MotoGP: Behind the Fantastic Red Bull Ring Finish

Dovizioso wins his 3rd GP of the season after a breathtaking race with Márquez

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The battle between Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso (04) and Honda's Marc Marquez (93) on the last lap of the Austrian MotoGP race lasted until the final corner, where Dovizioso foresaw Marquez's last-ditch attempt and let him by in order to square up the corner exit and outdrive the Honda rider to the finish.Photo courtesy of Ducati Corse

"I didn't expect that he would try to overtake me in the last corner, there is no space there, it's not a braking [corner]. But in the second-to-last corner, I heard his engine, he could begin accelerating before me…so I knew that he would try it. So I leave the door open because if I close the door, for sure he hit me, and he is able to win."—Andrea Dovizioso

"If I didn't try, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night." —Marc Márquez

"Marc has impressed me today; only he does things like that."— Jorge Lorenzo

These three quotes, all regarding the last turn of the race, show how intense the last lap of the Austrian GP was. It not only had the spectators that filled the Red Bull Ring stand in appreciation, but also resulted in the winner and the loser congratulating each other: One with the satisfaction of having won a tremendous battle, the other with the tranquility of not having left one gram of effort on the track in his attempt to win.

For the ones who haven’t yet seen the desperate move of Marc Márquez on Andrea Dovizioso, to impress a champion like Jorge Lorenzo is a good reference of how intense it was.

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The heated battle between Dovizioso and Marquez eventually pulled them away from Marquez's Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, who in turn got the better of Dovizioso's Ducati teammate Jorge Lorenzo.Photo courtesy of Michelin

Saturday evening after the practice sessions had pitlane pundits predicting another win for Márquez, but 10 more degrees in the track surface on Sunday transformed the race in one of the most exciting and intense in MotoGP history. The total number of overtakes during the race I sincerely don’t know, I lost count. But what I do remember very well were the five passes on lap 22…spectacular. And then that last lap, where Márquez literally tried everything to overtake Dovizioso…who was in turn absolutely determined to not let it happen. After having lost in the same scenario last year, for Dovizioso there was no other possible result than a victory.

The “new Dovi”, the one who believes in himself, the one who has learned that there are moments in which race strategies have to be pushed aside for racing by pure heart, resisted all of Márquez’s desperate attacks. And it all led up to the final corner, an area where no passing is thought possible because there simply is no space for it…well, for anyone but Márquez…

The Spanish rider jumped on Dovi like a desperate wolf on fleeing prey. The veteran Italian knew that if he accepted Márquez’s challenge, the likely options would all include one or both not finishing the race. Instead of putting up resistance, Dovizioso opened the door for Marquez, knowing that his momentum would make braking and turning the bike in so small of a space impossible.

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Lost in all the excitement of the Dovi/Márquez battle was the continuing troubles plaguing the factory Yamahas, who are now struggling with late-race rear tire grip issues. Maverick Viñales finished a disconsolate sixth, with Valentino Rossi right behind in seventh.Photo courtesy of Michelin

Márquez took the invitation and entered the turn like a knife in a piece of butter. He went long, but where the script said that that he would overshoot the turn, the three-time MotoGP world champion managed to slide the rear on the track edge and get the bike turned. But by that time, Dovizioso’s Ducati had already cut back inside and was already pointing straight towards the race director who was standing a few hundred meters down the straight with the checkered flag in his hand.

As expected, Márquez didn’t give up: even though the two bikes were close to colliding, he stayed on the gas in the hope that he might be able to outdrive the Ducati off the turn. But the Desmosedici’s rear tire hooked up well, and rocketed Dovizioso towards his third win of the season. Oh sure, winning in Mugello was special, and to repeat in Montmeló was unexpected…but the victory at the Red Bull Ring was epic. Minutes later, a Ducati team member and a Honda manager crossed in the paddock: “It’s an honor have you as a rival,” they said each other.

With Dani Pedrosa third on the finish line and Jorge Lorenzo finishing the race les than 7 seconds behind the winner, the Austrian GP was certainly a positive race for Honda and Ducati. For the brand of Borgo Panigale because they repeated the victory of last year, although with much more margin than then; for the Japanese because the confirmed the competitiveness towards the end of the season on a track that in 2016 had been very difficult for them.

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Jorge Lorenzo was the race's early leader, but his choice of soft option rear tire didn't work out, and he fell back to fourth. Johann Zarco (5) managed to finish as top Yamaha in fifth, and his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 M1 didn't suffer the grip issues of the factory Yamahas.Photo courtesy of Michelin

Much less positive with the outcome of the Red Bull Ring MotoGP race was the factory Yamaha team. Its two riders—Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi—finished in disappointing sixth and seventh positions. “Thinking in terms of winning the championship finishing in these positions is ridiculous”, complained both riders. The Yamaha engineers have two weeks time to try to find an answer to the tire problems that currently plague the M1.

While the tires are gripping, the Yamaha’s are competitive—Johann Zarco and Valentino Rossi did the two fastest laps of the race—but once the traction drops, the only things that lasts is to “survive.” Viñales admits that he has no idea of what is happening, but he knows that something is obviously wrong. With seven races to go, Yamaha has a problem.

At this point Marquez, Dovizioso and Viñales have three wins each, but while the first two are clear in a upward trajectory, Viñales is transmitting the sensation that he has entered a nebula that he can’t find his way out of…and the time to discover the solution is getting shorter and shorter.