In another classic late-race duel between the top two riders in MotoGP, Ducati royal Andrea Dovizioso went through on Repsol Honda savant Marc Marquez in the last turn for a heart-stopping win, his fifth in six close encounters of this kind. Dovi’s first win since Round 1 in Qatar provided warm fuzzies by the gross for Ducati but had virtually no impact on the championship. The battle for second took a hit, as Dovizioso’s win put 36 points of daylight between him and teammate Danilo Petrucci.

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Neck and neck.

Two streaks were up for grabs today. The first was a possible triple – Germany, Brno and Austria – for Marquez, which no one really wanted to see. The other was an Austrian four-peat for Ducati, to which many folks, including plenty in the grandstands, were looking forward. If one considers that German industrial monolith Audi owns Volkswagen Group, which, in turn, owns Lamborghini, which, in fact, owns Ducati, you could almost call it a home win for the locals, making it four in a row, Red Bull Ring remaining the only circuit on the calendar where Marquez has never won. Take that, scheißkopf. The “forever” part of that previous statement was negated this weekend when Dorna announced a new five-year deal with Red Bull for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Practice and Qualifying

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Ducati and Andrea Dovizioso have had a lot of success in Austria. Dovi topped the time sheets in FP1

We learned one thing during FP1 – the track record was going to get whacked on Saturday, weather permitting. Less than a second off during FP1, led by Dovizioso, Marquez and Maverick Viñales. Jack Miller, Valentino Rossi, Fabio Quartararo, Alex Rins and Johann Zarco all within 4/10ths of the Maverick. FP2 featured much of the same cast as Act I.

Saturday dawned as summer Saturdays do in Austria, clear and mild. FP3 would separate the lambs and the goats. At the end, the top nine riders were under 1:24. The last-minute maneuvering to avoid having to deal with QP1 left Cal Crutchlow, Miguel Oliveira and Franco Morbidelli disgruntled; Crutchlow, notably, gets a Chernobyl-like Zone of Exclusion around himself for 30 minutes after these things.

Lucky to automatically advance to Q2 along with The Usual Suspects were Rossi (on his last lap, as per usual), Rins and Pol Espargaro, all of whom would say things went according to plan, all of whom were thanking their lucky stars they could sneak in one way or another. Marquez, late in FP3, on a pair of soft tires, turned a 1:23.251, a tenth off the track record, with Q2 yet to come. Ho hum.

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Marc Marquez qualified with his 59th career premier class pole position, surpassing Mick Doohan for top spot on the all-time list.

Crutchlow and Pecco Bagnaia managed to advance through Q1, at the expense of rookie Miguel Oliveira, who had been salivating at the prospect of moving his KTM machine on to Q2 for the first time. The following is a recording: “Marc Marquez seized pole and set a new track record at (fill in before releasing) Red Bull Ring on Saturday, obliterating the field in the process.” He was joined on the front row by Fabulous Quartararo and Desperate Dovi and what looked increasingly like another Marquez clambake on tap for Sunday.

The Race

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The first-lap jockeying forshadowed the tight finish between Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez.

Lap 1 had too many changes to track, but at the end showed Quartararo leading Dovizioso, Rins, Miller and Marquez. Between Lap 1 and Lap 6, where the real action started, things got sifted. Dovi and Marquez went through on a hot and wide Fabulous after Rins had faded. Miller, running 4th, crashed out unassisted on Lap 8, promoting Rossi to 4th and Viñales to 5th. The three Yamahas held onto places 3-5 for the duration, with Quartararo earning his third premier class podium, holding off and showing up the factory riders yet again.

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Valentino Rossi finished fourth for his highest finish since a podium at COTA.

Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso, on Lap 6, happily went off on their own for a cage match which would last until the dash to the flag. Two consummate professionals on million-dollar machines fighting for pride, in themselves, their countries, and their employers. For Marquez, consistently finding a way to lose these things would be a concern were he not usually leading his Italian rival by 50 points or so during most of them. After the race he was his usual gracious, intelligent self, but one suspects this whole getting-bombed-by-Dovi-in-the-last-turn thing is starting to get on his nerves.

KTM Bombshell

Over the weekend the Austrian hosts issued a bit of a release concerning their plans for 2020 and beyond. To wit, they would be re-branding all of their Moto3 bikes with the Husqvarna label, apparently in an effort to spur sales of Husky’s world-class dirt bikes. They casually mentioned that they would no longer provide chassis for Moto2 teams, leaving five teams and nine riders high and dry at this point.

Stefan Pierer announced a restructured GP racing plan for KTM. The company will stop producing chassis for Moto2 to direct resources toward MotoGP. The company will also re-enter Husqvarna to the Moto3 class with a brand new race bike for 2020. Photo by KTM.

KTM says it will devote the resources freed up by these changes to building its MotoGP program and defending itself from lawsuits. For Herve Poncharal, with a Tech 3 team in both Moto2 and MotoGP, this was your basic good news/bad news weekend. He’s kind of screwed in Moto2 but life should improve in MotoGP, especially with today’s Moto2 winner, Brad Binder, replacing the hapless Hafizh Syahrin next year in MotoGP.

Sudden Silliness

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Jack Miller said he was caught off guard by the rumors Pramac would replace him with Jorge Lorenzo. For the record, Miller has 86 points this season with two podiums. Lorenzo has 19 points and has yet to reach the podium.

Jack Miller, clearly jacked off about getting jacked around by Ducati concerning his bike and contract for next year, let it be known that his current employers are in discussions allegedly trying to re-acquire Jorge Lorenzo for the Pramac team next season. This rumor, which, if true, would set off a chain reaction in the paddock, appears to be getting put to rest, as the counter-rumor, that Ducati brass were flying in on Sunday to anoint the young Australian for another year, gained traction. The whole thing – Lorenzo to Pramac, Lorenzo to Petronas Yamaha (??), Miller to WSBK, Quartararo to Repsol, Tinkers to Evers to Chance – sounded fishy from the outset. Perhaps the salient point is to establish some interest between the parties in contracts that will begin in 2021.

You Say Tranches, I Say Tranches

After Brno:

Tranche 1: Marc Marquez
Tranche 2: Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Franco Morbidelli, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, Fabio Quartararo, Cal Crutchlow, Valentino Rossi
Tranche 3: Maverick Vinales, Aleix Espargaro, Pol Espargaro, Joan Mir, Takaa Nakagami
Tranche 4: Jorge Lorenzo, Johann Zarco, Miguel Oliveira, Pecco Bagnaia
Tranche 5: Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat, Andrea Iannone

After Austria:

Tranche 1: Marc Marquez
Tranche 2: Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, Fabio Quartararo, Valentino Rossi
Tranche 3: Maverick Vinales, Pol Espargaro, Joan Mir, Takaa Nakagami, Cal Crutchlow, Franco Morbidelli, Pecco Bagnaia
Tranche 4: Jorge Lorenzo, Johann Zarco, Miguel Oliveira, Aleix Espargaro
Tranche 5: Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat, Andrea Iannone

I’ve left Dovi in #2 because he’s just come off two of the best Ducati tracks on the calendar with his deficit to Marquez unchanged. Leaving Oliveira in #4 due to one solid outing; he needs to show me more. Cal Crutchlow is wearing me out, as is Aleix Espargaro; tired of making excuses for these guys. As they say in the dogsledding business, no matter where you’re harnessed, if you’re not the lead dog, the view’s pretty much the same.

On to Silverstone

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Cal Crutchlow crashed out on the second lap after a chain reaction that began with Pol Espargaro’s KTM suddenly cutting power. Crutchlow will be hoping for better luck at Silverstone.

Two weeks to the British Grand Prix, two weeks of listening to guys like Matt and Steve hammer on about Crutchlow’s home race and the irrational exuberance of Sam Lowes. I will post some notes at Late-Braking MotoGP about the sensational Austrian Moto2 and Moto3 races later this week. In the meantime, as previously noted, we shall ignore MotoGP until such time as they see fit to provide us with a scrap of competition for the 2019 trophy.