Tom Sykes improved on his record-setting morning's pace with a 1'37.172 just six minutes into the session, but the second free practice was interrupted when Alex Lowes's Yamaha blew up an engine, spreading oil over turns eleven to thirteen almost halfway through the session. Lowes was in tenth place and a long repair would alomst certainly rule him out of qualifying for Superpole two. And then the weather turned up, delaying the restart even further and saving Lowes's place.
Jules Cluzel was the quickest of the four riders under 1'42, ahead of Sheridan Morais, Lucas Mahias and Kenan Sofuoglu. Federico Caricasulo was the quickest man for ten munites, until Kenan Sofuoglu deposed him with the first 1'41 lap of the day.
Tom Sykes set an early fast lap, taking control at the top just fifteen minutes in, to claim the top spot while his Kawasaki teammate Jonathan Rea waited until the chequered flag to force his way into second place, demoting Ducati's Chaz Davies to third place. Marcus Reiterberger, returning as a wildcard, was sixth quickest on the BMW and Davide Giugliano, making a return to World Superbike, slipped down to seventeenth quickest on the Red Bull Honda Fireblade, in spite of a good showing in the early part of the session.
Times are hard for American racers in the Grand Prix paddock. The series has seen a dearth of riders from the USA since Nicky Hayden left for the WorldSBK paddock after holding the fort for fourteen season, winning a MotoGP title along the way. Motorcycle racing in the US is clearly in a rebuilding phase, the MotoAmerica series focused on producing and encouraging new talent.
There are signs that it is working. Cameron Beaubier is taking on multiple champion and veteran racer Josh Hayes and winning. Jake Gagne, JD Beach, and Garrett Gerloff are all promising young racers capable of going places. But few have taken the leap of faith required to come racing in Europe. Josh Herrin tried in 2014, but never found his feet in the tough Moto2 class.
Now, there is Joe Roberts. The 20-year-old Californian moved to Europe this year after spending three years in MotoAmerica, winning the Superstock 600 title in 2015. He already had some experience, having raced in the Red Bull Rookies for a couple of seasons. He started the 2017 season racing in the FIM CEV Moto2 championship for the AGR team, alongside fellow American Jayson Uribe. When AGR parted ways with Yonny Hernandez in July after the Sachsenring, the team asked Roberts to step up the Moto2 world championship. It was not a particularly hard choice, as that was precisely the reason Roberts had come to Europe in the first place.
Press releases from the organizers and the teams ahead of this weekend's German WorldSBK round:
Stop Pause, Press Play: WorldSBK is back
Riders are ready to take on the second half of the season
The Brno round of MotoGP turned out to be a veritable bonanza of aerodynamic developments. Honda turned up with their previously homologated fairing, and Yamaha debuted a new fairing with a modified upper half at the test on Monday. But it was Ducati who stole the show, with a radical new design featuring a large side pod which looked remarkably like a set of wings with a cover connecting them.
That fairing triggered howls of outrage from fans. How, they asked, was this legal? The fairing appeared to have two ducts which came out at the top at right angles, then return to the fairing at right angles. That turned out not to be the full shape of the fairing, when Danilo Petrucci sported one where the bottom half of the side duct extended lower. It seemed to be a blatant breach of the rules.
The problem, MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge explained, lay in part with framing of the rules. When Dorna demanded a ban of the original winglets, they sat with the manufacturers to draw up a set of regulations which would limit aerodynamics and eliminate the risks, yet at the same time would allow some amount of development. That proved impossible to do with the manufacturers so split among themselves, and so Dorna had to try to come up with a set themselves.
Sunday’s breath-taking Austrian GP heralds the first-ever Ducati versus Honda duel for a MotoGP crown
Incredible but true: Honda and Ducati have never battled each other for a Grand Prix world championship. For one reason or another, each factory’s best years have never coincided with the other’s. Until now…
When Casey Stoner won Ducati’s first Grand Prix crown in 2007, Dani Pedrosa finished second, but the Honda man was never in the hunt, ending the season a whopping 125 points down. The only other time Ducati came close to winning a GP world title was in 1958, when Alberto Gandossi rode Fabio Taglioni’s first desmodromic engine to second in the 125cc championship, just seven points behind MV Agusta’s Carlo Ubbiali. Honda entered the Grand Prix arena a few months later.
Now, here we are, seven races to go in the 2017 MotoGP Championship and the season is developing into a Honda versus Ducati duel, rather than the usual Honda versus Yamaha fight, the recurring theme of the last 35 years.
MotoMatters.com, in association with Motor Sport Magazine, is proud to feature the rider insights of 1983 and 1985 500cc world champion Freddie Spencer. Every week after each MotoGP race, Fast Freddie will share what he saw and learned from the race.
Freddie Spencer kicks off this week's video blog with his own memories of the Austrian Grand Prix, though when he was riding it was at the Salzburgring rather than the track that is now the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg. That was a different track, but suffered some of the same concerns with the weather.
Next up, Freddie Spencer looks at the challenges of the circuit, and goes on to talk about the weight of expectations resting on the shoulders of the Ducati riders at the track. The former 500cc world champion discusses the fortunes of the Hondas and Yamahas, and provides a truly fascinating insight into tire management, and how you conserve tires as a rider.
The Aruba.it Ducati team has signed Marco Melandri for a second season. The factory-backed Ducati World Superbike squad has extended Melandri's contract through 2018, and the Italian will once again line up alongside Chaz Davies next season.
Aprilia have today confirmed another of the worst-kept secrets in the paddock, announcing that they have signed Scott Redding to replace Sam Lowes in the Gresini Aprilia MotoGP team for the 2018 season.
The news came as no surprise, after it became apparent that Aprilia had decide to break Lowes' contract at the end of this season. Lowes had been contracted for two seasons in MotoGP, but Aprilia decided to invoke an escape clause after the Englishman had struggled at the start of the season. For the full background to the story, read the Friday MotoGP round up from Austria.
Press releases from the teams and Michelin after the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring:
Andrea Dovizioso scores a fantastic win in the Austrian Grand Prix to move into second place in the championship. Jorge Lorenzo had a good race to finish fourth
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races:
Mahindra Riders Pay the Price in Brave Grand Prix Battle
Spielberg, Austria 13 August 2017: Aspar Mahindra team rider Albert Arenas and CIP team rider Marco Bezzecchi paid the price of ultra-close combat in a huge multi-bike battle for championship points in today’s Austrian GP, crashing out together on the last of 23 laps of the scenic 4.318-km Red Bull Ring circuit.
All the old certainties about MotoGP are gone. A few short years ago, MotoGP had a consistent, simple internal logic that made it easy to explain. All that is now gone. The things we believed were universal truths about racing have turned out to be mere mirages, disguising an ever-shifting reality. And that has made racing mind-bogglingly good.
A case in point. The Red Bull Ring at Spielberg in Austria has a pretty simple layout. Straight, corner, straight, corner, straight, corner, long loop which comes back on itself, straight, corner, short straight, corner, and we're back at the beginning. The track is all about horsepower and the ability to accelerate hard, then brake hard. The racing here should be rubbish. The rider with the fastest bike should be able to escape and cruise to victory by tens rather than tenths of seconds.
Yet on Sunday, we saw three gripping races, where the results were long in doubt. The winner of the Moto3 race may have been well clear, but the freight train behind it scrapping over second made for compulsive watching. Moto2 cooked up another cracker – the fourth in a row, a sign the class is changing – which only really settled in the last four laps. And the MotoGP race became an instant classic, one which make any collection of top ten races of any era. It truly had everything: a large group battling for the lead, then a smaller group slugging it out, three abreast heading towards a corner. There were hard passes, missed passes, and a wild last-corner lunge to attempt to snatch victory.
MotoGP standings after Spielberg:
Results and summary of the MotoGP race in Spielberg: