By any measure, today’s Austrian Grand Prix was an eventful race. The starting grid featured an all-Italian front row for the first time since Motegi in 2006. Andrea Iannone, late of the factory Ducati team, won his career first premier class race, several whiskers in front of teammate Andrea Dovizioso. Ducati bikes finished 1st and 2nd for the first time since Phillip Island in 2007. But once the celebration dies down, the Bologna factory may need a reality check, as explained below.

The drought is over for Ducati, with factory Desmosedicis taking first and second in Austria.

First Things First

The practice sessions on Friday and Saturday made it seem like the world had been turned upside down. Maverick Vinales, on the Ecstar Suzuki, and the factory Ducatis dominated the proceedings in cool weather, while the Aliens of the factory Honda and Yamaha teams were loitering in the middle of the pack. Marc Marquez trashed his RC213V early in FP3 and got a free helicopter ride to the local hospital to have his shoulder and head examined, pronouncing himself fine a bit later. “Fine,” in this instance, meaning only a dislocated left shoulder and a near concussion.

Maverick Vinales looked strong in Free Practice but could not keep it up as the weekend went on.

A bracing Qualifying 2 saw the top four places change completely in the final 30 seconds of the session. Jorge Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Valentino Rossi and, finally, Iannone topped the timesheets, with Rossi having owned it for roughly two seconds. Ducs finished 1st and 3rd, Yamahas 2nd and 4th. Repsol Hondas in 5th and a discouraging 12th for Dani Pedrosa, a full second off the pace. Suzuki Ecstars in 6th and 9th. Overall, the factory Ducatis must have felt gratified; the Yamahas relieved; the Hondas (with a wounded Marquez) lucky, and the Suzukis disappointed, especially Vinales, who was a blur during the first three practice sessions before backing off in FP4.

Confusion at the Start

Our Pal Cal was one of several riders to jump the start.

Moments before the red lights went out, four back markers jumped the start, including WSBK defector Stefan Bradl, satellite Ducati pilots Yonny Hernandez and Hector Barbera, and malcontent Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda. Three of the four took their ride-through penalties like men. Barbera, lacking some spatial awareness (Pitboard? What pitboard?) and with a faulty “Call Home” light on his dashboard, failed to realize his sin until he was black-flagged around Lap 11. Jack Miller, who had pronounced himself fit for the first time this year on Friday, suffered his third fall of the weekend during the morning warm-up and was held out of the race with hairline fractures to his wrist and several vertebrae, a mudhole in his chest, his customary limp back in place. Those of us who thought his win in Assen was a fluke are being proven right. Monty Python fans worldwide are starting to call Miller The Black Knight.

Jack Miller’s face says it all.

Marquez, hurt but not injured, approached the race in damage control mode. The lead group materialized early, consisting of the factory Ducati and Yamaha teams. With Marquez settling into fifth place and Vinales into sixth, Pedrosa showed up out of nowhere in seventh; these three riders would hold their respective spots all day. The action, and plenty of it, would be amongst the front four.

With Ducatis and Yamahas filling the top four spots on the grid and Marc Marquez at less than 100%, the Red Bull Ring could seriously shake things up heading into the final stretch of the season.

The setting was ripe for drama. The factory Yamahas had recently experienced two rounds of hell on wheels, a “black period” in Lorenzo’s words. Rossi had crashed out at Assen and finished eighth in Germany, while Lorenzo had a tenth and a 15th to show for his last two rounds. The Ducs, meanwhile, started the race with bad history and completely different tire configurations, Iannone opting for softer options on the front and rear than Dovizioso. With the track as hot as it had been all weekend, a number of viewers, myself included, suspected The Maniac off being overly aggressive in this choice. We would be proven wrong.

Racing Gods Wore Red Today

Andrea Iannone (foreground) opted for a soft front and a medium rear tire while Andrea Dovizioso was more conservative, going with harder rubbers.

The first quarter of the race featured a lot of jostling, a verb we seldom use, as all four lead riders took faint, uncommitted runs at one another. By Lap 7, the Ducatis had established a slight margin over the Yamahas, who were trailing but well within striking distance. For most of the next 13 laps, the order consisted of Dovizioso, Iannone, Lorenzo and Rossi. Anyone who had watched the race in Argentina early in the season suspected this alignment would not last. Iannone’s reputation as a destroyer had many of us expecting the worst for the Bologna factory’s representatives. These expectations were magnified by his tire choice.

Iannone proved everyone wrong. He went through cleanly on Dovizioso on Turn 9 of Lap 20, cementing the final finishing order in the process. The expected challenge from Rossi never materialized; he appeared satisfied to simply finish in front of Marquez, unwilling to flirt with disaster by trying to go through on Lorenzo. Lorenzo appeared capable of challenging Dovizioso and probably would have at any other circuit. But the Red Bull Ring is just too fast, the fastest track on the calendar. The superb handling of the YZR-M1 never came into play today. At the end, the lone remaining challenge left to the four riders was the same as it always is – beat your teammate. In this, Iannone and Lorenzo prevailed.

Jorge Lorenzo could have pressed harder but decided to play it safe as the track favored the Ducatis.

In their post-race comments to Dylan Gray, Dovizioso sounded like he had finished 13th, so great was his disappointment at not having been able to track down perhaps his least favorite rider on the track. Lorenzo, on the other hand, was jubilant, having emerged from the “dark days” and taken five points out of Marquez. Now, if he can take five points out of Marquez every round through Valencia, he will only lose the 2016 title by three points. An unlikely prospect, to be sure, as Marquez is a quick healer, and there is a chance of rain between now and November.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

As soon as the champagne dries it’s back to business getting ready for next week’s race at Brno.

Early in this writing, I alluded to the notion that today’s celebration in the Ducati garage should be tempered slightly by the context in which it was earned. Certainly, with 100 races between today’s win and their last at Phillip Island in 2010 a celebration is justified. But consider:

  • The circuit layout was ideal.
  • The weather was ideal.
  • The Michelins were superb.
  • Marc Marquez was off his game.
  • Jorge Lorenzo, coming out of his funk, trailed Iannone by only 3.4 seconds at the finish.

Certainly, a win is a win is a win. I’m just sayin’ that it was facilitated by a confluence of conditions unlikely to repeat themselves until, well, next week at Brno, with Phillip Island another more remote possibility. Ducati has put themselves back in the winner’s circle. To assert they’re all the way back is premature.

The Big Picture

Meanwhile, in Moto2, Johann Zarco celebrated his victory in style by donning lederhosen.

So the top five riders for the season remain unchanged. Iannone and Dovizioso leapfrogged their way into Tranche 2 past Pol Espargaro who, now sitting eighth, remains the top satellite rider on the grid, and Barbera, who got KO’ed today. Scott Redding, the top Brit finisher today in eighth place, remains the top Brit for the season, completing the top ten.

Eugene Laverty, the Urgent Ulsterman, was running comfortably in 11th place when disaster struck in the last turn of the last lap, where he crashed. Based upon his lap time, it appears he hoisted the bike on his shoulders and carried it across the finish line, finishing 18th but doing nothing to hurt his merit for a premier class ride somewhere next season.

One of our readers, who had predicted an all-Ducati podium, was closer to being right than I expected. This same reader is, at this moment, expecting me to crack wise on Cal Crutchlow. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m confident Cal will come out with something in an interview today or tomorrow far more embarrassing than anything I could dream up. Something questioning the parents’ marital status at the time of his birth of the wanker who claimed he jumped the start of the Austrian Grand Prix. In a gesture of conciliation, I have decided to ignore Cal’s scurrilous 15th place finish today and promote him to Tranche Four.

At MO, we are determined to keep things fair and balanced.

2016 MotoGP Austria Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Andrea Iannone Ducati Corse
2 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse +0.938
3 Jorge Lorenzo Movistar Yamaha +3.389
4 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha +3.815
5 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda +11.813
6 Maverick Vinales Suzuki Ecstar +14.341
7 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +17.063
8 Scott Redding Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati +29.437
9 Bradley Smith Monster Yamaha Tech3 +29.785
10 Pol Espargaro Monster Yamaha Tech3 +37.094
11 Danilo Petrucci Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati +39.765
12 Michele Pirro Ducati Corse +39.766
13 Loris Baz Avintia Ducati +44.284
14 Tito Rabat Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +45.004
15 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda +1:03.246
16 Alvaro Bautista Aprilia Gresini +1:12.448
17 Yonny Hernandez Aspar Ducati +1:14.517
18 Eugene Laverty Aspar Ducati +1:36.510
19 Stefan Bradl Aprilia Gresini +1 Lap
Not Classified
Aleix Espargaro Suzuki Ecstar 4 Laps
Hector Barbera Avintia Racing 0 Laps
2016 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 10 Rounds
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Marc Marquez Honda 181
2 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 138
3 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 124
4 Dani Pedrosa Honda 105
5 Maverick Vinales Suzuki 93
6 Andrea Iannone Ducati 88
7 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 79
8 Pol Espargaro Yamaha 78
9 Hector Barbera Ducati 65
10 Scott Redding Ducati 53
  • Shlomi

    First time I see the layout of this track. This is the closest track to NASCAR oval tracks.
    Is this a joke? How many turns 7 or 8? And for this stupid track they dropped Laguna Seca from the championship? I think if we gave Lornezo stock Kawasaki H2R he would have won this race, or perhaps a Vmax with super charger?

    • Born to Ride

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. Ducati needed some love since Stoner isn’t gonna race Phillip island for them any time soon. Dorna abliged.

      • Ozzy Mick

        Hope he does…I’ve found a group who are riding down to the Island and plan on joining them. Will have to trade bikes tho, my scoot won’t be admitted to the island.

    • Bruce Allen

      They had 95,000 people there on Sunday, twice what they used to get at Laguna. Plus it’s just down the road from Brno, no second flight to USA. Plus at Laguna they never allowed the smaller classes to ride, for whatever reason. Plus they needed a track where the Ducati could rock and roll.

    • Old MOron

      I agree it seems like a trivial track layout, but I found several interviews in which the riders claim to like it. And it gave us some good racing. I do miss Laguna, though!

      • Shlomi

        Of course the riders like it, What’s not to like about drag racing on GP machine with 250 hp? Every track has hard corners for riders otherwise what’s the point? We all can go fast in streight lines. This track will provide the most lame racing year after year.


    Iannone was brilliant today.He and Ducati made history..Yamaha and Honda had nothiing to stop him. It looked like a close race only because he was slowing at the front conserving his tires during the first half.

    • Gruf Rude

      Ducati would have made history in Argentina if Iannone hadn’t been a complete bone-head. Maybe his new hairdo, which makes him look smarter actually had a salubrious effect.

  • schizuki

    Crutchlow’s newborn baby girl is named Willow. I’m guessing her middle name is Side.

    • BDan75

      It took me a sec, but well played…

      • Bruce Allen

        Still waiting…

        • schizuki

          Will Low-Side.

          • Ian Parkes


          • Bruce Allen

            schizuki, I’m laughing but I feel bad every time I need a joke spelled out for me. Well done.

  • Bruce Allen

    Pretty calm reaction from my boy–no profanity at least.

    • Old MOron

      Fatherhood must be giving him perspective.
      Popular wisdom says that having kids slows you down, but Cal is riding as hard as ever. I’m starting to like him again.

      • Ozzy Mick

        Slowed Stoner down, in spite of his denials. Heck, I gave up riding altogether when the kids came along. I know, I know – I’m no racer! But we’re all human.
        Watched the race – the first time in….years! The only excitement I felt was whether The Maniac would take Dovi out on the last lap. Well done to him that he didn’t.

        • Old MOron

          Good to have you back, Mick. I thought there was other excitement, people running each other wide and stuff like that. Brno is know to produce good racing. Hope to read more enthusiasm in your posts next week.

          • Ozzy Mick

            Yeah…a little more enthusiasm and positive feedback is my norm. I’ll blame it on my scooter – it’s turned off my hoon element – can’t blip the throttle (and why would u when it sounds like a lawn mower), lousy lean angle blah blah.
            So now I’m shopping around for a 600 with a decent pipe/noise. I have a couple in mind. Any suggestions?

          • Old MOron

            First thought to come to mind is for the FZ/MT-07.
            But google suggests this scooter.

        • Gruf Rude

          The possibility that Iannone would self-destruct (and take out who knows how many others) kept me on the edge of my seat the whole race!

  • Starmag

    Well,well,well. T-bone wins his first open class on a Duck and it didn’t even rain. Great to see some new floats in the Yamaha/Honda parade. Suzuki is looking shrewder by the minute.

    Even if you didn’t watch the race you could tell it didn’t rain because Jorge “El Gato” the bath hater didn’t come in 15th.

    Poor Cal. At least The Grumbler has his new little girl.

  • JMDonald

    The dynamics of the right machine on the right track. The strengths and weaknesses combined to give us Moto GP. Another day in yacht racing. What’s not to like?

  • Vrooom

    Iannone showed the promise he did in previous seasons, before he made risk taking his “thing”. Can he keep that up? Crazy Joe becomes Fast Joe? That seems like a lot to hope for. Lorenzo has to be happy, he may only have gained 5, but this was always going to be a tough track for Yamaha. Rossi is probably wishing he went for the pass.

  • Old MOron

    JackAss as the Black Knight, hilarious. May his mere flesh wounds heal quickly. He has a lot of racing to do!

    On second thought, I don’t want to see him racing for a while. He’s a hard man, and this is probably the worst time of the season to sit out, but racing with a broken back? No, don’t be a jack ass. Get well first. Come back strong.

  • Bruce Allen

    Fellas, I want you to know that I submitted my article to MO at 11:49am yesterday. It was finally posted around 9 pm. My friend Dennis Chung is “voluntold” to spend part of his Sunday on my work. He also has a wife and a life, which means it often takes awhile to post these articles. I’ve been after management to post the articles immediately upon receipt, without images, to feed you guys when you’re hungry, rather than eight hours later,then going back to edit in the photos and captions later. No go.

    Most of you have watched the race anyway. The articles are on my blog and on Facebook before noon. If anyone wants to friend me on FB in order to see them earlier, feel free.

    • Old MOron

      I ran out of patience yesterday and looked up your blog. I don’t have a wordpress account, so I can’t comment there. And I don’t have a FB account, so I can’t friend you there, either.

      Anyway, it’s more fun to banter with all the MOrons here. I saw this post when it finally came up last night. I’d been waiting for it all day, and I tried posting some comments, but the only thing that came out was bitching about “why did it take so long”.

      I’m happy that I refrained from venting, because I know that DC has a life. But if the PTB are reading this, I support the idea of posting race commentary while the topic is hot, no worries if it means that pics are added later.

      • Bruce Allen

        I would prefer that you save your comments for this site, as I tend to ignore comments on my blog. They’re usually in Tagalog promoting ways to lengthen my penis, etc. Kinda wish I spoke Tagalog.

        • Old MOron

          You’re from the Midwest, right Bruce? I have known two families where one parent is Midwestern blond/blue and the other is Filipino. In both cases their children were gorgeous!

  • Ozzy Mick

    Ducati Corse #1 and 2….?? Any relation to Troy Corser?