Massive amounts of shit hit the fan even before the racing action had begun.
The Sky VR46 team decided to suspend Fenati for the race, with the 20-year-old accused of repeatedly being a dick to his team, although not his teammates. Such a harsh move is extremely rare, especially with someone fighting for a top 3 spot in the championship, but if anything, that should give you an idea of how unprofessional Fenati must’ve been. Apparently, this was his third strike, and the team was quite clear in their commitment to nurture good human beings first, and good racers later.
Jack Miller, the fun Australian race winner from Assen, who recently said that this was the first time in the entire season he felt completely fit, had a gigantic crash in warm-up, and injured his hand and back. Although the medical staff had declared him fit for racing, they had clearly warned him that one more spill, and his broken vertebra and wrist could become much bigger problems than they already were. Must’ve been hard for the Aussie to watch the action from the pits, but he made the right decision.
There’s a race almost every weekend for roughly a month now. This is not the time to get injured.
On the good side, Barbera and Baz were confirmed to stay at Avintia Ducati for one more season. Barbera has been extremely impressive in 2016, and with a better bike next year, I’m sure he’ll be fighting right up there for the top 10 honours. Baz on the other hand, should hope to regain his fitness and learn from his teammate’s consistency.
KTM did a few demo laps with their ugly RC16, which might not be a looker among the field, but does introduce a few new items in the mix. It’ll be only bike in the entire paddock to use WP suspension, which is obvious given that KTM owns them, and it really doesn’t make much sense for them to go with Ohins like everyone else. The KTM MotoGP bike also sports a different steel frame, while everyone else has an aluminium one. The bike has been rumoured to be lacking nothing in the power department, unlike the Aprilias, but it’ll be a while before we really know what Smith and Espargaro can do with them.
Let’s talk about the races now, and we start with Moto3.
Austrian Moto3 race results: Give the trophy to Binder
One of the most unlikely results of the entire season, Joan Mir’s victory from pole was a surprising but well-deserved gift. His win finally put an end to the unofficial Moto3 pole jinx, after 14 races, the guy on the pole finally managed to win. Mir also managed to be first rookie winner this season, which gives you an idea of how insane things have been all through 2016.
The race began as it always does, a bunch of riders mashed together the tight turn 1, and then precipitating into groups that fight like wild dogs. The lead group consisted of Binder, Mir, Quartararo, Bastianini, Martin and Oettl, and by the end of the race so much paint had been swapped that it was hard to tell which bike belonged to which team.
It was in this mayhem that Binder showed us once again why he’s leading the championship with a fat margin. It was clear that the South African was facing trouble in braking, and in acceleration as well, but managed to carve out some majestic, if rather dangerous moves on others to stay in the top 5 all through. Whenever he did make a mistake, it didn’t take him long to get back on the throttle, chase the pack, and then push himself right up the front again.
At one point it looked like Binder’s title rival, Navarro, would probably make some impression after starting way back down in 18th. He had hopped his way around the field, and at one point found himself directly behind Binder. I guess that brief view of Brad’s ass gave too much of an Adrenalin shot to Spanish rider, who promptly crashed out with 5 laps to go and wasn’t able to rejoin.
What this means is that out of the top 3 riders in the championship, Binder scored 20 points, while the rest got ducks. Let’s just give the trophy to Binder and get this over with, or why not let him ride in Moto2 for the remaining season and have some fun.
The fighting was fierce at front, with no regards for team love or mutual respect. It greatly surprises me how these teenagers are able to stay on their bikes while playing what can only be described as Tetris on two wheels. In the end, Mir managed to open up that slightest bit of gap over Binder, who did the same to Bastianini, who nudged out Quartararo by 0.008 of a second, much to the anger of the French dude.
Canet, who had qualified rather well and started good too, finished 21st for some unfathomable reason.
Here are the top 10 after the race.
|8||4||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||Honda||+4.970|
And here are the championship standings after Austria, if anybody cares.
- Brad Binder – 179 points
- Jorge Navarro – 112 points (-67)
- Romano Fenati – 93 points (-86)
Austrian Moto2 race results: It’s French backflip time
This was a rather boring, predictable race. Zarco made a relatively bad start, then overtook a few people, then waited a while and had a smoke, and then barged to the front and waved at his rivals while he wheelied his way to the finish line, followed by signature backflip, this time in a weird brown Austrian sex costume.
The only interesting thing that happened was in the last lap, when Morbidelli went under Luthi to take second, and Rins made an aggressive move on him and claimed third. Luthi didn’t like that one bit, but that did mean that Zarco’s title advantage didn’t go up by a country mile, which makes things slightly more interesting for the coming rounds.
The guy at third place in the championship didn’t have such a swimming time though, and crashed twice, the second time in a rather spectacular fashion with a broken handlebar under braking. It was surprising to watch him walk away from that carnage, and it also gives you an idea of how much force is transmitted through the bars under braking.
A welcome sight at the end was to watch Alex Marquez finishing a race. He had ridden remarkably well throughout the session, even after getting unceremoniously roughed up by Zarco and dropping back a few places under the sheer shock.
Schrotter also ran a brilliant race, briefly took the lead, but then ended up in 5th. Another good race was by Nakagami, who happens to be the only rider in the field to have finished every race in points this season.
This race once again proved the total dominance of Zarco. It didn’t matter that he got pushed to 5th at the start, it didn’t matter how far a gap others were able to pull on him, once he put the hammer down, it didn’t take him long to shove everybody off and win the race by a mammoth 3 seconds. It must be hard to race with a guy like him, imagine the disappointment to be pushing beyond 100%, and watch Zarco fly further and further away from you. Remember that he’s the guy who was trailing the championship leader by some 30 points a few races ago. He now leads by more than that. Of the last 125 available points, he has taken 120.
Here are the top 10 from the race.
And here’s the championship standing after the Austrian round.
- Jonathan Zarco – 176 points
- Alex Rins – 142 points (-34)
- Sam Lowes – 121 (-55)
Austrian GP MotoGP results: Not so unpredictable afterall
Before the race began, I put my money on Rossi to win, with Iannone second and Lorenzo third. It didn’t pan out that way at all.
We all knew the Ducatis love this circuit, what we didn’t know was just how much Yamaha had gained on them over the weekend. The way Lorenzo and Rossi held on to Dovi and Iannone, almost till the very end, gives you an idea of what a masterpiece the M1 is. Compare it to the performance of the Honda, and then realise how much that speaks of Marc’s talent.
This was the first time since 2010 that Ducati had managed to win a race. This was the first time since 2007 that Ducatis had managed to do a 1-2 clean sweep.
At the starting grid, my confidence in Iannone dropped even further, when he went against the entire grid and put on a medium rear. Tire degradation was expected to be a big problem in the higher temperatures, but that didn’t seem to make any difference to the Italian. Probably his plan was to open a gap at the start, and then nurse his bruised ribs the rest of the way. As expected, that’s not what happened in the end.
The red machines tried hard, really hard to fly away from the Yamahas, but to my amazement, couldn’t. Lorenzo, who has been accused in the past of not being a fighter, fought well after a disastrous start that had him run wide into Turn 1. One the field settled down, it became quite clear what was going to happen.
The Ducatis had taken the front, although not as easily as I had expected them to. Behind them, Lorenzo gave a few scares to the Italians, and tried to disturb their rhythm with a few pushy overtakes, but horsepower won in the end, and the two Yamaha teammates settled for fighting against each other rather than with the Ducatis.
Having said that, there wasn’t much fighting to be done anywhere. Rossi never made a move on Lorenzo, and Vinales never made a move on the injured and obviously struggling Marquez. The Ducatis also managed things rather professionally, especially considering the King of shenanigans makes up half of their team.
Iannone made his move with 8 laps to go, and what an impressive one it was. Once he was in front, nothing changed, and the guys took the chequered flag in that exact order, much to the dismay of Dovi. Iannone’s party should run through the night though, this is the first time he’s tasted champagne on the top step of the podium.
There were a few shocks in the race as well. After Crutchlow twitched at the start and jumped it, a few other riders reacted to him and jumped along. Most of the ride-through penalties went smoothly, apart from Bradl, who for some reason switched off his engine in the pits, which then had to be restarted, which meant that it wasn’t considered as a ride-through, which meant that he had to come in again. Barbera’s perfect point scoring record this season was also broken in a rather sad way, after he was black-flagged for not coming in for his ride-through. Apparently the ride-through light on his dashboard wasn’t working, and he missed the pit boards for some reason as well.
But the unluckiest guy on the track today has to be Laverty. Set for a brilliant top 10 finish, the Irishman crashed in the last corner on the last lap, after being hit by the nice guy Petrucci, and rejoined to finish 18th. Like Barbera, this mistake also cost Laverty his perfect points scoring record in 2016, and he must be furious.
Here are the top 10 from the race.
And here’s how the championship stands. Marquez did a great job at damage limitation, another intelligent ride.
- Marc Marquez – 181
- Jorge Lorenzo – 138 (-43)
- Valentino Rossi – 124 (-57)