It’s been three weeks since the roar of the MotoGP™ World Championship erupted from a racetrack, and fans and riders alike are itching for action to begin again. The wait is almost over as the NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich is here; the World Championship heading to Austria for the first time since 1997.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) is the only rider in the premier class to have raced in a Grand Prix in Austria before: ‘The Doctor’ took second in a 125 race at the old Spielberg circuit. Since then the track has undergone several changes and is now known as the Red Bull Ring – Spielberg. Dutch GP winner Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) has raced the new layout – but back in 2011 when competing in the IDM.
Almost every rider on the grid comes to the circuit with some track knowledge, thanks to a two-day private test after the German GP. While times were unofficial, laps in the 1’23s look to be the benchmark around the 4.3km long track. Top end speed also looks set to be a key feature, with Ducati dominating the two-day test as a result.
However, neither Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) nor championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) were in attendance at the test and could throw up some big surprises over the course of the weekend. Marquez heads into the second half of the year with some pressure removed, enjoying that comfortable 48-point advantage over Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) after a German GP to remember – meaning the Cervera native will leave the Red Bull Ring as the championship leader no matter what happens.
Both reigning Champion Lorenzo and teammate Rossi need wins after struggles in Assen and Germany, as neither were able to finish on the podium or even finish inside the top five. These are Yamaha’s worst results since the end of 2007. Top end speed has never been Yamaha’s strongest point and Austria could be another tough weekend.
Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was able to pose a threat to the Ducati domination during the private test. Both he and Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) are hoping for a dry weekend however, having seen the GSX-RR struggling in the past wet races. A focus on electronics during the private test should help them start the GP weekend on the right track.
Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) are the only riders to have not ridden the Red Bull Ring before, as Tech 3 didn’t participate in the private test.
The track action gets underway on Friday morning as the MotoGP machines head out for their first race weekend on the reborn Red Bull Ring, with Free Practice 1 beginning at 9:55am local time (GMT +2).