Austrian GP returns to the MotoGP calendar at the Red Bull Ring

Having not competed in Austria since 1997, the MotoGP return to the now named Red Bull Ring for the NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Osterreich. After three whole weeks, riders will return from the long summer break for the tenth round of the season, with the only data being that that the majority of the teams were able to collect during two days testing where Ducati dominated.

Austrian GP returns to the MotoGP calendar at the Red Bull Ring
Austrian GP returns to the MotoGP calendar at the Red Bull Ring -

Whilst the paddock has enjoyed a summer break, we have all sat here pining for the return of our beloved MotoGP racing!

Summer break for riders after wet German GP

It has been three whole weeks (so long) since the riders took to the track for the GoPro Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland at the Sachsenring in Germany on July 17th.

It was the second consecutive wet meeting filled with strategies to overcome the mixed conditions, which left championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) able to extend his lead after claiming the win.

After taking the risk and becoming one of the first riders to switch to slick tyres midway through the race, he won at the Sachsenring with almost a ten second lead on British rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) who claimed his first podium of the season.

The winners podium from the German GP at Sachsenring -
The winners podium from the German GP at Sachsenring -

Great result for British rider Crutchlow

The new father (as his wife Lucy has recently given birth to their first child Willow) worked hard in the conditions to claim the twenty points and he finished ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) who took the last podium spot. Dovizioso, who finally seems to have experienced a change in fortune, finished third meaning he could hopefully enter the second half of the season on a positive note.

Two days of testing for most teams and riders ahead of tenth round at the Red Bull Ring

After the meeting at the Sachsenring, several teams made their way straight to the Red Bull Ring in Austria for two days of testing ahead of the NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Osterreich this weekend.

The track which has just been re-added to the calendar this year after they last raced in Austria in 1997, was built in 1969 and modified back in 2011. Located in Styria, Austria, the then Osterreichring is now known as the Red Bull Ring and is thought to be “the centre of Austrian motorsports”.

Aerial shot of the Red Bull Ring, Austria -
Aerial shot of the Red Bull Ring, Austria -

Made up of “sloping terrain” laid over a “natural arena”, and with the “Bull of Spielberg” taking centre stage standing at 18 metres high in the centre, the track made up of ten turns (three left hand and ten right hand corners) has “an altitude difference of 65 metres” with the longest straight measuring 626 metres.

Repsol Honda not present at test but familiar

Now the Repsol Honda team were not present at the test, however they have previously spent some time at the track earlier on the season when they were present to complete some filming. Marquez and his teammate Dani Pedrosa did not take to the track on their race bikes, but still will have benefited slightly from familiarising themselves with the circuit that they had to themselves.

Iannone fastest over the Red Bull Ring test before the summer break -
Iannone fastest over the Red Bull Ring test before the summer break -

Ducati dominated at the Red Bull Ring

It was Ducati who dominated at the Red Bull Ring during the test with Andrea Iannone (Ducati team) topping the timesheets over the two days. Unofficially in the end, it was a Ducati Team top three as Dovizioso and test rider and former MotoGP champion Casey Stoner completed the top three (despite Stoner crashing out in the final stages).

Avintia Ducati rider Hector Barbera finished fourth fastest as the highest placed independent rider present at the test. Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) and Yonny Hernandez (Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati) made it ten Ducatis in the top ten.

Work cut out for other manufacturers

This means that heading into the tenth round of the season the other manufacturers surely have their work cut out. Movistar Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, although they finished fifth and sixth fastest, were almost one second off the pace set by Iannone.

The two Yamaha riders missed out on vital championship points in the last few rounds which would have allowed them to close down the gap in the championship that Marquez has extended. Honda not being present at the test and Yamaha being so far off the pace leaves us wondering if they are still within the running of winning another championship.

Rossi’s experience may pay off in Austria

Nine times world champion Rossi is the only rider to have ridden in the top class at the Red Bull Ring in the past when he competed on the 125cc championships. The track layout has changed since then and the only rider in the top class to have experienced this most recently in a competitive environment is Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller back in 2011 when he competed in the 125cc German Championship.

A very young Rossi claiming third on the podium after the 1996 Austrian 125cc race -
A very young Rossi claiming third on the podium after the 1996 Austrian 125cc race -

Completing the top then during the two day test was Team Suzuki Ecstar riders Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro who after focusing on the GSX-RR’s electronics during the test were able to disrupt Ducati’s success.

Aprilia recently completed private test

A team who should be very familiar with the Red Bull Ring should be that of the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini as the Italian manufacturer most recently completed a private test.

Six months after the launch of the new MotoGP bike, the test was an opportunity for current rider Alvaro Bautista to work on the chassis and electronics setup ahead of the race.

Bautista 'exploring the Red Bull Ring -
Bautista 'exploring the Red Bull Ring -

Injured Bradl to leave the MotoGP

His teammate Stefan Bradl was unable to attend as he is still recovering from his crash during the warm up ahead of the ninth round which he was ruled out of due to concussion. The German rider recently announced that he will no longer be competing in the MotoGP at the end of the season as talks broke down with Avintia Ducati.

Both of his teams seats are taken next season forcing him to look elsewhere but he confirmed that next season he will join the FIM World Superbike Championships where he will join Nicky Hayden riding for the Honda team.

Productive test for Bautista and team

The Spanish rider completed over 160 laps over the two days of the private test. Also present was future team rider Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) who had his second experience of the Aprilia; he was joined by test rider Mike Di Meglio.

Sam Lowes had his second experience with his future ride on his Aprilia RS-GP at the Red Bull Ring during a private test for the manufacturer -
Sam Lowes had his second experience with his future ride on his Aprilia RS-GP at the Red Bull Ring during a private test for the manufacturer -

According to the most recent press release on the Aprilia Racing Team website, they described the new track on the MotoGP calendar as “rather particular” describing it as having “a lot of blind corners” which means the “the braking and acceleration sections become extremely important”. They also feel “engine performance” will be “put to the test on the long, uphill straight stretches”.

After his most recent test Bautista said riders will need “a lot of engine and a stable bike in braking and acceleration”. Expressing concerns about the safety of the track in some areas the Spanish rider felt there are “a few spots with very little space and close to walls” and so he felt that previous to the race “it would be good to think about a few solutions”, which will probably take place on Friday’s Safety Commission Meeting.

Baz needed the rest over the summer

Unfortunately for Avintia Ducati rider Loriz Baz, the ninth round of the MotoGP proved very enduring for the French rider who was returning from injury as he broke his foot at the start of the Misano GP; he had to undergo several operations to have plates and pins inserted, and removed after healing enough, and made his return for Germany.

The test proved too much for the rider who is still recuperating and he was forced to finish the test early. Hopefully the summer break has done him the world of good and he will be more comfortable upon his return.

French team will start the second half of the season at a disadvantage

The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team have not yet ever visited the Red Bull Ring and riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith will have to work hard to quickly learn the track, set up the bike and become competitive ahead of the race on Sunday. Espargaro will have to work hard to defend his independent championship title that he is currently leading.

Targets set ahead of the tenth round of the MotoGP season

So looking towards the long-awaited race weekend, riders and teams will hope to soon be lapping at the benchmark time of 1:23 minutes around the 4.3km (2.67 miles) during the opening Free Practice sessions. Chances are the factory Ducati team will lead the way with Iannone looking the favourite heading into the tenth round.

However there has been almost four weeks of rest, holidaying, training, practice and testing and Honda and Yamaha are certain to head to Austria for the first time since 1997, determined to stop Ducati’s domination.

Yamaha need the wins as they need as many points as possible over Honda if they are to be within contention of stealing back the championship. The ever-evolving Suzuki cannot be ruled out especially in dry conditions, and the Aprilia is definitely at an advantage.

The plan for the weekend…

It may be too early to look but the weather is not looking too good for race-day but the chances of precipitation so far are pretty low. The forecast looks much better over the days building up to the race day meaning that Free Practice and Qualifying will be a great chance to accumulate data for the future.

Practice will begin at the Red Bull Ring from 8am (GMT) on Friday and Saturday. The MotoGP race will take place on Sunday 14th August at 13:00 (GMT) after the Moto 3 scheduled to begin at 10:00 and the Moto2 at 11:20.

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