It has been an exhilarating, fascinating, infuriating, enervating three weeks in Grand Prix racing. Three back-to-back rounds, one at Brno and two at the the Red Bull Ring in Austria, have thrown up more surprises than we could ever expect. Three different winner in three races, new manufacturers on the podium, a host of unusual and long-standing records broken. There really is a lot to talk about.
One of the most surprising things is the fact that in the six races we have had in the space of the last eight days (disregarding the Red Bull Rookies for a moment) three, or fully half, have been red flagged, and a restart needed. The Red Bull Ring became the Red Flag Ring, as Twitter wits quickly dubbed it after a massive brake failure by Maverick Viñales saw his Yamaha M1 pierce the air fence at Turn 1 and cause the MotoGP race to be red flagged, for the second time in as many weekends.
Blame the track?
That raises the discussion once again of just how suited this circuit is to motorcycle racing. The first red flag, caused when Enea Bastianini highsided his Kalex on the exit of Turn 1 and it was struck by Hafizh Syahrin, cannot completely be put down to the track layout. The fact that a lot of Moto2 bikes seem to highside there, and when they do, the bikes sit in the middle of the track rather than sliding to one side is arguably down to the circuit. On the other hand, bikes highsiding is not uncommon at a lot of tracks, and the bikes do occasionally remain on track.
The second red flag, caused by the crash between Franco Morbidelli and Johann Zarco, is clearly an issue with the track. The Turn 2/Turn 3 combination is extraordinarily challenging, the riders hard on the brakes while heeled over hard left before entering the right hander, but when things go wrong, bikes can slide on through the gravel and cross the track again at Turn 3, still traveling at very high speed. The Red Bull Ring mitigated a lot of this problem by extending the wall on the inside of Turn 3.
The third red flag, caused by Maverick Viñales' Yamaha, is another tossup. Bikes can suffer brake failures at any track. And bikes can hit air fences at a number tracks – the Sachsenring springs immediately to mind. But the Red Bull Ring is the toughest track for braking on the calendar according to brake manufacturers Brembo, matched only by Barcelona. If there is a track you are likely to suffer a brake problem, it is the Red Bull Ring. And the speeds involved are so high that bikes inevitably end up destroying the air fence. So is this crash down to the track, or could it happen anywhere?
Whatever the explanation, the one thing which the Red Bull Ring does generate is exciting racing, and especially dramatic last-lap finishes. We saw that in all three classes, producing thrilling and sometimes controversial results. Add in the red flag in MotoGP, and there really is a lot of ground to cover in these subscriber notes.
Here is what you will find:
- How the MotoGP race was won
- Is the KTM the best bike on the grid?
- KTM's concessions situation
- Track limits – why some riders are punished, and others aren't
- Whether the rules on track limits need changing
- The red-flagged MotoGP race
- How restarted races help some riders, punish others
- Mir, Nakagami, Oliveira, Dovizioso – winners and losers from the restarted race
- Yamaha's braking problems, and how they are dealing with it
- Where we stand with the championship
All that to come, but we start with what turned out to be the highlight of the weekend: the last frenetic lap of the restarted 12-lap MotoGP race, which saw Miguel Oliveira make it two KTM victories in three weeks.
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