Ducati Dominance continues!

Austrian GP news: 

The big news of the weekend was that the Austrian track had been changed. Turn 2 had now been split into two sections, a “flip-flop chicane”, now being re-named turns 2a and 2b. It caught some riders out over the weekend but, in the end would hopefully create some interesting overtaking opportunities.

Qualifying:

Cloudy conditions greeted the riders on Saturday, but they remained undeterred.

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) looked to be confident, taking an early provisional pole in Q2. Jack Miller (Ducati) was also on fine form and soon took the pole spot. The championship leader, Fabio Quartararo on the other hand seemed to be struggling getting to grips with his Yamaha.

The Ducati’s though were dominant at the Red Bull Ring as Enea Bastianini took his first Moto GP pole, with a flying lap time: 1:28.772, ahead of Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) and Miller – an all Ducati front-row.

Happy with his pole – Bastianini celebrates. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Race:

The weather remained cloudy for Race Day, leaving many fans to wonder if it would indeed rain as the bikes lined up on the grid, ready for lights out:

Undulating track and foreboding clouds at Austria. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Bagnaia got a great start, leading Bastianini and Miller into the first corner and through the new chicane for the first time.

However, turn 4 saw Joan Mir (Suzuki) take an early tumble from the race. Seen holding his ankle in the gravel, (it was later confirmed that he had had medical checks and that he had broken his ankle. We wish him a speedy recovery).

Mir crashes lap 4. Courtesy of: Moto GP official Twitter page.

On lap 4, Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) had managed to pass Quartararo for 5th place and the four front Ducati’s started to gain a lead ahead, with Jorge Martin in 4th taking the first fastest lap of the race, (1:30.364). Another pass came from Miller to take 2nd place from Bastianini, but ‘The Beast’ was having none of it and passed him right back.

By lap 5, A. Espargaro had taken fastest lap (1:29.979), while his teammate had been given a track limits warning and if that wasn’t bad enough, Maverick also got passed by 2 riders on the same lap (lap6), forcing him back to 8th place.

Back at the front, the four Ducati’s suddenly got broken up by the Yamaha of ‘El Diablo’, taking 4th spot from Bastianini. Seconds later, Bastianini appeared to have a technical fault and pulled out of the race. On the same lap it was Remy Gardener’s (KTM) turn to bow-out early as he crashed out – turn 4.

Bagnaia then led Miller, Martin and Quartararo onto lap 7.

With 22 laps to go Miller passed his teammate to briefly take the lead, but Bagnaia out-braked him, re-claiming his lead.

Fastest lap was soon taken by Martin – lap 9. Could he get close enough to the factory Dukes, with only a 1.023 second gap between them, to fight for the win? Further down the field Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) took to the gravel, finishing his race early.

Martin indeed managed to eat into the leading gap and soon got it down to 0.311 seconds. By lap 12 he was right on the back of Miller. Which Ducati would be dominant?

With 16 laps until the end, another track warning got issued, this time to Quartararo. Behind him Luca Marini (VR46) took 6th place from A. Espargaro and behind them Darryn Binder crashed out.

The next lap, Martin clipped the gravel forcing him to take evasive action and he took to the run-off section of the track, Fabio passed to take 4th place, but Martin also needed to make sure he wouldn’t incur a penalty so also gave back a second, but quick-thinking meant he also managed to keep his new position – 5th.

Two laps later and bad luck continued to keep hold of Vinales who got passed not just by Johann Zarco (Ducati) but also Suzuki-man Alex Rins.

10 laps to go – The front 3 riders had all managed to create gaps between each-other. Bagnaia still led Miller by 0.896 seconds. Quartararo continued to hunt down Miller with 0.515 seconds between them. A few places behind them Espargaro put up a great fight from the Italian – Marini, but in the end Marini passed him again on lap 21, this attempt the pass stuck.

Things were heating up, with only 4 laps until the finish line, a surprise move came from the Yamaha in 3rd – Quartararo passed Miller on the new turn 2b, to take 2nd place, leaving Miller in the clutches of Martin, who quickly seized the opportunity and passed Miller to take 3rd spot. Miller fought back though to re-take 3rd. Meanwhile, another yellow flag waved, this time for Yamaha rider Frankie Morbidelli, who crashed out turn 2.

Due to the on-going battles behind him, Bagnaia managed to extend his lead further to 1.554 seconds from the Championship leader.

Then it was Martin’s turn to receive a track-limits warning 2 laps later, as a result of his tussle with Miller.

Last lap – the clouds above still seemed dull and grey but the rain had stayed away.

Rain stayed away. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Turn one saw Martin try to overtake Miller once more, but this time resulted in him seeing the gravel instead. He managed to get back into the race and still finished in the top 10. This error meant that Miller could now finish comfortably on the podium.

Podium hopes fall from beneath him. Courtesy of: Moto GP official Twitter page.

Bagnaia managed to remain in complete control of the entire race and passed the finish line to take his 3rd consecutive race win in a row ahead of Quartararo and Miller. Behind them in 4th was an elated Marini.

Celebrates with team. Courtesy of: Bagnaia’s official Twitter page.

Top 10 race finishers:

1st

F. Bagnaia

2nd

F. Quartararo

3rd

J. Miller

4th

L. Marini

5th

J. Zarco

6th

A. Espargaro

7th

B. Binder

8th

A. Rins

9th

M. Bezzechi

10th

J. Martin

Top four championship:

1st

F. Quartararo

200 points

2nd

A. Espargaro

168 points

3rd

F. Bagnaia

156 points

4th

J. Zarco

125 points

The racing was super exciting and had fans on the edge of their seats through-out.

Can Ducati continue their streak into the next round at Misano on 4th September? Or would Someone else step onto the top spot? 

 

 

Featured image – Courtesy of: Moto GP official Twitter page 

A Mugello Dream Come True!

Qualifying:

Wet conditions during the qualifying saw some unexpected results.

Starting in Q1 Fabio Di Giannantonio/ DiGi (Ducati) went through to Q2 along with Marc Marquez (Honda).

During Q2 Marquez high-sided his bike on turn 2, landing hard on his head and shoulder. The bike caught on fire and the accident caused the qualifying to be red-flagged early on in the session.

But, it was the Rookie, Di Giannantonio who finished in pole with 1:46.156 alongside another Rookie – Marco Bezzecchi and his teammate Luca Marini (VR46 Ducati).

An all Italian front row in Italy, the fans were sure to see something special on Sunday.

Race:

The rain stayed away for Sunday, but there was further drama unfolding: big news was confirmed that Marquez would be undergoing another operation on his shoulder during the coming week. With this breaking news, speculation was spreading about if he should even be starting the race.

At lights out DiGi got away well but it was the VR46 rider Marini who quickly took the lead from fellow Italian, leading the whole first lap until back on the home straight when Bezzecchi re-took control.

Bezzecchi, Marini and DiGi. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) had a poor start and went from 5th position to 8th, by the second lap he had gained back one place and had started to hunt down Johann Zarco (Ducati).

Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) took 3rd place but DiGi fought back on the straight, starting lap 3. Quartararo wasn’t having any of it and quickly re-took the position back. Meanwhile, Bagnaia made his way into 5th, having already passed Zarco earlier in the lap.

Close racing on the iconic track led to the fastest lap going to Bagnaia who was looking to pass DiGi for 4th place.

Marini had been holding strong in 2nd but Quartararo was stronger, taking the position from him on lap 4. How was the rookie in 1st going to handle El Diablo closing up fast behind him?

19 laps till the end and Bagnaia managed to pass DiGi. Both Quartararo and Bagnaia were on a mission from the start. Bezzecchi was pushing hard at the front, claiming fastest lap and leading Quartararo, Marini and Bagnaia.

So much action had already occurred early on in the race, but more action was yet to come: Lap 5, turn 9 Pol Espargaro (Honda) ended his race early while Bagnaia passed both Marini and Quartararo in the same corner to take 2nd place and the fastest lap of the race once more.

Pecco now had Bezzecchi in his sights, how would the Rookie fair?

On another Ducati, further down in the field Jorge Martin set a new record (fastest ever top-speed at Mugello) – 226.2mph.

It was the Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro though who was moving through the pack, taking 5th position from DiGi, who was going backwards.

For the second time in a row Joan Mir (Suzuki) crashed out of the race, lap 8, turn 1. On the same lap, just moments later, his teammate continued the bad luck and also crashed out for the second time in a row at turn 12. Suzuki’s year was just getting worse.

Starting lap 9 of 23, Bagnaia finally passed Bezzecchi to take the lead. Meanwhile the original leader and pole-man had fallen down the positions to 9th place.

Bagnaia was quick to start eeking out his lead. He was soon 0.964 seconds ahead of the pack. Quartararo could see him getting away and soon took another place, going to 2nd. Could he catch up to Bagnaia?

With 13 laps to go, Bagnaia led Quartararo, Bezzecchi, Marini and A. Espargaro.

Leading the way. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The close racing continued however and Marini took 3rd from his teammate going into lap 12.

By the next lap the VR46 boys had swapped positions again, while Bagnaia continued his get-away and was now 1.164 seconds ahead of the Yamaha in 2nd.

Drama continued to reek havoc at Mugello as last race winner – Enea Bastianini (Ducati) took a tumble into the gravel on lap 14, turn 4 from 6th position.

Lap 15 saw A. Espargaro pass Marini to take 4th place. While Zarco and Martin fought for 5th spot, Zarco finally claimed it.

Two laps later and A. Espargaro’s calculations of trying to pass Bezzecchi come to fruition and he made the pass to go into 3rd. Could he make further history for Aprilia and have 4 podiums in a row? With only a few laps to go, audiences were on the edge of their seats.

Bezzecchi tried desperately to hold onto his new position (4th) but with only 3 laps until the chequered flag it looked likely that Zarco would pass him.

Last lap: Zarco had formulated exactly where to pass Bezzecchi and he did so, claiming the top independent rider spot. While at the front Bagnaia crossed the line in 1st to take that all important win! An Italian, on an Italian bike, in Italy – A Mugello Dream Come True! Bagnaia decided to celebrate his win with the fans by throwing his gloves and boots into the crowd.

Crossing the line victorious. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Top 10 race finishers:

1st

F. Bagnaia

2nd

F. Quartararo

3rd

A. Espargaro

4th

J. Zarco

5th

M. Bezzecchi

6th

L. Marini

7th

B. Binder

8th

T. Nakagami

9th

M. Oliveira

10th

M. Marquez

Happy faces on the podium. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It was an impressive ride from Marc Marquez considering the news regarding his shoulder surgery. Wishing him all the best in his recovery period (he will be having 4 – 6 months rest), hoping to see him back to full fitness soon.

It was also an impressive ride from both the VR46 riders, managing to remain in the top ten by the end of the race.

Top four Championship standings:

1st

F. Quartararo

122 points

2nd

A. Espargaro

114 points

3rd

E. Bastianini

94 points

4th

F. Bagnaia

81 points

History is constantly being written: Bagnaia took his first win at Mugello and A. Espargaro managed to get Aprilia their first 4 podiums ever in a row in the premier class.

The 2022 season is so unpredictable and constantly surprising us. With the next round only next Sunday we haven’t got long to wait for even more action.

 

 

 

Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website.

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