Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class in Spielberg:
Probably rejoicing that the Friday rain-washed fiasco didn’t look like repeating, the intermediate class did not waste any time in getting up to speed and challenge least year’s times. Well, Tom Luthi was at least, the Swiss rider already about half a second away from the pole time record ten minutes into the session and first man into the 1:29s. The Swiss rider failed to improve on his early time but it was safe enough insurance of top position.
All the weather worries of Friday proved unfounded, the MotoGP class joining the track in a lukewarm morning offering forty-five minutes of opportunities to ensure a direct Q2 spot.
Marc Marquez used that time to sample the hard rear tyre and managed consecutive improvements of his personal best time to climb up the overall timesheets and lead FP3. The Spaniard set a series of mid to high 1:24s on the tyre, before switching to some new rubber in the final ten minutes. That helped the Honda rider improve further, Marquez putting almost half a second into his pursuers on his final lap.
The distinct lack of clouds must have been a joyful sight for the paddock, especially the part than needed to sample the track for fourty minutes. With the much nicer conditions, the riders were fast to significantly improve their Friday times.
Already owning the fastest lap around the Ring, championship leader Joan Mir set his sights on improving that record and started by setting himself up at the top of the timesheets. The Leopard rider got close to his pole record on several occasions but his exuberance over white lines saw some of those times cancelled. While the second-place roulette kept moving throughout the session, the Spaniard’s time was rarely challenged.
We were promised a storm on Friday, and we got one. But it was a media storm, rather than a thunderstorm, with riders finally free to speak about the situation at Aprilia. That's not to say the weather wasn't an issue: rain fell during Moto2, wreaking havoc on the field. That would have as many repercussions as the fallout from Aprilia's decision to dump Sam Lowes. It was an eventful day indeed.
First, to get the Aprilia story out of the way. Last night, it emerged that Aprilia had finally made a decision on Sam Lowes. The Italian factory had decided to drop the Englishman after just a single season, rather than keeping him for the full two years of his contract. It was a move which had been telegraphed at the Barcelona test, when Aprilia Corse boss Romano Albesiano admitted that dropping Lowes was a possibility they were considering. So for it to be announced in Austria was hardly a surprise. In part because Lowes' contract stated that Aprilia had until 15th August to make up their minds.
There was little surprise at Aprilia's move. Sam Lowes and Alex Rins have been vastly outclassed in their rookie years by Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger. Rins has had an excuse, having spent so much of his first year in MotoGP being injured. But viewed from the outside, Lowes has no such excuses. He is on a factory team, and his teammate is showing him up badly. Aleix Espargaro is regularly in Q2, and has shown pace to challenge for the top 5 on occasion. Lowes has been in Q2 only once, and has just two points to his name.
After suffering the worst of FP1 conditions, the intermediate class lucked into a dry track for their second practice session.
Tom Luthi looked distinctly average until he made a swift late jump into the lead, but was denied at the final try by Morbidelli, the championship leader going three hundredths of a second faster than his Swiss rival.
With the tarmac only feeling like turning the heating up to 24 degrees, the start of MotoGP practice was complicated by the section of track around turns three and four taking its time drying out. Only a handful of riders tested the conditions in the first ten minutes, on a mix of slicks and rain tyres, while most riders were waving to the cameras from their fully dry seats.
The action unfolded in the final half an hour, all riders taking to the track in dry trim. With red sectors coming in hot in the final five minutes, Marquez was dethroned while he was going all rodeo into turn four. The gaggle of Ducatis that we expected to steal the show took its time to put it all together but Andrea Dovizioso got it right on his very last lap to top the session by over two tenths of second.
The rain that soaked the end of FP1 and caused a bowling session mid-Moto2 had stopped by the time the lightweight class reconvened for afternoon practice. With rain tyres on a drying track, half the grid decided to bide their time and wait for drier times, the likes of Mir, Ramirez, Fenati or the RBA duo only joining with a dry setup in the final fifteen minutes.
Aron Canet lit up the timesheets in the final five-minute dash in much improved conditions, before coming across a rain shower in turn three. That settled the hierarchy with three minutes remaining of the session, the young Spaniard keeping top position by over three tenths of a second.
Danny Kent is to make a return to the Moto2 paddock for 2018. The 23-year-old Englishman is to race for the Speed Up team in Moto2 for 2018 and 2019.
The deal has been something of a coup for the former Moto3 world champion. Kent split with his Leopard Moto2 team at Austin, after disagreements with the team over bike setup and preparation. Since then, he has replaced Iker Lecuona in the Interwetten team at Mugello, raced as a wildcard and replaced Niccolo Antonelli in the KTM Ajo Moto3 team, and is this weekend replacing the injured Marcel Schrotter in the Dynavolt team.
After the rain kept away from the rest of the classes, the Moto2 boys were less lucky and got to be the trail-blazers for the rain tyres coming out of their covers. The intermediate class only got a handful of laps in dry conditions before heavy rain and touches of hail hit the track only fifteen minutes in.
After a lull in proceedings while the teams were preparing for the weather conditions, action restarted in the final twenty minutes. Although useful experience for the riders, the rain meant that the lap 6 fastest time in the dry by Miguel Oliveira could not be improved on, the Portuguese rider leaving Dominique Aegerter by over a tenth of a second. Championship leader Franco Morbidelli was close behind in third, the rest of the field over four tenths away from the leader.
With 19 degrees and an overcast sky, the MotoGP class was in a hurry to sneak in a run on a dry track at the beginning of FP1. The rain kept away but fear of unpredictable weather for the remainder of the weekend forced a mini-qualifying run in the final few minutes of the session, the riders trying to ensure an early Q2 spot.
Hector Barbera was the big winner of the morning, the Avintia rider making the most of brand new tyres to steal the thunder away from his factory colleague and grab top spot by the time the checkered flag came out.
With very photogenic thunder gracing Spielberg with its presence the previous day, the lightweight class was lucky to have seen a nearly dry piece of tarmac waiting for them on Friday morning.
Championship leader Joan Mir decided to honour the track of his first world championship success by setting camp at the top of the timesheets early in the session and waiting for his rivals to catch up. Bo Bendsneyder and Enea Bastianini got their brief time in the sun but then Mir stroke back to be the first rider of the morning into the 1:37s and almost half a second faster than his colleagues, despite his enthusiasm seeing several of his laps cancelled for exuberant use of track limits.
The riders will have been off the bikes for about 80 hours before they take to the track again at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Back-to-back races are always tough, but doing back-to-backs with a test in between can be pretty brutal. At least everyone will be sharp when practice starts on Friday.
The Red Bull Ring is a unique track, though how you interpret the word "unique" is very much up to you. In one respect, the Spielberg circuit is just a few straights connected by sharp corners, with a replica of the Sachsenring's Omega curve thrown in for good measure.
On paper, it looks pretty dull, yet it is surprisingly popular among the riders. This is in part because of the stunning setting, and elevation changes that add charm to the circuit. But mostly, it's because it's a very, very fast circuit. And there is nothing that a motorcycle racer likes more than going very, very fast on a motorcycle. Oddly enough.
Press release previews from the teams and Michelin:
The Repsol Honda Team head to the Red Bull Ring leading the standings
With no time to rest following their perfect 1-2 at the Brno Grand Prix (the fifth double-podium finish for the Repsol Honda Team out of 10 races this season), Championship leader Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa are focused on this Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Press release previews of the Austrian GP from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
Bendsneyder and Antonelli motivated for Red Bull KTM Ajo’s home GP
Moto3 riders face Austrian GP with the ambition of achieving a great result at special event for Red Bull and KTM.
08/09/2017 - Red Bull Ring, Austria