This is the closest you’ll get to an ejector seat on a MotoGP bike.
Circuit: Red Bull Ring
Journey of the Jackass, 2020, Chapter 5: The Hysteria of Styria
Part 2 of the MotoGP double header in the Styrian Mountains, in what was the first and possibly only Styrian Motorcycle Grand Prix, which also brought up the 900th Premier Class race in the history of Grand Prix Motorcycle racing!
A moment like this is a great time to wheel out the stats – Honda lead the way for constructors on 309 wins, there have been 111 different riders win Premier Class winners over 71 years, and unsurprisingly, Valentino Rossi leads the way with 89 wins, a full 9.8% of all races, with Vale also appearing on the podium in 22.1% of all races, and just appearing in 38.5% of all races.
The other legends in the Top 10 race winners – Giacomo Agostini on 68, Marc Marquez on 56, Mick Doohan on 54, Jorge Lorenzo on 47, Casey Stoner on 38, Mike ‘The Bike’ Hailwood on 37, Eddie Lawson and Dani Pedrosa on 31, and Kevin Schwantz on 25.
In light of the serious incident at Turn 3 last Sunday, the air fences and safety barrier protections were extended to protect the run-off area at the corner:
And, after an FIM investigation into THAT collision between Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli, the officials, just as they did in Brno with the Pol Espagaro incident, pinned the blame on Zarco, and penalised him with a pit lane start for irresponsible riding, seemingly bowing to public pressure to hang everything on a small team rider.
While Avintina did prove Zarco had braked later than normal into Turn 3, the problem was moreso that he braked right in front of Franco after he passed him, giving him no time to react, making it easy for the FIM to look tough on rider safety.
Zarco also required surgery on a fractured right scaphoid as a result of the crash, and he sat out Friday practice, but returned on Saturday.
Fresh off his 2nd place last weekend, Joan Mir set the fastest Combined Practice time, with a rather hilarious time of 1.23.456.
One for the OCD sufferers.
Jack Miller had set the fastest time in FP1, and was able to go straight into Q2 by only 0.003 seconds ahead of Brad Binder’s KTM, although Miller had to sit out FP4 after falling at Turn 6 during the third session, which left the Queenslander with tendon damage in his right shoulder.
Jack described the pain as feeling like “A knife in my back” under exertion, but he did take part in Qualifying.
In Q1, Zarco, despite having to start from pit lane, and having one working wrist, was able to post the fastest time, while Valentino Rossi wiped himself out on his last crack at getting into Q2, sliding out at Turn 9 and being consigned to 15th (Up to 14th), and instead, it was Danilo Petrucci who joined Zarco in Q2 by knocking out Lecuona after the chequered flag had been shown, and Binder once again missed Q2 and left it all to do on Sunday from 13th on the grid.
In Q2, it was as if every rider was perfectly capable of claiming pole position.
Morbidelli set the early mark with a 1.24.2, Fabio Quartararo went top with a 1.23.8, which lasted 90 seconds, as Espagaro topped that with a 1.23.645, then along came Taka Nakagami with a 1.23.602 on the 2019 Honda!
Leave it to a Japanese man to uphold Honda’s honour.
Fighting through the pain, Miller returned with 4 minutes remaining and rocketed up to 3rd from 11th with a 1.23.7 flat, narrowly passed by Mir with a 1.23.678, as Pol went back to Pole with what turned out to be the fastest time of 1.23.580, only 2-hundredths faster than Nakagami, and Zarco, despite not even starting on the grid, jumped up to 3rd with a 23.632.
On his final run, Takta was only 6-thousandths down with a sector to go, but he exceeded track limits at Turn 1 and had the lap invalidated, and thus, Pol was on Pole for KTM, claiming their first-ever MotoGP pole position, and the first by a bike that wasn’t Italian or Japanese since Jeremy McWilliams started on pole for Kenny Roberts’ Proton (Malaysia) at Phillip Island in 2002.
What a front row – Espagaro, Nakagami and Zarco, who couldn’t even start on the grid, which meant it was Mir on the front row, with Miller 4th as the fastest Ducati, as the first 5 bikes were all different makes.
Another noteworthy occurrence was that Quartararo was only 10th fastest, albeit 9th on the grid, his worst starting position since Silverstone last year, which ended with him not even making it out of Copse corner.
After the session, Miller had to go to hospital for an MRI on his shoulder, and it was also after Qualifying that we received more news about the recovery of Marc Marquez from his broken humerus, given he was aiming for a comeback at the Misano rounds next month.
Fair to say this is going to be the most open MotoGP title fight in yonks…. and I have to say, the racing is better for it.
Race (28 Laps, Reduced to 12)
As the race got closer, the skies turned grey as the threat of rain became very very real, even more so than last Sunday, although thankfully it stayed away again.
The only riders who didn’t start on the Medium front tyre were the 4 KTM riders, who once again opted for the Hard tyre, while the field was mixed between the Medium and Soft rear tyre – The Jackass went for a Medium/Medium set-up.
At the start, Espagaro and Mir battled for the lead into Turn 1, while Miller used the Ducati holeshot to move into 3rd and pass the KTM at Turn 4, squeezing out Espagaro and allowing Nakagami to move past after some light contact, and the Pramac Ducati was into the lead after Mir was ordered to drop a place for intentionally going off the track at Turn 1.
So once again, Miller led after an opening lap of the Red Bull Ring, and further down, Quartararo had fallen to 13th, Dovi was up 2 places to 6th, and Binder was up 3 places to 10th, once again coming to life on a Sunday.
On Lap 4, Nakagami made a pass on Mir at Turn 3, but Mir got him straight back in the drag race to Turn 4, and by the end of the lap, the Suzuki was back into the lead and the fastest rider on track, as Miller’s shoulder seemed to affect his braking performance.
Still, his pace was consistent, and the Top 3 riders had put a second back to Espagaro and Rins, who were slightly ahead of Dovi, followed by the battle pack of Vinales against the KTM trio of Binder, Oliveira and Lecuona.
Vinales was really struggling again in Austria, and it really was a sight to see Top Gun, Vale ( Who had a moment at Turn 9 on Lap 9) and Fabio all struggling in 10th, 11th and 12th, barely a month after they’d locked out the podium in Jerez.
Binder was once again performing well on Sunday, and he passed Dovi for 6th at Turn 1 on Lap 13, as the factory Ducati just didn’t have the pace it had in the warm-up, let alone last week’s race.
In a random gesture that preceded a frightening moment to come, Vinales raised his hand and let Petrucci by at Turn 4, and he was now being attacked by the factory Honda of Alex Marquez, riding as if the Yamaha had a serious problem.
In the meantime, Mir had bolted in the lead, opening his lead to 1.1 seconds as the riders passed half-race distance.
Nakagami passed Miller at the final turn on Lap 15, but in a brutal show of power, the Ducati blew past the 2019 Honda heading into Turn 3 on Lap 16, although Taka was back ahead at Turn 6, and further down, Oliveira passed Dovi for 7th place, but things were about to come to a shuddering halt.
In another hair-razing accident involving a Yamaha in Austria, on Lap 17, Vinales suddenly threw himself off his bike at 220 km/h heading into Turn 1, and you could instantly tell the bike had no brakes, as the factory Yamaha scarily launched into the air fence at 160 km/h and turned into a flaming wreck, and for the second time in a week, the action in Austria was stopped by…
A RED FLAG.
It’s very similar to what happened to Eugene Laverty did in a World Superbike race at Imola in 2017 when his brakes cut out.
Thankfully, Top Gun was frustrated yet unhurt thanks to some quick thinking, and if it’s not a flying bike trying to kill him, it’s his brakes exploding at high speed and almost sending him flying into an air fence.
On that note, besides straight line deficiencies, brake issues were a clear theme with Yamaha in Austria – Quartararo described the “Dangerous” front brake as being “Like a clutch” last week, and you could see he went too deep and sometimes totally off the circuit at Turn 4 multiple times.
The red flag would’ve also been utterly frustrating for Mir, who had stretched the lead to 2.4 seconds ahead of Nakagami, and yet it meant nothing, as pretty much every rider down to 7th place was given a free kick.
The race was stopped for only 10 minutes, meaning we now had a 12 lap sprint race, and if anyone had any soft tyres left, they were going straight on, in what was going to be a crazy finish.
At the restart, Mir nailed the jump, Miller slightly bogged down but was into 2nd after taking the inside line into Turn 1, Nakagami had a horrible start and fell to 7th, Espagaro jumped to 3rd, while Miller and Mir had a great fight out of Turn 5, and it was the Ducati who took the lead, as Jack had saved a set of soft tyres in case of a Red flag, which was proving a masterstroke, while Mir didn’t have a fresh front tyre to put on, which absolutely cruelled him.
The KTMs of Binder and Oliveira also made the most of the restart, fighting with each otherfor 4th and 5th, but after a couple of errors, Binder was passed by Dovi.
As for the other losers, Rins had gone down to 9th, and Quartararo was absolutely nowhere in 14th, clinging onto his brakes or dear life.
By Lap 5, Espagaro had worked himself into a groove, passing Mir for 3rd at Turn 3, and Miller couldn’t escape from the factory KTM, who had ironically benefitted from the red flag, after it cost him a potential win last weekend.
Espagaro made a clean pass for the lead at Turn 1, but he went wide and let Miler back ahead, and behind them, Miguel Oliveira was up into 3rd place after passing Mir, and a Tech 3 win wasn’t out of the realm of possibility!
Next lap though, Espagaro got the pass for the lead done at Turn 9, and Binder lost his podium chance by running wide at Turn 1 and dropping to 8th behind Rins, and Mir’s front tyre was shot, as he dropped to 5th behind Dovi, who kept running wide, which curtailed his chances of making it 4 wins at the Red Bull Ring.
So, the winner would be any one of Espagaro or Oliveira, who had a combined MotoGP career total of 1 podium, or our Jackass, who had just one win at Assen in 2016.
As the final lap began, Miller didn’t take his unique sideways braking approach into Turn 3, as Pol went wide trying to defend (As did Dovi against Mir to cost him 4th place), which gave the Ducati a superb corner exit in the drag to Turn 4, and in a tense moment, The Thriller took the lead, hoping to keep Ducati’s perfect run in Austria!
However, the KTMs always got a great run out of Turns 7 and 8, and Espagaro fought back and reclaimed the lead at the penultimate corner, but Miller was able to cut back and get the inside run for the final corner…
BUT THEY BOTH RAN WIDE, AND ALONG CAME MIGUEL OLIVEIRA FROM 3RD TO SWOOP AND WIN FOR TECH 3!
THE SCENES – THEY WERE SO FOCUSED ON EACH OTHER THAT THEY FORGOT ABOUT MIGUEL!
MORE AUSTRIAN FINAL CORNER MAGIC!
THE FIRST PORTUGUESE WINNER IN MOTOGP, AND TECH3’S FIRST WIN IN THE PREMIER CLASS AFTER 20 YEARS!
And to think I called Toni Elias Portuguese… I’m dead sure it was because his only win was in PORTUGAL.
What a day for Tech3, which started with both their Moto3 riders colliding at Turn 1 during the lightweight race, and ends with them pulling off what they could never achieve in 18 years as the Yamaha satellite team.
The other kicker was that BMW, the title sponsor of the race, were also offering the winning rider a brand new BMW M4, which Miguel seemed to absolutely love.
You have to ask, what the hell did BMW do to that grill?
Crikey, Yamaha had another absolute horror show – Vinales lost his brakes, Morbidelli barely scraped into the points, Quartararo was left clinging on to 13th to stay ahead of Dovi by 3 points in the Championship lead, and Rossi got himself into 9th.
You know who I feel for the most?
Joan Mir and Taka Nakagami.
Both of them were looking damn good for podiums and probably a maiden win in the first race, and then out comes the red flag, and they get absolutely smacked in the face during the restart.
It was nice to hear Pol and Jack acknowledge Mir’s performance after the race, Pol especially, considering was in the exact same position last Sunday.
It was also strange seeing Pol not get penalised for going so far off the track and technically gaining an advantage over Mir in the run to the flag, given what had happened in the Moto2 race – I suppose the difference was Pol didn’t go off on purpose, and he lost 2 spots in doing so.
For consistency’s sake, they should have penalised Zarco.
He may have been nabbed on the line, but 2nd is a great result for Jack, especially with a bung shoulder, and thanks to this Austrian run, he’s now up to 3rd in this extremely close Championship, just 14 points off Fabio.
It was also the first time he’d finished 2nd in his MotoGP career, having run 3rd on 6 occasions.
SO CLOSE TO A SECOND WIN!
Moto2 Mayhem: The Remy Rollercoaster
A week after Remy Gardner’s second career Pole Position ended in a disappointing fall, the son of the Woolongong Wizard was back upright and comfortably sitting in the Top 10 during Practice, running 2nd in FP1 and FP2, sending him straight through to Q2 on Saturday.
Meantime, since moving up from Moto3, Aron Canet has enjoyed a very successful rookie season, finishing every intermediate race in the Top 10, and he added another feather to the cap with his maiden Moto2 pole position, edging out last week’s race winner Jorge Martin by 0.118, and Martin’s KTM teammate Tetsuta Nagashima, who came through Q1 to start on the front row, his best qualifying performance of 2020.
Gardner qualified 6th fastest, way ahead of the likes of Sam Lowes and Luca Marini in 11th and 12th, and Gardner was lucky to get onto the 2nd Row, after he fell at Turn 1 and couldn’t improve on a time that did have him 4th fastest.
Race (25 Laps)
At the start, Martin jumped Canet with his holeshot device and set about making it consecutive Austrian wins, Gardner started well and passed Bezzecchi and Augusto Fernandez to settle into 4th place, despite a Turn 3 moment, and he moved to 3rd place very quickly, because Canet didn’t even make it past Lap 2, when he fell at Turn 4 and had to receive a medical check for a sore leg.
That wasn’t the end of the early lap disasters for the leading contenders, because on Lap 3,Lowes went way too deep into Turn 3, and the Pom thumped into Somikat Chantra, who in turn wiped out poor old Jorge Navarro, who suffered his 4th fall in as many races, taking both the Thai and the Spaniard out of the race, as Lowes was able to remount and keep riding.
Lowes eventually fell again, this time at Turn 4 on Lap 5, funnily enough at the same time that he received a black flag for irresponsible riding in the Chantra/Navarro fall, and he was also hit with a pit lane start for Misano as punishment.
As the KTM riders pulled away from Gardner, who had Bezzecchi for company, but by Lap 6, Remy was back on terms with his former teammate, and on Lap 11, Gardner used his unique braking style to put a dive bomb on Nagashima into Turn 3, putting him up into 2nd place as Martin pulled away from the field.
Bezzecchi did the same thing to the Japanese rider a lap later, and it was like getting mugged by both the Aussies and the Italian had taken away his momentum, because Tom Luthi hounded the KTM for several laps after that.
There were engaging scenes on Lap 16, as Bezzecchi clean passed Gardner in the drag race to Turn 3, which Remy tried defending with his entertaining deep braking style, but it was a simple cut back job for the Italian at Turn 4, who was now the only chance of denying Martin another victory.
In this time, Nagashima was also picking up the pace again to close to within 3-tenths of 3rd, as Gardner just had to hang on to Bezzecchi’s slip stream.
Further down, Xavi Vierge was making a nice recovery from his bad qualifying performance, climbing from 19th to 6th, even passing Luca Marini, who never really factored in the fight for the race win, and just did enough to hold on to his championship lead.
Bezzecchi was starting to cut into the once 2 second lead to Martin, and as the fuel load dropped, Gardner’s pace returned, and he was able to better manage the gap to Nagashima.
With 5 laps remaining the gap had been cut to only 9 tenths, as Marco was absolutely flying, and Martin had to respond, and the chase was on!
On the last lap, the gap was down to atense 3-tenths, but the Italian made a small error out of Turn 1 that cost him a small amount of time, and despite closing the gap again through Sector 3, Bezzecchi was never really close enough to make a lunge.
Seemingly, Martin made it a Red Bull Ring double, crossing the line only 6-hundreths ahead of Bezzecchi, and to my delight, Remy Gardner finally got a well-earned second career podium, only a second behind the Top 2, but as the riders returned to parc ferme…
MARTIN WAS DEMOTED A POSITION FOR EXCEEDING TRACK LIMITS!
As many of us will know watching Moto3, on the last lap, exceeding track limits is an automatic penalty, and the Spaniard was pulled up by the FIM for touching the green area off the Turn 8 kerbs, and despite inheriting the win, Bezzecchi was inches from getting the same penalty.
How’s your luck.
Still, he didn’t, and in strange circumstances, it was a first Moto2 victory for Bezzecchi, on a day where all three classes had a new winner, after Bezzecchi’s compatriot and fellow Sky Racing VR46 rider Celestino Vietti won in Moto3, followed by Oliveira’s win in MotoGP.
Back on Remy, and after last week’s disappointment, that was a well-earned result on an inferior machine, and it does show that when he keeps it together, he’s absolutely a Top 10 rider in the intermediate class, even with the disadvantage of being an absolute unit compared to some of these lighter continental European riders.
GOOD NEWS: THE FANS WILL BE BACK FOR MISANO.
BAD NEWS: WE HAVE TO WAIT 3 WEEKS.