Lightning Strikes for Christian Iddon as he targets a return to BSB Success in 2023 with Oxford Products Racing Ducati

Christian Iddon – Image Vision Track Ducati 2020-2021

Another piece of the 2023 jigsaw has fallen into place with Oxford Products Racing Ducati announcing the signing of British Superbike veteran and multiple race winner, Christian Iddon.

Having previously rode for the Vision Track Ducati PBM Team in the 2020 and 2021 season, where Iddon took 21 podium finishes, including 3 race wins, there is certainly enough evidence to suggest a title challenge is more than on the cards. Iddon has everything he needs to mount a successful campaign next year.

Riding for a team with years of experience running the Ducati V4-R, albeit a new version is being released next year. Rumour has it the new bike isn’t much of a change for the team as they are currently running parts on their current bike that are being integrated into the new V4-R next year, so hopefully it will be a case of small setting adjustments, but the aim has to be race wins straight out of the box.

The major positives are the team has a whole wealth of data to fall back on after 4 years with former Oxford Products rider Tommy Bridewell. Christian Iddon also has 2 very successful years under his belt aboard the Ducati with the PBM team, so much so that Iddon was very surprised to be dropped from the team early in 2022 leaving him adrift before finding a last-minute home in the Buildbase team, which unfortunately (and Christian would be the first to say) was a season of frustration on both parts for one reason and another. Iddon was very positive about the Hawk Racing team when I interviewed him during the summer (which you can read here) He did not have a bad word to say about them but it’s clear for all to see, he absolutely suits the characteristics of the Ducati V4-R and I cannot blame him for grasping this opportunity with both hands.

Iddon joining Oxford Products Racing Ducati also puts to bed the sensational rumours that Danilo Petrucci would be joining the British Superbike circus after team owner Steve Moore neither confirmed nor denied rumours recently that he was in talks with the multi skilled ex-MotoGP race winner. As you can see in the below statement, Moore confirms a one rider team again for 2023.

Christian Iddon – Image Oxford Products Racing Ducati

The press release comments: –

Iddon said: “Ducati is the manufacturer that I have had the most success with when I had two fantastic years on the bike previously. My 2021 season was much better than my 2020 season but the end result didn’t reflect it, it was circumstance that did. I felt I was getting stronger all the time on it so it feels great to be heading back to Ducati and to a new team for me with Oxford Products Racing Ducati. Moto Rapido is a team that I have kept an eye on for a while, I have always been pals with the Team Owner, Steve, so hopefully that stays! It is a team that has always had success, but in the last couple of years, they have had even more. They have really stepped up with the combined effort of rider with Tommy [Bridewell] and the team in recent years. Certainly last year they were the Ducati team who had everything required to take the fight for the championship and that is the important part for me. They are a team who are constantly developing and very technically minded which I believe will suit me. I am really looking forward to the challenge and what it may bring. I am coming off the back of what I think has been my hardest ever year in the championship. I have had worst seasons with injuries, but I have never had one where the effort and the possibility was so contrasting to the actual result that we actually got because I believe we had the potential. That is the nature of the beast and that is racing and sport. I am really looking forward now to trying to right those wrongs and get back to where I believe I should be and setting my sights back on my goal, which is to be British Champion.”

Team Owner Steve Moore commented: – “Firstly, thank you to Oxford Products for their continued support. We have gone from strength to strength with their help and we look forward to continuing to reward them with another fantastic season in 2023. They are a company with racing in their heart and they have become an integral part of our racing. Thanks to the boss Andrew Hammond for the continued and increased support even in these uncertain times. I know BSB fans will be sure to pick something from the Oxford shelves in their local dealerships too. I’m also very pleased to welcome Christian to the team; he was the number one choice for me. His experience of Ducati and the great form he had on the V4-R before is confidence inspiring. The bike has developed substantially since he last rode it, so I can’t wait to get him on our bike and begin making it work for him with the 2023 updates. I am sure he will thrive with the focus of being in a one rider team. I’ve already had many technical conversations with him and we seem to be on the same page – he’s as nerdy as me with the technical details so we do get along really well and that’s key to the racing family ethic in our team.  He even seems to have a sense of humour too, which he’ll need!”

I’m sure I speak for most of the British Superbike fans when I say next year is going to be phenomenal and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Iddon going into the final race of the year with a chance of becoming British Superbike Champion.

Get the trophy cabinet extended Christian, you are going to need it!

RacingArmchair

 

Ducati Dominate in Decider!

The last weekend of the 2022 Moto GP season is finally here and the World Championship has yet to be decided. Who will be victorious?

The Decider. Courtesy of: BT Sport Twitter page.

Qualifying:

The sun was shining on Saturday for the qualifying sessions. The last time this type of qualifying would be seen (next year sprint races will be taking over from what fans are used to).

Getting another pole for 2022 was Jorge Martin (Ducati), putting in a fantastic time: 1:29.265, with Marc Marquez (Honda) coming 2nd and completing the front row with Jack Miller (Ducati).

The two championship contenders ended up in 4th (Fabio Quartararo – Yamaha) and 8th (Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati).

To win the title: Fabio needs to win and Bagnaia to finish out of the points to become champion. Bagnaia needs to claim 2 points to be crowned. Both were possible:

Race:

In-front of a sold-out crowd at Valencia the decider was on. With only 27 laps to race, to end the longest ever season in Moto GP history, who would win the race and the championship?

It was a surprise start for Suzuki as Alex Rins got a great start, over-taking everyone to go into first place, leading Martin and Miller into turn one. Bagnaia also got a decent start and managed to make his way into 6th place behind Fabio in 5th.

But it was Marquez in 4th who made the first overtake in the race, passing Miller for 3rd. Fabio took the opportunity to also pass Miller, pushing him back to 5th. Miller managed to pass Quartararo back on the start-finish straight to start lap 2. Seconds later Bagnaia also passed the Frenchman, but they touched, taking one of Bagnaia’s side wings off in the process. Would this hamper Pecco further into the race?

It didn’t seem to matter straight away as Pecco and Fabio fought for 5th place, constantly going backwards and forwards, but it was Bagnaia who won the mini battle. While Brad Binder (KTM) watched on behind.

Racing hard. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

While all that action was happening behind him – Marquez took fastest lap.

Lap 4 – Quartararo re-took his position from Bagnaia, knowing he had to catch up to the leading group. If he was to have a chance at the victory/ championship he had to move forwards.

Next lap saw Pol Esparagro end his last race for Honda early on and seconds later Darryn Binder (Yamaha) also ended his last race in Moto GP.

Lap 6 Miller made a move on Marquez to take 3rd place, while Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) retired.

Brad Binder was all over the back of Bagnaia and on turn 2, lap 9 he managed to safely pass the Ducati after 5 laps of attempting the move. The next rider in his sights was Quartararo. He knew he had the speed to pass and get to the front pack, but he was also very well aware of the two riders he was between. He was one rider eyes were watching.

Next lap on turn 8, yellow flags waved for an ill Marc Marquez, who crashed out of 4th place. The weekend went from bad to worse for the Spaniard.

Gapping started to appear between the riders. The front 3 were 1.339 seconds ahead of Quartararo, who was 1.361 seconds ahead of Bagnaia. Mir who had closed his gap between himself and Pecco suddenly made a move on the Ducati to take 6th place. While Binder put in the fastest lap.

With 14 laps to finish the season Rins continued to lead Martin and Miller.

Unfortunately for Johann Zarco (Ducati) lap 17 saw him crash out and Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) retired.

It appeared that Bagnaia was having slight issues with his Ducati following on from the winglet that came off during the battle with Quartararo earlier in the race, as yet another rider passed him to push him back to 8th. Luca Marini (Ducati) was then directly behind him. Would he also pass?

With just 10 laps to go Binder managed to get-through on Quartararo to take 4th position. Could he claim a podium finish?

Riding to the limit. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It didn’t take long before Marini did indeed pass his fellow-Italian and friend to take 8th place. Bagnaia then had his new teammate behind him. Would he act as a wingman or would he be out for himself?

Having closed the gap at the front – Binder managed to pass Miller to take 3rd but seconds later Miller crashed out of the race on turn 11. While behind them Bastianini did in-fact over-take Bagnaia.

With 3 laps to go: Rins continued to lead the Valencian Grand Prix ahead of Martin, Binder and Quartararo. But Binder had pace and soon passed Martin to take 2nd. Could he fight for the win?

Last lap: There were no changes and Rins took the chequered flag to take victory for the last time for Suzuki. Creating a bitter-sweet moment for the team.

Suzuki will be missed. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter page.

A new World Champion was also crowned as he crossed the line in 9th place – making Bagnaia the 4th different champion in 4 years. It was the biggest comeback in Moto GP history, coming back from a 91 point deficit to take the crown.

Last podium for 2022. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter page.

Top 10 Riders:

1st

A. Rins

2nd

B. Binder

3rd

J. Martin

4th

F. Quartararo

5th

M. Oliveira

6th

J. Mir

7th

L. Marini

8th

E. Bastianini

9th

F. Bagnaia

10th

F. Morbidelli

Top 4 Championship finishers:

1st (World Champion)

F. Bagnaia

265 points

2nd

F. Quartararo

248 points

3rd

E. Bastianini

219 points

4th

A. Espargaro

212 points

First to congratulate Bagnaia on his win was Fabio Quartararo, showing full respect between the two contenders. Second to congratulate Bagnaia was his future teammate Bastianini.

Nothing but respect. Courtesy of: BT Sport Live.

Dreams certainly can come true and this season was proof to never give up. Francesco Bagnaia has become the first Ducati champion in 15 years. The first Italian Ducati champion and the first Italian to win the championship since 2009. He is indeed ‘Perfect Pecco’.

New Moto GP Champion. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter page.

(21+42=63 for the Perfect Combination).

 

As the curtain falls on yet another memorable Moto GP season, everyone can now focus on what will happen next year.

 

 

Featured image: Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter page.

The fairytale continues for Ducati

Qualifying:

Clouds loomed large overhead on Saturday, but the sunshine prevailed.

Down on the track Marc Marquez (Honda) and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) managed to make their way through to Q2. Marquez kept his performance up and claimed 3rd place for Sunday, while Bagnaia unfortunately fell and could only manage 9th on the grid, ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia). Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) managed 11th place, after also crashing.

Making up the rest of the front row was Enea Bastianini (Ducati) who took 2nd and pole went to Jorge Martin (Ducati), who did a phenomenal lap to not only take pole (his 4th this year and 2nd in a row) but also a new lap record – 1:57.790.

Race:

The weather remained the same through to Sunday and the pressure was mounting. With 20 laps till the end, the drama continued:

Martin started well and kept hold of his lead, but it was Bagnaia who made a fantastic start going straight to 2nd by the first corner. He wasn’t the only one though – Fabio also managed to make up 6 places, but Espargaro fell back to 11th.

Leading on the first lap was Martin from Bagnaia, Bastianini and Marquez.

Leading the group. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The championship hunt was on!

Lap 2 of 20 and Bastianini looked like he was ready to line a pass up on Bagnaia but would he? Ducati had already confirmed there were to be no team orders, but he would still need to be careful with his decisions.

Martin soon took fastest lap and continued to lead, Bagnaia, Bastianini and Marquez. The leading group had started to break away from Quartararo in 5th.

While some Ducati’s were soaring unfortunately Luca Marini (Ducati) had to retire from the race early on – the first time this season he hadn’t managed to finish a race.

With 17 laps to go: Bastianini still looked menacing behind Bagania for second. Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha) took his long-lap penalty (which was enforced following on from qualifying sessions and rejoined the race in 10th) and Fabio managed to pass Marquez for 4th – keeping his championship hopes alive.

Marquez in 5th looked like he was in trouble from the two Suzuki’s following closely behind him. On lap 7 Joan Mir managed to pass, forcing Marquez back to 6th. Behind them Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) had also passed Alex Rins (Suzuki) for 7th.

Yellow flags were suddenly waving and a Pramac Ducati was in the gravel – Martin had crashed out of first place on turn 5. All of a sudden, the championship leader was in the lead, with his 2023 teammate following closely behind. Fabio was also up to 3rd. The battle continued.

Next lap Marquez passed Mir back, but Bezzecchi had better pace and managed to pass both riders to go to 4th. Could Bezzecchi help Bagnaia by passing Quartararo?

With 13 laps to go, Bagnaia led Bastianini, Quartararo and Bezzecchi.

Pecco led The Beast. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Gapping had started to appear between the top 4 riders – Bagnaia and Bastianini were 3.156 seconds ahead of Fabio who was 1.156 seconds ahead of Bezzecchi. But Bezzecchi was eating away at his gap to Fabio. Could he fight for a podium spot?

Half-way through the race, Bastianini couldn’t hold back any further and on turn 4 he managed to make a move on fellow Italian Bagnaia to take the lead. Ducati had said no team orders, were they going to commit to this rule? Audiences were on the edge of their seats wondering what would happen next.

With 7 laps to go Bagnaia re-passed Bastianini on the start-finish straight and managed to hold onto first place into turn 1 (lap 16). Every championship point counted, with only one round left.

The lead for the two Italians at the front had decreased to Fabio in 3rd to 1.620 seconds, could he catch up and fight for the win? Bezzecchi behind him seemed to have had tyre issues, after fighting hard early on in the race as the gap between himself and Fabio had increased to 1.523 seconds.

With only 3 laps to go Mir crashed out of his race on turn 1, leaving his teammate to battle Marquez.

The pressure from Bastianini remained constant throughout the entire race even down to the final lap.

Close racing. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Last lap – would Bastianini make a last lap move on the championship leader? He certainly tried too. On turn 9 he made an attempt to pass but went slightly wide leaving Bagnaia free to take his 7th victory this season.

Top 10 Finishers:

1st

F. Bagnaia

2nd

E. Bastianini

3rd

F. Quartararo

4th

M. Bezzecchi

5th

A. Rins

6th

J. Miller

7th

M. Marquez

8th

B. Binder

9th

J. Zarco

10th

F. Morbidelli

Congratulations to Ducati for winning the team championship. 

It’s a team game. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Top 4 Championship:

1st

F. Bagnaia

258 points

2nd

F. Quartararo

235 points

3rd

E. Bastianini

211 points

4th

A. Espargaro

211 points

It is now down to the wire – who will be crowned World Champion in the next round?

In the words of Fabio – “…even if the chance is super small, we bring it to Valencia”. We will see you there!

Then there were two. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

 

 

(Featured image – “Victory tastes sweet”. Courtesy of: Moto GP website).

Worth the wait!

Qualifying:

Marc Marquez was back with his incredible skills at saving his Honda from crashing, once again during the qualifying.

It was Jorge Martin (Ducati) who pipped him to the post to take his 3rd pole this season and an all-time lap record (1:27.767), with Marquez following closely behind him. Finishing the front row was Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) and the other championship contenders Fabio Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro behind him, in 5th and 6th.

Claiming pole. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

If qualifying was anything to go by, we were going to be in for a treat on Sunday.

Race:

Rain had poured during the night, but it was glorious sunshine that greeted everyone at Phillip Island in the morning. This race had been 3 years of anticipation and audiences were excited to see what was in store:

Lining up on the grid Bagnaia appeared to have trouble with his start device, he just about managed to sort the issue before lights went out. When the lights went green, it was Martin who led Marquez and Espargaro into turn 1. Bagnaia went backwards to 4th place but by turn 2 he was up to 3rd, passing one of his championship contenders.

Home-Hero, Jack Miller (Ducati) started to carve his way through the pack and on lap 2 of 27 he had made his way up to 6th, passing Alex Marquez (Honda) and Luca Marini (Ducati) in the process. His championship hopes weren’t quite done with yet.

Marini fought back on ‘Miller Corner’ (having been named after Jack during the weekend). Miller soon took the place back though, knowing he couldn’t let the championship leaders get away. By lap 3 he had managed to also pass Espargaro to sit behind his teammate. Would team orders come into play?

The answer is no – Miller passed Pecco to take 3rd a lap later. But Pecco was having none of it and fought back.

Meanwhile, behind them Quartararo lost another place to Marini but seconds later Fabio made a mistake and was forced to go onto the grass verge, entering back into the race in 22nd place, behind his teammate Franco Morbidelli.

While this was all happening Alex Rins (Suzuki) had taken fastest lap and was up into 7th place behind Marini. He soon passed him to take 6th. Rins was seemingly on a charge. Not content with his new spot, he soon took another one, this time from Espargaro in 5th. Could he make it to the podium?

With 22 laps still to go Martin led Marquez and Bagnaia.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

All eyes were on Suzuki-man Rins as he caught Miller by surprise, claiming his spot too (for 4th) and on lap 8 he also passed Bagnaia for 3rd. Could he manage to conserve his tyres to make it to the end of the race after pushing so hard? Only time would tell.

Miller seemed to be in the wars as Espargaro passed him for 5th (and took fastest lap), on lap 9. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) also managed to push Miller back to 7th. Alex Marquez tried his luck too but instead he hit Miller from behind, narrowly avoiding hitting Marini as well, sending them both into the gravel, on ‘Miller Corner’ ending both their races early. (It was later confirmed that A. Marquez would get a long-lap penalty next round for ‘riding in an overly aggressive manner’).

Checking Miller is okay. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Back at the front of the race Rins and Bagnaia had a tussle for 3rd with Bagnaia being the victor this time round.

By lap 10 Fabio had made it up into the points positions (15th) but on the next lap on turn 2 he made a mistake and crashed out of the race, taking zero points at Phillip Island. Has the dream for a second championship gone?

On the same lap Rins managed to pass Bagnaia and Marquez. Martin then led Rins, Marquez and Bagnaia into lap 12.

Rins was clearly up for fighting for the win and on lap 14 he saw his opportunity to get into the prime position, taking 1st from ‘The Martinator’ smoothly. While positions were being swapped behind him – Bagnaia passed Marquez and Martin and then Marquez also passed Martin – he had gone from 1st to 4th in only 2 turns.

Marquez was the only rider though to have taken a gamble with a soft rear tyre. Would the gamble pay off?

Martin soon lost yet another place, this time to Bezzecchi and in-front of him Bagnaia had had enough of watching Rins and had taken the lead. On the next corner Marquez also followed suit and passed Rins.

With 13 laps to go Bagnaia led Marquez, Rins and Bezzecchi. How much more drama could there possibly be? If crowds weren’t on the edge of their seats already, they soon would be:

Such close racing – Bagnaia, Rins and Marquez. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Just 11 laps until the end and Rins seizes his opportunity to pass Marquez for 2nd and Martin passes Bezzecchi back. Blink and you would miss the action!

Martin had found his second wind and managed to also pass Marquez for 3rd but lap 19 Marquez got his spot back and brought Bezzecchi with him, who managed to also claim a position from Martin, pushing him back to 5th. On the next lap a battle commenced between Bezzecchi, Marquez and Martin. Bezzecchi managed to claim Marquez’s spot and Martin also passed him, but Marquez fought Martin off to keep 4th. While back at the front Rins had managed to claim first position.

With only 8 laps to go Rins now led Bagnaia, Bezzecchi and Marquez.

So much action on track, no-one knew where to look!

Yet there was still more to come:

Bagnaia powered past Rins on the start-finish straight to re-take the lead and to start lap 21. Rins then got swallowed up by both Bezzecchi and Marquez to go back to 4th. The same thing that had happened to Martin moments ago.

With 6 laps to go Rins and Marquez fought for 3rd but it ended with Marquez going wide and Martin passing through, sending Marquez back to 5th. Could he still put up a fight with his soft rear tyre? If there was an issue with the soft tyre Marquez was ignoring it as he soon passed Martin back for 4th.

Bezzecchi seemed to be in trouble with Rins, with 3 laps until the end on turn 2 Rins managed to make his pass stick and was soon hunting down Bagnaia again. Meanwhile Marquez had also passed Marco to take 3rd. Marquez wasn’t letting Rins get away – they tussled for 2nd place, but Rins won.

Last lap:

Bagnaia led Rins, Marquez and Bezzecchi over the line but Rins passed Bagnaia shortly after and Marquez followed him. Could Marquez make the pass to snatch victory?

No, he couldn’t – Alex Rins took the chequered flag for a fairytale win for Suzuki. Followed closely by Marquez and Bagnaia.

Top Ten Finishers:

1st

A. Rins

2nd

M. Marquez

3rd

F. Bagnaia

4th

M. Bezzecchi

5th

E. Bastianini

6th

L. Marini

7th

J. Martin

8th

J. Zarco

9th

A. Espargaro

10th

B. Binder

It was such a close race between the top ten racers. But it was all about celebration: Rins became the 7th different winner this year, Marquez took his 100th premier class victory and Bezzecchi became Rookie of the Year!

Rookie of the Year. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Top Four in Championship:

1st

F. Bagnaia

233 points

2nd

F. Quartararo

219 points

3rd

A. Espargaro

206 points

4th

E. Bastianini

191 points

We have certainly missed Phillip Island these past 3 years – but wasn’t it worth the wait?!

 

 

(Featured image: courtesy of: Moto GP website). 

Round 9 WorldSBK Portimao, Portugal, Race 2

Victory in the earlier Superpole race, meant the reigning champion, Toprak Razgatlioglu, was on a charge, and looking for a complete set of wins across the weekend.

Lights out for race 2 and it was Toprak (Pata Yamaha) with the hole shot into turn 1, followed by Rea (Kawasaki KRT) 2nd, Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati) 3rd, Lowes (Kawasaki KRT) 4th, and Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) 5th.

WorldSBK 09.10.2022 Portimao Picture courtesy of KRT Kawasaki Racing Alex Lowes

Next lap and Rea barged through on Toprak to take over the lead, and was looking aggressive early on. Further back it was 6th Bassani (Motocorsa Duacti), 7th Locatelli (Pata Yamaha), 8th Redding (BMW Mottorad). Then drama for Mahias (Puccetti Kawasaki) who went down, and his race was over.

On lap 18 of 20, it was Rinaldi in 4th who set the new fastest lap of the race with a 1:40.098, and was having a much better race. Meanwhile further back it was the Honda HRC team mates of Lecuona, and Vierge in 10th, and 11th respectively, 12th Vd Mark (BMW Motorrad), 15th Gerloff (GRT Yamaha).

With 16 laps to go, drama for Bassani who went down into turn 12, losing the front end of the Ducati, and his race was over. Meanwhile at the front, the leading group of 5 riders had pulled away from the rest of the field.

With 15 laps to go, it was Rea who set the new fastest lap with a 1:40.673, and the pace was gradually getting ramped up, to be more in line with the quicker pace in race 1. Bautista held a gap of 0.5s to his team mate behind in 4th. Meanwhile Lowes was struggling with the faster pace, and was beginning to lose contact in 5th.

Next lap and, as in race 1, Toprak out brakes Rea into turn 1 with a nice looking move, cutting up the inside of the 6x champion. All three of the title contenders were swapping fastest laps, and it was the turn of Alvaro to put in the new fastest lap of a 1:40.647.

With 12 laps to go, Rea repays Toprak by making the same pass on him, as he had to Rea into turn 1, to retake the lead. Meanwhile Bautista sensed an opportunity, and came through on Toprak to move into 2nd. The Turk going from 1st to 3rd in one corner.

Next lap and Bautista was gathering momentum and passed Rea down the straight, and into turn 1 to take over the lead. Again the ZX10-RR had no response to the shear speed of the Panigale V4.

Half race distance, and Toprak again passed Rea into turn 1 to take over 2nd. Bautista meanwhile, held a gap of 0.3 out in front. Further back it was 6th Locatelli, 7th Redding, 8th Lecuona.

Next lap and keen to not allow Bautista to clear away, Toprak continued to push the pace on, setting a new fastest lap of 1:40.4.

With 7 laps to go, drama for Lecuona who went down into turn 14 losing the front end on the downhill cambered corner. He was having a decent race until then, and his race was over. Meanwhile at the front, Toprak was still shadowing Bautista, and then made a surprising move into turn 13, looking to have caught Bautista out, and cut under him to take the lead. The Spaniard did not expect that move, and Toprak was looking keen for a scrap.

Next lap and Bautista would make a reply, blasting past the R1 down the straight and into turn 1, to take over the lead. Meanwhile behind in 3rd, Rea had cooked his tyres, and was losing contact with the two riders ahead of him. It would surely come down to either the Spaniard or the Turk to claim to the win.

With 4 laps to go, Bautista had extended his lead to 0.8s, and Toprak was clearly suffering from tyre wear issues as was Rea. Meanwhile further back it was 8th Vierge, 9th Baz (Bonovo Action BMW), 10th Gerloff.

With the final 2 laps to go, Bautista had broke the advances of Toprak, and had extended the gap to 1.7s. Barring an incident, he would have the win in the bag.

WorldSBK 09.10.2022 Portimao, Picture courtesy of Aruba.it Racing, Alvaro Bautista

Last lap and Bautista crossed the line to deny Toprak a hat trick of wins across the weekend. It was Toprak 2nd, Rea 3rd, Rinaldi 4th, Lowes 5th, Locatelli 6th, Redding 7th, Vierge 8th, Gerloff 9th, Baz 10th.

With the final 3 rounds to come, it was looking as though Bautista firmly held the advantage over his rivals.

Result top 5:

  1. Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati)
  2. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  3. Rea (Kawasaki KRT)
  4. Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati)
  5. Lowes (Kawasaki KRT)

Championship top 3:

  1. Bautista – 448 pts
  2. Razgatlioglu – 392
  3. Rea – 366

 

The drama continues in Thailand

Qualifying:

Moto GP was finally back in Thailand!

But it wasn’t the only return this weekend. Danilo Petrucci also returned to the paddock, taking Joan Mir’s spot at Suzuki, who was still unable to ride.

Glorious sunny conditions graced the track, which had a nice surprise in store for everyone – 2022 rookie – Marco Bezzecchi (VR46) flew into pole position, ahead of Jorge Martin (Ducati) and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati), who took last spot on the front row.

Race:

The weather was turned on its head for Sunday. Big black clouds loomed large overhead and with them came torrential rain, which managed to hamper the start of the race, delaying it so far that audiences weren’t sure it was even going to go ahead.

Some riders protested against the start of the race while others wanted to go racing. The crowd at the circuit however were determined to not let the weather get them down and they remained in fantastically high spirits.

The race was later declared a wet race and with that, a decision to remove one lap from the race, taking it from 26 laps to 25 in total.

The green lights eventually went out and the race began:

Martin immediately went wide into turn one as did Bezzecchi, but he managed to remain in the lead ahead of Bagnaia and Jack Miller (Ducati).

Start of the race. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Championship leader – Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) made a mistake also early on, on the first lap taking him from 11th to 17th place. The championship points changing right before our eyes.

There was heavy spray coming from all the riders, making visibility poor, but one rider who was not perturbed by this was Alex Marquez (Honda), who had the best start, claiming 10 places and was up to 10th position. What could he achieve further into the race?

Lap 2 saw Bezzecchi be told he needed to give a position back due to exceeding track limits (when he went wide) on the 1st lap. Meanwhile, behind him, Miller made a move on his teammate to take him into 2nd. He was in prime spot to take the lead when Bezzecchi would eventually have to let him pass.

Alex Marquez wasn’t finished making up places and soon passed Enea Bastianini (Ducati) to take 9th spot on lap 3. On the same lap – Bezzecchi moved out of the racing-line to let Miller pass. Miller then led Bezzecchi, Bagnaia and Miguel Oliveira (KTM). In 6th place, Luca Marini crashed out, but he did manage to later re-join the race.

Sensing he needed to start to break away and gain a lead, Miller soon took fastest lap but it was quickly surpassed by Oliveira. Miguel also managed to pass Bezzecchi to claim another spot and Bagnaia followed, taking his opportunity too.

Miller led Oliveira, Bagnaia and Bezzecchi by lap 6 of 25.

Oliveira threw down the gauntlet for fastest lap, putting in an impressive lap time of 1:39.920. Could he fight for the victory?

Hunting Miller. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Meanwhile a mini battle for 7th place had started with A. Marquez passing Zarco, only for Zarco to pass straight back.

While that battle raged on, Miller and Oliveira started to create a gap at the front. A. Espargaro (Aprilia) on the other hand was having a bad weekend and was given a long-lap penalty for dangerous riding earlier on in the race. Would this result change the championship standings?

Still on the move – Alex Marquez managed to pass a further 2 riders, placing him behind his brother in 5th place. On the same lap Bagnaia picked up the fastest lap gauntlet and with it threw down a lap time of: 1:39.566. This was a great achievement by Bagnaia as he struggled last weekend in the wet conditions during qualifying. He later claimed that his teammate gave him a ‘pep-talk’ before this weekend’s race, which helped him this round.

The black clouds still gathered above but with them came the thunder. Would there be any further drama during the race?

Dark clouds above. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

14 laps until the end, Miller still led Oliveira and Bagnaia, with championship leader – Quartararo remaining in 18th place (out of the points). Could Fabio find something extra and manage to gain any valuable points?

2 laps later Oliveira set up a pass on Miller and took the lead. Miller tried to fight back but went wide. He decided to wait until the start-finish straight to use the full power of the Ducati to pass him back but, it came to no avail. Oliveira remained in 1st place.

It was then the turn of Frenchman Johann Zarco to take fastest lap, in 5th place. Not only did he manage it twice in a row but with 7 laps to go he managed to claim it a 3rd time (1:39.185). Could he fight for a podium position?

Only 5 laps until the chequered flag and M. Marquez made a move on Bagnaia for 3rd but couldn’t make it stick. In making the move, Marquez helped bring Zarco into the mix, who was looking menacing behind the number 93.

It only took until the next lap for Zarco to pass Marquez to claim 4th position. The podium was now in his sights.

Nothing in Thailand was going to dampen the drama unfolding on track, not even further black clouds and louder claps of thunder.

With 2 laps to go the KTM still led the 3 Ducati’s with Marquez’s Honda in 5th spot.

Last lap-

Bastianini managed to find some late race pace and managed to get up to 6th, behind Marquez, but he couldn’t quite make any move on him.

Oliveira passed the finish line to take the win, with Miller taking 2nd and Bagnaia bagging 3rd. The championship leader remained out of the points. A completely different story from round 16.

The championship still remains open for grabs.

Top Ten Finishers:

1st

M. Oliveira

2nd

J. Miller

3rd

F. Bagnaia

4th

J. Zarco

5th

M. Marquez

6th

E. Bastianini

7th

M. Vinales

8th

A. Marquez

9th

J. Martin

10th

B. Binder

Top Four Championship Standings:

1st

F. Quartararo

219 points

2nd

F. Bagnaia

217 points

3rd

A. Espargaro

199 points

4th

E. Bastianini

180 points

Such exciting racing and close positions in the championship – there is now only 2 points between Fabio and Pecco! So, be sure not to miss the Australian round in 2 weeks’ time!

 

 

(Featured image – Jump for Joy. Courtesy of: Moto GP website). 

Both heartbreak and elation at Motegi.

Qualifying:

Heavy rain poured down in Japan for the start of the qualifying but by Q2 it had stopped, the track however was still drenched. The riders went out cautiously.

A surprise, but not a complete surprise, came from one rider – Marc Marquez. He showed he was still very much a champion and put his Honda back on pole position (his first pole since Motegi in 2019). Behind him Johann Zarco (Ducati) took second place and Brad Binder (KTM) took the last slot on front row.

Rainy conditions wouldn’t stop Marc Marquez. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) qualified 9th. 12th was Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) and in 6th was Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) – the top championship contenders.

Race:

Clear skies graced the track on Sunday but that didn’t mean drama wasn’t just round the corner.

Aleix Espargaro had issues with his Aprilia from the start of the sighting lap, before the race had even begun, forcing him to return to pit lane, where he then literally dropped his bike to take his number 2 bike out. He managed to get out of the pit lane in time to join onto the back of the race.

Back on the grid – Marquez got a great start from pole, but Binder had an even better one and was soon leading, from Marquez and Martin. Martin, however, was quick to take 2nd and by turn 3 had also managed to pass Binder to take the lead.

There was another man on a mission though in the form of Jack Miller (Ducati). He had managed to pass both Miguel Oliveria (KTM) and Marquez, in one swift move, to take 3rd place.

Every championship point rang in their ears: – Quartararo was down in 8th place, behind him in 11th was Bagnaia and Espargaro had made it to 22nd. What could any of them do?

Meanwhile Miller had passed next year’s teammate (Binder) to take another spot (2nd) on lap 3 of 24. While fastest lap went to Oliveira.

Up to second. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

With 22 laps to go Miller fought Martin for the lead – he won and with it took fastest lap. Miller seemed to be untouchable.

In 8th place, Quartararo was under pressure by Luca Marini (Ducati) with 21 laps to go but so was Bagnaia from Bastianini. Enea managed to pass Pecco but Pecco took the position straight back. Meanwhile Marini had also passed Quartararo and managed to make it stick. There was only Pol Espargaro (Honda) between the top two of the championship.

Under pressure by Marini. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Zarco who had had a great qualifying session had fallen backwards throughout the race and perhaps had an issue with his bike. It was a gift for Quartararo who took 8th spot and Bagnaia promoted himself to 10th. Bastianini was still all over the Ducati rider though, waiting to attack.

With 17 laps to go gapping was being created – Miller’s gap between himself and Martin had grown to 1.046 seconds and Martin’s gap to Oliveira also had grown to 1.115 seconds. Bastianini managed to pass Bagnaia to take 10th place from him. There certainly were no team orders from Ducati. Bagnaia then had to worry about Marco Bezzecchi (another Ducati) who was already very close behind.

Passing Bagnaia. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Bastianini soon had pulled away and had already closed the gap between himself and P. Espargaro, managing to pass him on lap 11 of 24. It turned out Bagnaia had nothing to worry about with Bezzecchi as Bagnaia also passed Pol, after Pol made a slight mistake. Now up to 10th place, directly behind Bastianini once more.

Halfway through the race and Takuya Tsuda (who had stepped in for Mir at Suzuki) suddenly had his bike on fire beneath him, causing yellow flags to be waved at sector 2 (turn 5) and ultimately ending his home race.

In 7th place Marini was looking menacing behind Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) and soon had passed him to claim 6th spot and on the same lap (lap 14) Darryn Binder ended his race early sliding off into the gravel. He managed to re-join the race but retired a few laps later.

Back in front, Miller couldn’t put a foot wrong, with his metronomic lap times and a gap of 4.369 seconds ahead of Martin, the chequered flag was in reaching distance. Could he win his first race this year?

5 laps to go and Miller remained in command of the Japanese race, while his teammate also managed to dig deep and find some form, beginning to shrink the gap between himself and his future teammate. Into turn 12 he managed to pass Bastianini to take 9th, now he had Quartararo in his sights.

Martin, who had remained in 2nd place for quite some time, was under pressure from Binder. With only 3 laps until the end, who would take 2nd?

Behind them Honda rider Marquez had managed to pass Oliveira to take 4th with 2 laps left. Could he fight for the podium?

Last lap:

Miller continued to lead.

Behind him though, binder passed Martin to take 2nd –

Second-in-the-championship-man Bagnaia suddenly crashed out of 9th, applauding himself for his mistake, while he walked away.

Marini passed Oliveira but couldn’t quite make it stick, crossing the line.

But nothing could stop Jack today – the Thriller was back!

Top Ten Finishers:

1st

J. Miller

2nd

B. Binder

3rd

J. Martin

4th

M. Marquez

5th

M. Oliveira

6th

L. Marini

7th

M. Vinales

8th

F. Quartararo

9th

E. Bastianini

10th

M. Bezzecchi

This is Bagnaia’s 5th DNF this season and his teammate’s first Moto GP victory this year, it was both heartbreak and elation for Ducati.

Top 4 Championship Standings:

1st

F. Quartararo

219 points

2nd

F. Bagnaia

201 points

3rd

A. Espargaro

194 points

4th

E. Bastianini

170 points

None of the top championship riders could quite capitalize on today’s race, so the championship is still up for grabs with only 4 more races, who will be crowned World Champion?

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website). 

Aragon = All-out Action!

Qualifying:

Big news of the weekend is that Marc Marquez (Honda) is finally back, after his surgery which was a complete success this time around. He had some work to do to try and get through to Q2 but, yellow flags hampered him and he narrowly missed out going through to Q2, meaning he would start 13th on Sunday.

It was also a warm welcome back to British racer Cal Crutchlow, who will be racing for the rest of the season in Andrea Dovisiozo’s place at Yamaha.

Good news for Ducati though as it was a lock-out on the front-row for them. Francesco Bagnaia took pole with an all-time lap record – 1:46.69, from current teammate Jack Miller and next year’s teammate Enea Bastianini.

Pole! Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Race:

Sunshine was beaming and the anticipation was bubbling along nicely.

It was all action from lights out – Bagnaia remained in the lead from Miller and Bastianini. While Marquez had made an impressive start and was up into 6th place by turn 2, when suddenly championship leader Fabio Quartararo rode into the rear wheel of Marquez, propelling him from his Yamaha and flying him across the track, lucky not to get caught up in other riders behind him, he recovered on the side of the track. (A medical update later revealed that he had numerous burns to his chest – we wish him a speedy recovery). With this one sudden moment, the championship was flung wide-open!

Fabio’s crash. Courtesy of: Moto GP footage

A few moments later Marquez was checking his Honda as there was some of Fabio’s Yamaha lodged in the rear of it when Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) nudged him, sending Nakagami also into the line of on-coming bikes and then into the gravel. Quick reactions from the riders behind meant no further collisions were caused. (Medical updates later confirmed Nakagami is doing well but has visited the medical centre, we wish him a speedy recovery also).

Nakagami incident. Courtesy of: Moto GP BT Sport footage

The action wasn’t over yet though as Marquez’s bike started to smoke from the rear, the Yamaha parts that had gotten lodged in the bike must have damaged his rear wheel. He was forced to retire from his first race back in 2022.

Back at the front, Bastianini went backwards to 4th place, but he had also taken fastest lap.

Bagnaia led Miller, Brad Binder (KTM) and Bastianini onto lap 3 of 23. Bastianini wasn’t hanging around though and soon re-took 3rd from Binder. He knew he couldn’t let the factory Ducati’s get away.

Bagnaia leads the way. Courtesy of: Moto GP wesbite

The race pace settled down after the excitement of the opening laps as Bagnaia created a lead of 0.457 seconds ahead of his teammate with 18 laps to go.

Bastianini had plans to thwart Bagnaia’s lead though and soon had passed Miller to take 2nd. The gap between himself and his future teammate was 0.700 seconds, knowing he had to hunt him down – he got to work.

Miller’s race meanwhile, was going from bad to worse as Binder also passed him as did Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) moments after, putting him back to 5th place.

With 16 laps to go Bagnaia was still in control, leading Bastianini, Binder and Espargaro.

The gap between the two front Italians had decreased further to 0.412 seconds. Would Bastianini dare challenge Bagnaia for the lead? Ducati had announced prior to the race that their riders are “free to race” so what would he decide?

By lap 9 the gap between the pair had closed dramatically and Bastianini did indeed pass the Duke to take the lead. It was a short-loved lead though as he soon went wide, meaning Bagnaia could re-take the lead with ease. He then made a small mistake on the next corner, nearly letting Binder also take a place from him, fortunately he remained in second, but all his hard work had come undone. The gap between him and the leader was back to 0.786 seconds. He wasn’t going to be perturbed though.

Bastianini was on a mission, not letting the number 63 get away he started to claw the gap back. Meanwhile, behind him Binder was being hunted down by Espargaro.

By lap 16 of 23, gapping was appearing between the leading four riders: Bagania’s lead was 0.745 seconds ahead of Bastianini, who’s gap between him and Binder was 1.579 seconds, who’s gap between Binder and Espargaro was 0.405 seconds.

In 14th place – British Yamaha test-rider Cal Crutchlow was remaining in the points, currently higher than any place Dovi had managed to collect this year.

Cal Crutchlow. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Back at the front the action was becoming tense. With only 6 laps until the chequered flag the gap between Bagnaia and “The Beast” had dropped and Bastianini was very close to the rear of Pecco.

With 4 laps till the end: Crutchlow passed Vinales to take 13th, Espargaro closed the gap between himself and Binder (to 0.193 seconds) and Bastianini started getting tempted to pass his future teammate.

Would he actually do it? Could he actually do it? There weren’t many laps left to make a decision.

The gap between the two Ducati’s was 0.193 seconds as Bastianini seemed to be testing a corner to pass Bagnaia on. Deciding against it, audiences had to hold their breath.

Espargaro though, decided enough is enough sitting behind Binder and passed him to take the last podium position.

The next lap Bastianini did another tempting move but again decided against it. Was he going to try a pass on Bagnaia?

Last lap:

Baganaia led Bastianini onto turn 1 –

turn 2 –

turn 3 –

turn 4 –

turn 5 and turn 6 but, turn 7 saw a surprise move from Bastianini which saw him re-take the lead at Aragon. Bagnaia had little response to it. The last corner/ the short start-finish straight was his last chance, but it was not to be.

Bastianini claimed his 4th victory for 2022, with Bagnaia extremely close behind.

Top ten finishers:

1st

E. Bastianini

2nd

F. Bagnaia

3rd

A. Espargaro

4th

B. Binder

5th

J. Miller

6th

J. Martin

7th

L. Marini

8th

J. Zarco

9th

A. Rins

10th

M. Bezzecchi

Surprising turn of events for round 15 sees the championship blow wide-open:

Top four championship standings:

1st

F. Quartararo

211 points

2nd

F. Bagnaia

201 points

3rd

A. Espargaro

194 points

4th

E. Bastianini

163 points

Now only 10 points between Fabio and Pecco and 17 points between Aleix and first place.

With a 1, 2 in the bag for this round, Ducati had more to celebrate as they became the 2022 Constructors World Champions! 

Courtesy of: Ducati Course Twitter page

What could possibly happen next time in Motegi, Japan? Be sure to join in with the action on Sunday 25th September.

 

(Featured image. Courtesy of: Enea Bastianini Twitter page)

 

 

Thank you for your service. May you rest in peace. Courtesy of: Google Images.

All in a days work for Pecco!

Qualifying:

Rainy, damp conditions greeted the riders for their qualifying sessions on Saturday.

But, it was Ducati-man Jack Miller who took full advantage and secured pole, followed by Enea Bastianini and Marco Bezzecchi, making an all Ducati front-row. Second and third place were local-boys, hoping to shine bright at home.

The top two riders in the championship – Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) both qualified on the 3rd row.

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) received a 3 place grid penalty which resulted in him starting in 5th, following on from slowing down on the racing line, after he assumed the chequered flag had been waved to end the session.

Race:

A wonderful tribute to the late Fausto Gresini would be done during the race, in the form of the Gresini Racing bikes having their livery changed to remember the 1987 125cc World Championship winning Garell bike that Gresini used. Whatever their outcome for the race, this was a wonderful surprise.

The livery! Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The rain/ damp conditions had passed ready for Sunday with partly cloudy weather, the track temperature though had risen significantly to 43 degrees, come race time. Would this prove to be an issue?

It was finally lights out for the Moto GP race: Miller got a great start, as did Bagnaia. Miller led Bastianini and Bagnaia into the first corner. But behind it was  disaster for; Johann Zarco (Ducati), Michele Pirro (Ducati) and Pol Espargaro (Honda), who all toppled out together. Hopefully, none were injured in the collision.

Crashing out. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

After the news this week, that Bastianini had been confirmed he was to be Bagnaia’s teammate next year, there didn’t seem to be any future team orders between the pair. Bastianini soon passed Bagnaia to take 2nd place. But on the second lap Miller unexpectedly fell from first (turn 4), leaving ‘The Beast’ to lead the race.

Bastianini led Marini (VR46) and Bagnaia (Marini had also managed to pass Bagnaia to take 2nd). While one VR46 rider fortunes were in his favour, teammate Bezzecchi’s fortunes were not – crashing out also on lap 2.

The new race leader also almost toppled from first moments later, but managed to recover.

The excitement was far from over though. Lap 3 saw Bagnaia and Vinales both pass Marini, pushing him back to 4th, another yellow flag waved but this time for both Frankie Morbidelli (Yamaha) and Fabio DiGiannantonio (Ducati), Bagnaia passed Bastianini for the lead and ‘Top Gun’ passed ‘The Beast’ for 2nd.

Bagnaia led Vinales, Bastianini and Marini with Quartararo and Espargaro close behind.

Bagnaia took fastest lap (lap 5) but had mounting pressure in the form of Vinales, who was looking menacing behind.

In 5th place on lap 7, Espargaro made a small error, which Quartararo needed no invitation and passed him to gain another place. Meanwhile in 3rd Bastianini was pushing hard and took fastest lap (1:32.560 seconds).

Now in 5th spot, could Quartararo close the gap on the front 4 riders, their gap had increased to 0.826 seconds, with 21 laps still to go? He knew he had to try. Next lap he took fastest lap. Could he be in for a shout of a podium finish?

Fastest lap soon went to Bagnaia, but was beaten seconds later by 6th place rider Espargaro. Fighting for the championship, alongside Fabio, could Aleix catch him to reduce the points between them? He certainly kept the momentum going – with 16 laps till the end, he secured another fastest lap.

Track limits warnings were coming thick and fast: Vinales was the first to receive one, then Martin then Quartararo. But, Vinales didn’t seem perturbed by his warning and soon took 2 fastest laps in a row, all the while, eyeing up a pass on Bagnaia.

With 12 laps to go, Bastianini went slightly wide, letting Marini take 3rd, but Bastianini wasn’t having any of it and re-took the position straight back. The gap between number 23 and 12 was 0.615 seconds. Could Bastianini manage to catch up and if so fight for the win?

Setting fastest lap with only 10 laps to go he had managed to claw the gap down between himself and Maverick to 0.471 seconds. With Vinales still trying to get the perfect spot to pass Bagnaia for the lead. But, he had waited too long to make his move and 2 laps later Bastianini attacked and took 2nd place on turn one. Bagnaia now led Bastianini, Vinales and Marini.

Following closely. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The next track-limits warning went to Bastianini with 6 laps till the end.

But, more drama was about to unfold going onto the last lap:

Bastianini was all over the back of Bagnaia. Would he make a last lap lunge? Surely not – this would be his teammate next year and a championship contender this year. None of this was on his mind though as he went to make a move but had to abort it, in fear of crashing into Bagnaia, which in turn created a small gap between the pair. The gap was severely shrunk down on the start-finish line though making it a picture-finish. Bagnaia had the edge and claimed the victory (with only 0.034 seconds between them) and in the process made history: Being the first-time Ducati have won 4 races in a row!

Super close end. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

A great ride from Vinales saw him finish on the last spot of the podium.

Top 10 race finishers:

1st

F. Bagnaia

2nd

E. Bastianini

3rd

M. Vinales

4th

L. Marini

5th

F. Quartararo

6th

A. Espargaro

7th

A. Rins

8th

B. Binder

9th

J. Martin

10th

A. Marquez

Top 4 Championship Standings:

1st

F. Quartararo

211 points

2nd

F. Bagnaia

181 points

3rd

A. Espargaro

178 points

4th

E. Bastianini

138 points

As seen above, there are some changes to the championship table.

The race was brilliant and had everyone on the edge of their seats. BUT, we can’t end there.

For the last 21 years there has been a consistent rider, one who we have had the pleasure to watch come through the ranks: winning the 125 championship, coming close to winning the 250 championship and coming runner-up many times in the Moto GP class.

Ever a gentleman off track but with the heart of a lion on track, he gave us many exciting battles and has raced against many big names in the sport. He won his first-ever race at Misano and decided to end his Moto GP career his way, at the very same track. He has won many fans over the years and the paddock will not be the same without him.

Thank you for the memories Andrea Dovizioso and Ciao! We wish you all the best wherever your future takes you.

Feel the love Dovi. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

 

 

Featured image: Courtesy of: Moto GP website. 

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 

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