RED BULL RING, Austria, August 12, 2018
Reigning World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) today increased his advantage in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship with a breath-taking ride to second place at the Red Bull Ring, outside the Austrian town of Spielberg. The brilliant 25-year-old engaged in a thrilling duel for victory with compatriot Jorge Lorenzo, taking the checkered flag just 0.130 seconds down. However, the most important news is that he now leads the championship by 59 points from Valentino Rossi, who finished in sixth place today.
Marquez led the early stages of the 28-lap race, leading Lorenzo and team-mate Andrea Dovizioso by 0.9 seconds after 12 laps, but with four laps remaining the two Spaniards were neck and neck, passing and repassing around the picturesque, sun-blessed Alpine circuit, the fastest in the MotoGP World Championship. On several occasions they appeared to touch as they fought for position, Marquez making some characteristically daring maneuvers.
The 25-year-old, who is seeking his fifth premier-class crown in six seasons, began the final lap 0.028 seconds ahead. Lorenzo retook the lead at the first turn, then Marquez briefly regained first place at turn three, but Lorenzo got better drive onto the straight and despite Marquez’s best efforts he retained the advantage to the finish. Dovizioso finished third, 1.656 seconds behind the winner.
Marquez’s brilliant ride not only strengthened his lead in the Riders World Championship it also retained Honda’s lead in the Constructors World Championship and the Repsol Honda Team’s lead in the Teams World Championship.
Fellow HRC rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) also had an excellent day at the hillside track, winning a hard-fought battle for fourth place with Italian Danilo Petrucci. This gave Crutchlow today’s Independent Team prize and takes him into his home event at Silverstone at the end of the month in high spirits. Crutchlow was less than ten seconds behind the winner at the flag.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) rode a dogged race to seventh place, an impressive performance from ninth on the grid. The 32-year-old spent much of the 28 laps in a frantic skirmish with several other riders, including Rossi, Alex Rins and Tito Rabat. He made his way towards the front of the group and finished just 0.130 seconds behind Rossi.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) made an impressive recovery from a difficult two days of practice – run in changeable conditions from torrential rain to bright sunshine – which had put him 21st on the grid with plenty of work to do. The 26-year-old from Chiba rode a determined race, moving forward to take the last World Championship point in 15th place, less than a second behind Bradley Smith and just ahead of fellow rookie Hafizh Syahrin.
Honda’s second rookie Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) had every right to expect another points-scoring result after qualifying 16th in his first visit to the track on a MotoGP bike. But he chose the wrong tire for the race. His soft rear worked well enough in the early stages but then he lost grip and positions, ending the race in 19th.
Thomas Luthi (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) took the checkered flag in 22nd place. Like the other rookies, he found it difficult to work on his riding and on bike set-up with track conditions changing so frequently.
Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex) won his most important Moto2 victory of the year at the end of a thrilling duel with World Championship rival Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM).
Oliveira led the first lap after Bagnaia was knocked wide at the first turn by a rival. For most of the race the 21-year-old Italian hunted down the 23-year-old Portuguese, until they were right together for the last five laps. Bagnaia took the lead on several occasions, only for Oliveira to retake the advantage.
At the start of the last lap they were a fraction of a second apart, Bagnaia biding his time until the penultimate corner, where he swept past his rival, then ran slightly wide; possibly on purpose. This gave Oliveira the chance to retake the lead at the final corner, but he was carrying too much speed, so Bagnaia cut back inside and made it to the finish line 0.264 seconds ahead. The move was a replica of the Marquez/Dovizioso MotoGP finish last year.
Bagnaia’s fifth win of the year allowed him to retake the series lead for Oliveira by just three points.
The contest for the final place on the podium was every bit as fierce, with Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex) winning the three-man fight from Argentine GP winner Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex). Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) fell at the final corner as he tried to take third place.
Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex) finished fifth, his best result of the year, just ahead of German winner Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM) and Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP Suter). Binder lost a possible podium place after obeying Race Direction’s order to drop one position after exceeding track limits.
The top ten was completed by Joan Mir (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex), Fabio Quartararo (Speed Up Racing Speed Up) and Iker Lecuona (Swiss Innovative Investors KTM). Ninth was a disappointment for Frenchman Quartararo, who qualified on the front row, but ran off track when he barged into Bagnaia at the first corner.
Moto3 star Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) rode a hero’s race to third place at the first event of the day, just eight days after undergoing surgery to plate the left radius bone he broke during practice for last week’s Czech Grand Prix.
The 20-year-old Spaniard was cleared to ride following a medical check on Thursday. Yesterday he qualified on the front row and today – despite concerns that his injury would trouble him, especially in the later stages – he was in the lead battle throughout, chasing long-time leader Marco Bezzecchi, his main championship rival.
Martin attacked Bezzecchi with three laps to go but didn’t quite have the speed to take over at the front. Nonetheless his brave ride keeps him second in the championship, just 12 points behind Bezzecchi and with another two weeks to work on his injury to be closer to full strength at the next race at Silverstone.
On the final lap the lead group was joined by Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW), who had been working his way through the pack after a slow start. The 20-year-old Italian’s end-of-race pace was startling, taking him from fifth at the start of the last lap to second, passing Martin on the penultimate corner.
Bastianini’s team-mate Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) was also on the charge, moving up to fifth place at the flag, his best result since the season-opening Qatar GP, when he took a podium result.
Former Asia Talent Cup and Red Bull MotoGP Rookies champion Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) enjoyed a brilliant ride to seventh place, equalling his best-ever Grand Prix result. The 17-year-old from Yokosuka fought like a lion during the race, coming through from 18th on the grid. With four laps he was 13th, in the midst of a seven-man group going for seventh place, but he made his way to the front of that group by the time the checkered flag came out.
Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers Honda NSF250RW) started from the second row and finished ninth, a fraction of a second in front of Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda NSF250RW) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW), winner of last Sunday’s Czech GP.
Like Sasaki, Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) also recovered well, fighting through from 28th on the grid to finish 16th, just one place outside the World Championship points. The 18-year-old from Fukuoka was chased over the finish line by Adam Norrodin (Malaysian Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW). In his fourth Grand Prix, Ai Ogura (Asia Talent Team Honda NSF250RW) finished 20th.
MotoGP’s next stop is the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on August 26.