For the first time ever, the Moto2 class will take to the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian round of the MotoGP as the track was introduced the 2016 calendar. The MotoGP is a new class in the elite championships and so they now face a new challenge as even the MotoGP has not competed here since 1997.
Cool conditions up in the Austrian mountains
Conditions were cooler than expected at the predominantly right-handed circuit laid out across the fantastic Austrian scenery with amazing views of the surrounding mountains overlooking the track.
It was dry but very cool meaning riders had to overcome the low temperatures and work hard to keep heat in what would be asymmetric tyres.
Contract renewals for the Forward Racing Team
Heading into the tenth round of the season it was announced that the Forward Racing Team will remain the same for the 2017 as riders Lorenzo Baldassarri and Luca Marini (who turned 19 the other day) extended their contracts.
Sideways Sam Lowes crashes out of Free Practice Two
The first crash of the session came from Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 rider Sam Lowes. Known as ‘Sideways Sam’, in his own unique style he was seen entering turn three sideways, however this time he lost it and slid onto the asphalt run-off.
Luckily for the British rider he was unhurt and he was quickly able to remount and return to the pits with the only damage to his Kalex looking to be a broken brake lever.
Riders’ lap times cancelled
As riders adapted to their new surroundings several riders had laps cancelled due to overuse of the track (where they ran into marked areas on the corners).
This included Ajo Motorsport rider Johann Zarco as a result of overuse of the track at turn ten which was much to his disappointment as it came after he just topped the leaderboards.
Trouble in the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS camp
It appeared at one stage that Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli had experienced an incident on track as his team were seen completing work on the Italian’s bike in his pit garage, it turned out though that his Kalex was undergoing major changes on the suspension.
Luthi breaks down the barrier
Garage Plus Interwetten rider Thomas Luthi was the first man to break into the 1:30 minute lap times but he was soon joined by 12 other riders who were also able to manage to overcome the barrier.
In the closing stages of a quiet session Dynavolt Intact GP rider Jonas Folger set a flying lapwhich seen him top the leaderboard briefly until Zarco came along and stole the top spot from him after the chequered flag went out to signal the end of the session.
Zarco leads at the end of Free Practice One
Zarco's ‘perfect end’ to the session meant he was fastest with a time of 1:30.117 beating Folger’s time by just 0.118 seconds. Luthi was forced down to third position at the end of Moto2 Free Practice 1.
Oliveira impressive at the Red Bull Ring
In fourth was rookie Leopard Racing rider Miguel Oliveira. The vastly talented youngster who was promoted to the Moto2 by his team who expanded and also took on the challenge, looked strong throughout the session.
At one point he was forced off the track by another rider; he was on the outside of the rider when they went to turn into the left-handed corner and was forced to sit up and continue into the run-off area. He finished fourth almost half a second slower than leader Zarco.
Speed Up rider Corsi splits the leading top 18 Kalex
AGR Team rider Marcel Schrotter finished in fifth position making the top five spots consumed by the Kalex. In sixth was Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) who broke the pattern as the fastest Speed Up bike after lapping 0.56 seconds slower than the leader.
Teammate to Oliveira, current Moto3 champion Danny Kent claimed the seventh spot; the British rider is also a rookie to the class having moved up with his team after winning the championship after his battle with now current teammate Oliveira.
Axel Pons (AGR Team), was eighth ahead of Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten) in ninth and Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) completed the top ten. Just outside the top ten Lowes finished in eleventh after his crash.
In the closing stages several riders were able to improve on their personal best times but none were in close enough contention to challenge for the top spot. Thirteen riders finished Moto2 Free Practice 1 within one second of leader Zarco.
Temperatures increased slightly
The second Free Practice session of the day got underway and the riders appeared to be taking a relaxed or maybe even cautious approach. Temperatures had increased slightly however it was still very cool which meant tyre efficiency was compromised slightly.
Crash at the start of the session for Corsi
Simone Corsi had not even completed his out lap at the beginning of the session when crashed after losing the front end.
His crash was similar to that experienced by Aprilia Racing Tean Gresini MotoGP rider Stefan Bradl; at an area that will have enhanced safety claims as riders are unsure the run of areas are sufficient, especially should it rain on rcae day.
As he was only on his sighting lap, Corsi’s speed was much less than that of Bradl’s and so when he fell the bike did not hit the side barrier. He was able to pick up the debris and his bike and make his way to the safety zone at the side of the track. He failed to register a time during the session.
Lowes ‘crashes’ out again
Unfortunately for Lowes he crashed again going into turn four in the last quarter of the session. In his eyes ‘it only counts as a crash if you can’t get it back to the pits’.
When he went down with the bike he managed to keep the clutch in and the throttle revving and so was able to pick up his bike and continue for the remainder of the session.
As riders continued to chip away at the lap times some found themselves penalised by race control, as like in the other classes, for overuse of the racetrack. Several riders had laps times cancelled as a consequence.
Luthi tops the timesheets on day one
In the final stages four riders managed to lap under 1:30 minutes. Luthi was first to achieve this along with Rins, Zarco and Morbidelli. It was Luthi who set the quickest time of the day though of 1:29.695, followed by the three other Kalex rides. Folger completed the top five.
Aegerter made his way up to sixth ahead of Alex Marquez who took over a second of his own time allowing him to gain nine places and he finished seventh ahead of Schrotter. Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) claimed ninth and the top ten was completed by Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP).
Baldassarri placed eleventh, Oliveira twelfth and Lowes thirteenth despite crashing. Six more riders joined them to make it eighteen riders within one second of leader Luthi.
The fastest Speed Up bike was ridden by QMMF Racing Team rider Julian Simon in nineteenth and Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) was the fastest Tech 3 rider in twenty-fifth during Free Practice 2.