After winning the last three MotoGPs in Austria, it is make or break time for the Ducatis this weekend as they return to Spielberg, hoping to stop Marc Marquez’s seemingly unstoppable march to the title.
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, winner of this race in 2017, is 63 points behind the Spaniard whose Honda has taken the chequered flag in the last two races in Germany and the Czech Republic.
Another Marquez victory in Austria — he already has six out of 10 so far this season –and Dovizioso can all but kiss goodbye to the title even though there are a further eight races to come.
“The Red Bull Ring is an excellent track for us, this is clear from the results achieved there in the last few years,” said the 33-year-old Italian who is still searching for his first world title.
“But as I’m always saying, each race has its own story to tell. Last year Márquez finished ahead of me, so I’m sure that this year he will again be competitive.”
The Ducatis will certainly give the Hondas a good race although the speed of the bikes of Dovizioso and Jack Miller, who finished second and third in Brno on Sunday, cannot compensate for a lack of agility on the turns.
But the Austrian circuit is fast and the record top speed of 316.5 km/h which they set in 2017 could be beaten.
Marquez, though, who has never won in Austria, will be well aware that the course requires a lot of braking, one of the strengths of his Honda.
He will again be teamed up with the German Stefan Bradl while Jorge Lorenzo — won won here for Ducati last year — is still recovering from injuries he picked up in Assen in June. He is expected to return at Silverstone at the end of the month.
– Crash rules out Suzuki’s Mir –
Suzuki will be a man down following Joan Mir’s high speed accident during testing in Brno on Monday.
“It was a big crash and I was transferred to the hospital for further checks because I rolled through the gravel many times and took a lot of hits,” Mir told the team website.
“At the beginning I struggled to breathe because of the pulmonary contusion, but step by step I improved and now I’m feeling better.”
Although he is out of hospital, Suzuki decided Mir, who won two Moto 3 races at the Red Bull Ring, should skip the race in Austria.
With Mir absent, Alex Rins will be the sole Suzuki on the start line.
Yamaha, meanwhile, are raring to get to grips with this fast circuit.
Their tuned-up bikes went well in the Brno testing with young Frenchman Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Vinales and Franco Morbidelli putting in the best three performances.
The official team (Vinales and Valentino Rossi) is still a little behind the Yamaha-SRT customer team (Quartararo and Morbidelli) and the French rookie could still shine in Spielberg.
“We know that some other bikes might have a little bit more power and that Spielberg has many long straights but we’re going into the weekend really calm and not about to make stupid mistakes,” said Quartararo.
“It’s a track that has always been positive for me in Moto2 and Moto3 and I know I’ll enjoy riding there a lot.”
The MotoGP starts on Sunday at 1200 GMT.