- 2018 Schedule & Results 1-10
Marquez Aims for Good Points Haul in The Alps
RED BULL RING, Austria, August 12, 2018
This week reigning MotoGP king Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) moves from the Czech Republic’s second city of Brno to the Austrian Alps, where he aims to continue building his points advantage in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.
The Spanish youngster finished third in last Sunday’s Czech Republic Grand Prix, just 0.368 seconds behind the winner, the eighth-closest podium in 70 years of premier-class GP racing. That result – his eighth podium from the first ten races – increases his championship lead to 49 points, with nine races remaining. Marquez and his MotoGP rivals stayed at Brno for a one-day test on Monday, so by the end of this weekend’s Austrian GP, they will have spent seven days out of ten aboard their machines.
Brno was Marquez’s 100th MotoGP race and it showed him at his best: he worked intelligently throughout practice, played a perfect strategy during the race, rode hard for the win and when victory proved just out of his reach, made sure he finished on the podium to collect another valuable haul of championship points.
Marquez has scored five wins, two seconds and one third so far this year, with two no-scores. The impressive podium consistency of the record-breaking youngster and his RC213V have given him an important advantage in the championship, but this weekend his strategy will be the same: go all out for the win, but if that’s not possible, finish on the podium. The target is straightforward: a historic fifth MotoGP crown in six years in the class, at the age of just 25.
Last year Marquez came within 0.176 seconds of victory at the Red Bull Ring, where he fought to the final corner with eventual winner Andrea Dovizioso, who also came out on top last Sunday. The Austrian venue, which only joined the MotoGP World Championship in 2016, is situated in a picture-perfect Austrian Alpine valley and has a somewhat spartan layout of just ten corners: seven right-handers and three left-handers. Braking and acceleration performance are therefore the most important factors, so these will be the main focus for Marquez, his crew and his HRC engineers.
Marquez – who in April and May scored his first victory hat-trick since 2014 – is delighted with the performance of the 2018 RC213V. No wonder then that Honda also leads the MotoGP Constructors World Championship, chasing a seventh title in eight years.
Fellow HRC rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) was also in the podium battle at Brno. The 32-year-old Briton eventually finished the race in fifth place, just 2.6 seconds behind Marquez, which brings him to the Red Bull Ring full of confidence.
Crutchlow finished 15th in both the 2016 and 2017 Austrian GPs. In 2016 his race pace was fast enough for a top-five finish, but he suffered a hefty ride-through penalty for fractionally jumping the start. Last year he ran off track more than once while trying to pass slower riders, which consigned him again to 15th at the finish. This season the former Supersport World Champion is riding more consistently than ever, usually fighting with the lead group and taking four top-six finishes from the last five races, once again thanks to HRC’s superb development work on the RC213V.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) hopes that he will be able to show the promise he showed in the early stages of the Czech Grand Prix weekend. The 32-year-old former 125cc and double 250cc World Champion was the fastest man at Brno after the first two practice sessions but he had a more challenging time in the race, lacking good rear grip for much of the 21 laps. He finished in eighth place, only seven seconds behind the winner. Last year Pedrosa took a superb third-place finish at the Red Bull Ring after fighting through from eighth on the grid.
Reigning Moto2 World Champion Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) is currently fighting to be 2018 MotoGP Rookie of the Year. At Brno he battled with and beat his number-one rival for the title, Malaysian Hafizh Syahrin. Going into this weekend’s race Morbidelli stands just two points behind Syahrin in their duel. The Italian’s last race was particularly impressive since he was coming back from a broken hand that had kept him out of the previous two races at Assen and the Sachsenring. Morbidelli has good form at the Red Bull Ring, where he won last year’s race and finished a very close second in 2016.
Honda’s second rookie Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) had a tough weekend at Brno, which wasn’t particularly surprising because he was still recovering from his ride to second place in the previous weekend’s Suzuka 8 Hours race in Japan. The 26-year-old from Chiba didn’t find it easy to readapt from an endurance-spec CBR1000 superbike to an RC213V MotoGP machine and his race was further complicated when he had to avoid a pile-up on the first lap. Last year Nakagami finished sixth in the Austrian Moto2 race.
Last year’s Moto2 series runner-up Thomas Luthi (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) finished third in the 2017 Austrian Moto2 race and this weekend the Swiss rider hopes that the track will deliver his first points in a challenging debut season in the premier class. Last Sunday Luthi finished just one place outside the points for the third time this season.
Only one of last year’s Austrian Moto2 podium finishers remains in the class – Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) was second at the Red Bull Ring between Morbidelli and Luthi – and the 22-year-old Spaniard will be hoping to better that this Sunday, after crashing out at Brno last weekend.
Marquez’s second no-score of the year did a lot of damage to his world-title hopes, dropping him to 53 points behind new series leader Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM). The 23-year-old Portuguese won a thrilling race at Brno to move into the lead of the Honda CBR600-powered championship, taking over from Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex) who finished the race a close third, just behind team-mate Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex).
Bagnaia finished fourth at the Red Bull Ring last year, while Oliveira crashed out fighting for the podium, so will the pendulum swing once again this weekend? Currently the Italian trails the Portuguese by just two points, so anything could happen over the remaining nine races. But unless Marquez manages a miracle, the battle for the 2018 Moto2 crown looks likely to be a two-way duel. So far Oliveira has won two races – Mugello and Brno – to Bagnaia’s four – Losail, COTA, Le Mans and Assen.
Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40 Kalex) closed to within seven points of Marquez with a fine ride to fourth at Brno and will be looking to advance further in the championship this weekend. The young Italian has been on the podium three times so far this year – including a win at May’s Spanish Grand Prix – and knows he needs to up his game during the second half of the season.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM) holds fifth overall, just ahead of top rookie Joan Mir (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) and Xavi Vierge (Dynavolt Intact GP Suter). The current Moto2 top ten is completed by Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP Suter), Fabio Quartararo (Speed Up Racing Speed Up) and Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex).
Honda’s hopes of achieving a fourth Moto3 Riders World Championship in five years may rest on the fitness of Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) this weekend. The World Championship leader crashed during practice at Brno, fracturing his left forearm. Martin immediately flew home to have the injury pinned and plated. The 20-year-old Spaniard hopes to be able to ride this weekend, but if he is able to make the trip to the Red Bull Ring he will have to pass a medical check-up before practice commences on Friday morning.
Martin had won five of the first nine races, proving the excellent performance of this year’s NSF250RW. Despite his non-start at Brno he currently stands just three points behind new series leader Marco Bezzechi, so his title hopes are far from over.
There are five riders who have a realistic chance of fighting for the title over the next three months, four of them riding the NSF250RW. Nineteen-year-old Italian Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) can’t wait for the Austrian round after fighting his way into title contention with a stunning first Grand Prix victory at Brno. Di Giannantonio fought a titanic battle with the Moto3 pack to beat Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda NSF250RW) by one tenth of a second. His maiden win puts him third in the standings, only 17 points behind Bezzecchi, with 18-year-old Spaniard Canet also in the title mix, a further four points down.
Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) holds fifth place overall and is most likely the last rider in the title race. The 20-year-old Italian finished a very close fourth at Brno and is now 15 points behind Canet.
Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) and Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) are 11th and 12th in the standings, with 20-year-old Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) from Chiba in 14th after scoring points at three of the last four races.
The Red Bull Ring was constructed in 1969, when it was named the Osterreichring. The track has hosted motorcycle World Championship racing since the 1970s, with a round of the short-lived F750 series, and then in the 1980s, with rounds of the World Superbike Championship and the Endurance World Championship. A much-revised layout brought the Grand Prix World Championship to the track in 1996 and 1997, when Repsol Honda riders Alex Crivillé and Mick Doohan were triumphant. The circuit has been revised again since then.
Dominated by three first-gear corners followed by long straights, the Red Bull Ring works best for machines with excellent acceleration and braking. The three left-handers – a kink on the first straight and the interconnected turns six and seven – can cause grip issues if temperatures are low.
MotoGP has one weekend off after Sunday’s racing before reconvening in Britain for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on August 26.
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team:
“We come from a good test in Brno, where we found several positive things. We’ll try some of them at the Red Bull Ring and see how everything works. Austria is another track where Dovizioso and Lorenzo are strong, but we were also strong there last year so we’ll see if it comes down to the last corner again! We’ll try to be fast from the start of the weekend and then fight up at the front. Actually, it will be the second time this year for me at the track, after the unbelievable experience we had with the F1 Toro Rosso test run last June! On the way to the Red Bull Ring, we stopped in Vienna to attend an event dedicated to safe motorcycling riding on the roads, which is something I believe is very important. People sometimes forget how vital it is to wear the proper gear and not drink before riding, and anytime possible I try and give my inputs about the importance of being fit and lucid before riding.”
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda CASTROL:
“I look forward to racing this weekend in Austria and once again trying our best to do a good job and get a good result. I don’t like the track, because I don’t think it’s a good track for motorcycles, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be trying our best, like always. We are coming off a good result at Brno and off some good results at Mugello, Barcelona and Assen, so we will keep working the same way and focus on the race from Friday morning.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team:
“A day of testing after the Czech Grand Prix gave us the chance to work on our bike set-up, to try and sort out the issues we’ve experienced in the recent races. We were able to be fast and consistent, and now we’ll see if that was down to the better track conditions, or if the changes we made there have actually improved our base setup. The Red Bull Ring will be good to check that, as it’s usually a demanding track for us, so to have a good feeling there would be very important. We’ll also have a special Michelin rear tire there, so we’ll see how it goes putting everything together. Weather will also be a key for the race.”
Franco Morbidelli, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS:
“It is great to be going back to Austria this weekend because in Moto2 I was always fast there and it will be an interesting challenge to ride a MotoGP bike on such a fast layout. It is a very simple layout but that makes it quite tricky because there is not a lot of an opportunity for the rider to make the difference with only ten corners. It will not be easy because the track has a lot of straight sections. Our package is strong but I would say our weak point is top speed and for me this makes this race probably the most difficult of the season. The track also features a lot of hard braking zones and this is where we must capitalize because the Honda works very well from this point of view.”
Takaaki Nakagami, LCR Honda IDEMITSU:
“We had a positive test in Brno after the race and we gained useful data for the next race in Austria. Spielberg is a track I like in Moto2 but it’s going to be different now riding a MotoGP bike. As always we use Friday’s sessions to understand my feeling on the bike and find the best set-up for me. Brno was not an easy one for me so I aim to be back at 100 percent at Spielberg. The target is always the same: finish the race in the top ten.”
Thomas Luthi, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS:
“I’m looking forward to being back in race action so quickly after a positive weekend in Brno. The Austrian track is a special one with a lot of right corners but it is also a power track and that may work against us on this occasion. I feel confident because the Brno test this week allowed me the chance to focus on improving my riding technique and I understood a lot that I am looking forward to implementing this weekend in Austria.”
Miguel Oliveira, Red Bull KTM Ajo:
“The win at Brno was important for us because it gave us the points lead in the World Championship for the first time this year. However, the championship is very tight and we are only just past half-distance, so we know we will have to fight for every single point over the last nine races. The Red Bull Ring is the home race for KTM and for our title sponsor, so it’s an important race where we want to do very well, but the goal will be the same as it always is: to be competitive all the way to the checkered flag.”
Francesco Bagnaia, Sky Racing Team VR46:
“I’m happy to be immediately back on track in Austria. At Brno, despite the third place, I was not 100 percent happy with the bike, so I cannot wait to get back to work this weekend. At Spielberg the gaps between the strongest guys will be really small and we will all be very close to each other. It is a track characterized by strong braking zones and long straights.”
Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS:
“I’m really looking forward to the race in Austria and even more so after the disappointing outcome in Brno. We had a strong weekend in Brno but no points meant all our effort and hard work went unrewarded. Now we need to improve for the Austrian race and I am sure I can do that because I like the track a lot. Now it’s time to forget about the World Championship and try to make a good race adding points every weekend.”
Jorge Martin, Del Conca Gresini Moto3:
“We still don’t know what will happen over the next few days. All I can say at the moment is a big thank you to my team, to the surgeons in Barcelona and for all the messages of support from fans. Of course, the target was always to try to ride this weekend, but we don’t yet know if this will be possible.”
Aron Canet, Estrella Galicia 0,0:
“I head to Austria feeling very strong, although we still have to improve some aspects of my riding in order to fight for the victory. Technically, this track is a bit more difficult circuit for our bike, but I’m sure that, with some good practice sessions throughout the weekend, we will be able to fight for the podium.”
Fabio Di Giannantonio, Del Conca Gresini Moto3:
“It was great to get my first win last weekend after a long, long wait and it’s good to be going straight into the next race, where I will try to keep my rhythm flowing. Last year I had a strong ride in Austria, fighting with the lead group and finishing just four tenths of a second off the podium. We return this time with much more experience and the knowledge that we can win races, so I hope for another top race and more points for the championship.”