After 22 degrees of temperature heated the track and a Moto3 show heated up the audience, the intermediate class cooled things off but only slightly. Franco Morbidelli’s seventh win of the season won’t come as much of a surprise but he did not escape his challengers that easily.
An entertaining fight between Alex Marquez and Tom Luthi might have aided his cause but the duo looked in with a shot until the final few laps. Marquez had to settle for second position, bringing an excellent result for the EG 0,0 Marc VDS crew, while Tom Luthi completed the podium.
Birthday boy Pasini could not hang on to his prime starting position after the lights went off and that left Morbidelli in charge of the lead, teammate Marquez, compatriot Pasini and title rival Luthi the only riders to keep up with his pace in the early part of the race.
Pecco Bagnaia was leading the deluxe chasing group nearly a second behind, including Oliveira, Brad Binder and Isaac Viñales. Both Binder and Viñales were amongst the few riders who opted for the softer rear tyre and the South-African made great use of it to go from seventeenth on the grid to seventh by the end of lap one.
Meanwhile, Morbidelli was attempting to run away at the front, leaving Marquez and Luthi embroiled in a keen fight while the poleman started losing ground, one second behind the trio by lap ten. Behind him, Oliveira had the best of Bagnaia while Viñales crashed out, leaving Nakagami and Binder to bridge a gap of over two seconds to the top six.
Try as he might, the world championship leader could not stretch away from his main rivals, the order settling bar the occasional attempt from Luthi to catch Marquez out. Nearly two seconds down the road, Oliveira caught up with Pasini and overtook him for fourth on lap fourteen, Bagnaia looking keen to do the same and ruin his fellow Italian’s birthday. With the precedent of Brno in mind, the gap to the leader looked doable for Oliveira, the Portuguese rider already four tenths behind only four laps later and riding at a blistering pace.
Marquez finally had a go at Morbidelli with eight laps remaining but ran just the tiny bit wide, losing momentum and allowing both his teammate and Luthi to get past. Finally on Morbidelli’s tail, Luthi showed his hand early but went wide in turn three for the n-th time, giving Morbidelli a breather while Oliveira tagged along to the back of Marquez.
Morbidelli had six tenths in hand with five laps remaining, Marquez trying to bridge the gap to his teammate as Luthi looked like fading slightly. Oliveira did not get a chance to finish the lap and show podium aspirations as the KTM rider got unkindly thrown off his bike into turn eight.
Luthi continued to struggle with finding the right route through turn three, which dropped him a second behind Marquez with three laps left. Marquez himself was losing track of his teammate as the Italian upped the pace once again. Morbidelli wasn’t going to lose that significant advantage despite some late red sectors from Marquez, the EG 0,0 one-two standing until the flag and Luthi defending his third position by half a second from Bagnaia.
Pasini’s birthday gift turned out to be a fifth place, with Nakagami coming through from twelfth on the grid to claim sixth position. Binder nursed his softer tyre into a seventh place, followed by fellow rookie Jorge Navarro in eight. Aided by a few crashes, Dominique Aegerter and Hafizh Syahrin made the top ten, despite the Malaysian rider starting twenty-first following a post-qualifying penalty for illegal tyre pressure.
Starting from much more encouraging grid spots inside the top ten, Xavi Vierge and Fabio Quartararo’s races ended abruptly after an incident in turn one at the start saw them crash out with seven other riders, including both Forward Racing boys.
Morbidelli improved on last year’s performance at the Austrian track by adding another 25 points to his tally and leading Luthi in the championship by 26 points. Marquez keeps third place 54 points back and edging ahead of Oliveira by 20 points.
|11||24||Simone CORSI||Speed Up||+21.887|
|15||87||Remy GARDNER||Tech 3||+25.128|
|16||37||Augusto FERNANDEZ||Speed Up||+33.460|
|17||89||Khairul Idham PAWI||Kalex||+33.931|
|21||27||Iker LECUONA||Kalex||2 Laps|
|44||Miguel OLIVEIRA||KTM||5 Laps|
|62||Stefano MANZI||Kalex||12 Laps|
|5||Andrea LOCATELLI||Kalex||13 Laps|
|32||Isaac VIÑALES||Kalex||14 Laps|
|97||Xavi VIERGE||Tech 3||24 Laps|
|19||Xavier SIMEON||Kalex||24 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|40||Fabio QUARTARARO||Kalex||0 Lap|
|11||Sandro CORTESE||Suter||0 Lap|
|7||Lorenzo BALDASSARRI||Kalex||0 Lap|
|10||Luca MARINI||Kalex||0 Lap|