Andrea Dovizioso kept Ducati’s 100% Red Bull Ring record on Sunday at the myWorld Austrian Grand Prix, but that doesn’t even tell half the story. After a massive crash involving Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli that brought out the red flags on Lap 9, the Championship tale took another crazy twist in a Spielberg epic. Suzuki’s Joan Mir and Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller completed the podium, with Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Viñales encountering problems that saw them finishing outside the top seven.
Miller got a wonderful launch from P2 and it was the Ducati rider who grabbed the holeshot, with Maverick Viñales also getting away well to slot into P2 from pole position. Dovizioso was a fast starter from P4 with Quartararo dropping back.KTM’s Pol Espargaro chipped away and got himself to the front of the race, with Quartararo running off track at Turn 4 to drop to the back of the pack Lap 6. Espargaro, Dovizioso, Mir, Miller and Miguel Oliveira were leaving the rest behind before an utterly terrifying crash unfolded into the 200mph Turn 3 braking zone, bringing out the red flags.
Morbidelli and Zarco were side by side on the straight, and as they got on the anchors into Turn 3, the duo came into contact, and both went down. What unfolded next was both horrendously scary, but unbelievably lucky at the same time. Zarco and Morbidelli’s bikes careered towards Turn 4 at an unreal rate of knots. Both bikes hit the air-fence, thankfully slowing them down; but the bikes came barrelling over the fence and into the path of the riders that were going through Turn 3. Yamaha riders Viñales and Valentino Rossi were the two in the firing line, and somehow, the Ducati and Yamaha bikes missed the two factory Yamaha riders. Morbidelli’s bike arrowed through the gap between Viñales and Rossi, missing the nine-time World Champion by a matter of inches, with Zarco’s bike narrowly avoiding Viñales.
Morbidelli and Zarco were both on their feet after one of the scariest incidents in MotoGP™ history. They went to the medical centre for a check-up, and both were declared fit. Amazingly, everyone emerged unscathed.
So, after the riders had caught their breath and regathered their composures – and the marshals had done a terrific job of clearing the track and fixing the air-fence – the 20-lap restart was underway. Pol Espargaro was on pole as the starting grid was decided on countback to the previous completed lap, before the crash. And the KTM rider got a perfect getaway but Miller came flying up the inside from P3, the Aussie ran wide but was able to use the drive down the long straight to hold his advantage.
Pol was through at T3, but Miller was trying to pull the pin from the off. The Australian took the lead at Turn 6 and immediately got the hammer down. Meanwhile, the opening lap on the restart was a horror show for Viñales who slipped to last place – a bike issue? No one was sure, with motogp.com pitlane reporter Simon Crafar confirming after the race that Viñales did have a mechanical or electric problem on his YZR-M1. And what about Quartararo? Starting from the back of the grid, the Frenchman made up places, but for the two Yamahas, this was now all about damage limitation.
By Lap 3, Miller was nearly a second up the road from Pol Espargaro, Dovizioso, the two Suzukis and Oliveira. Mir and Alex Rins were looking very strong after making great starts on their GSX-RRs, and the duo – along with Dovizioso – were swarming Pol Espargaro. Lap 4 saw Miller’s lead creep up to over a second, but on the next lap, Dovizioso set the fastest lap of the race. Just behind the Italian, Espargaro had his hands full with the two Suzukis. The trio exchanged positions, but they were losing time on Dovizioso, with Rins eventually making a move stick and the 42 was off chasing Dovizioso.
On Lap 7, Rins set the fastest lap. Further back, Quartararo was P13, and Viñales was still out the points. On the next lap, Miller’s lead was down to just 0.4s as Dovizioso and Rins reeled in the Pramac Racing star, with Pol Espargaro, Mir and Oliveira now over a second off the podium scrap. Espargaro looked like he was getting impatient as a potential race win was slowly slipping from his grasp, a couple of mistakes crept in, and on Lap 9, catastrophe struck for KTM at their home race. At Turn 4, Espargaro and Oliveira were both down. The aftermath showed Oliveira livid in the box as we waited to hear what happened between the two.
Back on track, Miller’s advantage was no more. Dovizioso and Rins were right on the tail of the GP20, with Mir clawing back the gap after the two KTMs crashed. At Turn 6, Rins was almost down as the front of his machine tucked, but the Spaniard saved it. Then, a change for the lead. Dovizioso carved past Miller into Turn 1 and at Turn 9 later in the lap, Rins followed the red Bologna bullet through. Rins was on a charge but his race then prematurely ended at Turn 6. A repeat slip of the front tyre this time meant Rins swept up the inside of Dovizioso, but #42 was out of the race as a four-way battle for the race win became a three-way battle. Dovizioso vs Miller vs Mir, with Brad Binder over two seconds back in fourth as the South African produced another excellent Sunday ride.
So, seven laps to go in Spielberg. Nothing between the leading three, Rossi and the LCR Honda of Takaaki Nakagami was chasing Binder with Championship leaders Quartararo and Viñales 8th and 13th, Viñales was the fastest man on track too. With five laps to go, Dovi started edging clear of Miller and Mir as Miller began to look like he was struggling with his soft Michelin tyres. With four laps to go, Dovizioso had pulled 0.9 seconds clear as Miller held firm in second. Mir was climbing all over the back of the Desmosedici, but the superior Ducati grunt allowed Miller to hold the sophomore off.
As the last lap began, the race was Dovi’s. But who would take second? Miller was scrapping away and defending as hard as he could to make it a Ducati 1-2 – and it looked like he was going to be able to do it. But, Miller thought Mir was closer to him heading into the penultimate Turn 9 and Miller’s defensive line took him wide on the exit. Mir used the regular, sweeping line – something the Suzuki is fantastic at – and Mir was through. Dovi took the chequered flag to claim his third Red Bull Ring victory, and Mir secures his first MotoGP™ podium with Miller settling for third.
Binder, after qualifying 17th, finishes P4 at KTM’s home race on his first visit to the Red Bull Ring on a MotoGP™ machine. Fifth went the way of Rossi who came out after the scare of his life like nothing had happened – a true testament to just how superhuman all these guys are. The Doctor finished as the lead Yamaha rider in Austria, with Nakagami picking up a solid P6 just behind as the leading Honda rider.
Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci crossed the line seventh to finish 0.036s ahead of Quartararo. It was a great damaged limitation job by the 21-year-old who salvages seventh, but it’s not the result he would have liked. 1.5 seconds behind Quartararo was Iker Lecuona who secures his best premier class result in P9. A top job by the rookie who will have a significant boost of confidence heading into the Styrian GP next weekend.
Viñales also did well to recover to P10 after his issues in the restarted race. It’s not what either Viñales or Quartararo would have been looking for from the front row, but considering what unfolded, it was the best they could do. Quartararo’s gap has been closed down to 11 points with Dovizioso overtaking Viñales in the Championship as the Frenchman and Spaniard will be hoping for better fortunes in seven days.
Completing the points was Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro, Michele Pirro, Bradley Smith, Repsol Honda Team’s Alex Marquez and Cal Crutchlow on the second LCR Honda.
An unbelievable day. The riders will take a breather for the next four days before they attack the Red Bull Ring again for the Styrian GP as we get time to reflect on what unfolded before our eyes. Thankfully the riders escaped severe injury, and what more can we say about the 2020 title race. Bring on the Styrian GP.
1. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team)
2. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 1.377
3. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) + 1.549
4. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 5.526
5. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 5.837
6. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 6.403
7. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) + 12.498
8. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 12.534
9. Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3) + 14.117
10. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 15.276