadvantage is clear when you compare the changes in race times over the three years MotoGP has raced at the Red Bull Ring. In 2016, Andrea Iannone won the race in 39’46.255 on the Ducati.

A year later, Andrea Dovizioso won the race in a time which was three seconds faster, and this year, Jorge Lorenzo was three seconds faster still, his race time now 39’40.688.

Fastest Honda in 2016 was Marc Márquez, 12 seconds behind Iannone. Last year he was second, with a time of 39’43.499, and this year he was nearly three seconds quicker again, with a time of 39’40.818.

Contrast that with Yamaha. Valentino Rossi was the fastest Yamaha in 2016, finishing fourth in 39’50.070. A year later, Johann Zarco and Maverick Viñales finished fifth and sixth respectively on the Tech3 and Movistar Yamahas, with race times of 39’50.585, and 39’50.770.

This year, Rossi was once again the fastest Yamaha, but this time, he was four seconds slower than his race time from 2016, completing 28 laps in 39’54.714. The Ducatis and Hondas have improved steadily each year. The Yamaha has stood still, or even gone backwards.

Noale Disaster

Yamaha aren’t the only factory standing still, or going backwards. After a disastrous race for Aprilia, with Aleix Espargaro finishing seventeenth and Scott Redding ending in twentieth, both riders spoke out about a lack of progress from the factory.

Espargaro was trying hard to be both optimistic and tactful, but his comments were fairly hard nonetheless.

Had it been a difficult day, Espargaro was asked? “Yeah, very difficult,” he replied. “Difficult season. The problem stays. I can’t go fast, sincerely. I tried my best in the first part of the race, but we lose a lot in the first part of acceleration, maximum lean, and difficult to stop the bike.”

He had managed to hold his own for the first half of the race, but once tire wear became too great, it was game over.

Losing out halfway was even more frustrating than just being slow from the start. “They couldn’t overtake me, because I was super strong and very focused on the brakes,” he said.

“I was completely smashing the brakes in exactly the same place lap by lap by lap, locking the front all the time. The first fifteen laps I had a lot of front locking in corner 1 and corner 3, but I was close to the limit, very focused, but as soon as the rear tire dropped, it was impossible.”

“They overtook me outside, in acceleration, every bike arrived, every bike overtook me on the gas. It’s frustrating, because there’s nothing you can do. You open the throttle and the bike stays there, so there’s nothing I can do. It p***es me off, but we have to improve.”

The problem was there was little sign of progress from Aprilia. “Obviously this weekend has been more difficult, but overall, the problems I have had are always the same all the time.”

“Sincerely, I don’t know how to go faster. I tried everything. I think I’m in a good moment of my career, I’m focused, I’m fit, I’m relaxed, but I can’t go faster with this bike.”

Meltdown

Scott Redding was far more vocal in his criticism, finally losing his patience and temper at the frustration of facing problem after problem. His strong showing in a wet FP2 had reminded him that he was still talented, and just increased his frustration.

“The [wet] conditions bring the machines closer,” Redding said. “I can see my potential. I can be fast. And it just reminded me of how good I can actually be. I just accepted it this year, I’ve never had a wet session.”

“But then this weekend was like, ‘yeah, well you can mix with the best guys in the world when the level comes a bit lower with the machinery’. Then it dries again and you’re out in the field again.”

It had been a bitter and frustrating weekend, Redding said. “It’s been hard. It’s been a hard weekend and to be honest to have a race like that is heart-breaking because I try all the time and it doesn’t get easier.”

“Why can I go to Assen and battle with my teammate, in Brno I can battle with my teammate – yes I crashed – then I come here and I can’t even ****ing be in the same situation.”

Redding’s frustration spilled out in an expletive-laden rant, the full extent of which you can read over on Crash.net. He was close to tears at times as he spoke, his complaints clearly heartfelt and genuine.

Rough Record

Are they justified? The history of Aprilia in MotoGP has not been a hopeful one, despite the soaring ambitions of the Italian manufacturer. The litany of technical issues which have plagued Aleix Espargaro illustrate Aprilia’s problem all too clearly.

The Spaniard was forced to pull out of the Jerez race on the first lap when a screw came loose and messed up the pneumatic valve system, costing him an engine. An issue with the rear tire stopped him at Mugello, causing yet another DNF due to technical problems. Reliability is a huge problem for Aprilia.

The issues appear to be centered around the factory, rather than the team. It was the choice of the factory to supply Sam Lowes with cast off material in his rookie year in MotoGP, instead of giving him equal equipment and allowing him to help develop the RS-GP.

It was Aprilia’s choice to ditch Scott Redding early in the season, before he had had a chance to prove himself. There are credible rumors of constant friction between Aprilia Corse boss Romano Albesiano, and team manager Fausto Gresini.

Gresini wants to run the team, and wants Albesiano to focus on bike development, rather than getting involved in the team. Albesiano appears to want to keep the entire process in his hands, and is perhaps stretching himself and his team too thin.

All this does not bode well for 2019, when Andrea Iannone arrives in the Gresini Aprilia team. Iannone is known for his talent and ability, but is not renowned for his patience and ability to stay calm in the face of adversity. The atmosphere in Aprilia next season could well be highly explosive.

There are already signs that Aprilia realize they have to get a handle on the situation.

After his outburst in the media, followed up by a calmer and more rational explanation on Instagram, on Tuesday, Scott Redding posted another update to his Instagram feed apologizing for his outburst, and focusing on working as a team, and inside Aprilia as a team.

With eight races left until the end of the season, it is going to be a very long year for Scott Redding.

Best of the Rest

It was a much better race for Cal Crutchlow, if a somewhat lonely one. The LCR Honda rider was clearly the best of the rest, finishing fourth with space both ahead of and behind him.

He had chosen the hard front tire, and had needed a couple of laps to get heat into it. But once that had been accomplished, he had ridden a strong race at a much faster pace than last year, and scoring a good result.

Crutchlow put his result down to riding better overall, and in large part to the excellent teamwork within LCR Honda. “I think in general, we’re working better as a team,” the Englishman said.

“The morale in the team is very, very good. It always has been, they’ve backed me to the hilt, always. It’s positive for the next year. I am riding well, or better.”

Danilo Petrucci finished in fifth, some four seconds behind Cal Crutchlow and just ahead of Valentino Rossi. The Pramac Ducati rider had suffered with the right side of his tires, and with fuel consumption.

“I just suffered a lot of small things, but most of all, the tire consumption on the right side. And the last ten laps, as I said, I have been lucky that Valentino started so far behind me, because he gained almost one second per lap in the last five laps, and with another lap, I don’t know how we would have finished. But anyway, we fought and we are satisfied.”

Bradley Smith may only have finished fourteenth, but the lone KTM rider had a very strong weekend at the home Grand Prix of his manufacturer and at the home circuit of the team’s main sponsor.

Smith rode aggressively throughout practice, just missing out on Q2, then pushed hard in the race, though he fell short of expectations. With a weekend where he could just focus on his own results, rather than spend time testing parts, he showed he still had the potential to be competitive.

It will not be enough to save him a seat in MotoGP, but it might get him a job as a test rider, though possibly not with KTM. A little too much water has passed under that bridge, but there are plenty of horizons left for him to explore.

Photo: MotoGP

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.







David Emmett

One of MotoGP's most respected journalists, David Emmett is the proprietor of the esteemed MotoMatters. We are very grateful to republish David's work here on A&R...though dread the day we ever again get in a car with him.

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