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The reigning Champion was able to hold off the charge as Dovi misses out by just 0.002 seconds
It was a breathless fight to the wire for pole position at the eyetime Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich, with the battle boiling down to a three-way scrap between Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) vs the Ducati Team riders of Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo. The red sectors came thick and fast for both Borgo Panigale machines but in the end it was Marquez’ benchmark 1:23.241 left at the top of the timesheets as a target, with neither of the red machines able to quite push him off pole. Dovizioso came incredibly close – just 0.002 back, making the closest margin since Germany 2003 – but the Italian will line up second, with Lorenzo completing that front row and just over a tenth off. That makes a tantalising top three just a week after the trio battled it out at Brno, with many expecting a spectacular repeat on Sunday at the Red Bull Ring.
Just behind them is top Independent Team rider Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), who will be hoping he can get in the mix on race day with his Ducati GP18 after also showing good pace on Friday, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) starting alongside him. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) completes that second row, meaning the top three in the fight for top Independent start very close together, and it’s just seven points cover them in the standings. Zarco is also top Yamaha.
Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) kept his good form to take seventh after also having gained automatic graduation to Q2, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) taking the middle of a third row at a more difficult track for the Hamamatsu factory. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), on the podium last year in third, took P9 ahead of the second Suzuki of Alex Rins. Rins was one of the riders who moved through from Q1 after having not got into the top ten in FP1 before the rain interrupted further practice, along with Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team), who took P12.
Between the two men starts Maverick Viñales. The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider was only able to take eleventh at a tough track for the Iwata marque, and the result comes a week after the Spaniard started twelfth in Brno. His teammate, meanwhile, also had a tough qualifying session – and Valentino Rossi will be starting in P14. Just pipped to the top ten in FP1 by Viñales and with FP2 and FP3 affected by the weather, the Italian headed for Q1 and wasn’t quite able to move through. Moving through, though, will be something both Yamahas will be dead set on when the lights go out – with a good start crucial.
Just ahead of Rossi, Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) flies the flag for KTM after a very positive day for the Austrian factory. With his teammates sidelined through injury, the Brit did the home team proud to only just miss out on Q2 and outqualify a difficult day for the ‘Doctor’. Behind Smith in P13 and Rossi in P14, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) completes the top 15.
Front row start for both Ducati Team riders at the Red Bull Ring: Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo second and third in qualifying for Austrian GP
The Ducati Team had an excellent day today at the Red Bull Ring, with its two riders Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo qualifying second and third respectively for tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix. The all-important Q2 session was held on a dry track after the morning’s FP3 run, which was run in the wet, left the overnight positions unchanged.
During the Q2 Dovizioso, who only went out on medium rear tyres, set a time of 1’23.243 on his second run, the Italian finishing just two-thousandths of a second away from Marquez’s pole time, while Jorge Lorenzo, who did three runs on soft rear tyres, was classified third with a time of 1’23.376.
The eleventh round of the season, over a distance of 28 laps, will get underway tomorrow afternoon at 14.00 CET.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04): 2nd (1’23.243)
“I was just a couple of thousandths of a second off the pole, but in any case qualifying went very well: I set a really good time and I didn’t expect that because in FP4 I didn’t have a great feeling with the bike. We chose the medium rear tyre for qualifying and it went well, and also for the race we are in good shape. Marquez here is particularly competitive, more than last year, but we are also stronger and so I believe that tomorrow it will be a three-way battle with Marc and Jorge. Unfortunately, we were not able to do many laps in the dry and so we’ll go into the race with some doubts about the choice of tyres and the strategies, and we’ll just have to be ready to manage the situation.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99): 3rd (1’23.376)
“We’re on the front row again and very close to the pole, with a very good lap time that I think I could have improved even more. It was actually a pity not to be able to do more laps in the dry in practice, to set up the bike better. In qualifying we opted for a three-run strategy with three new rear tyres, but probably in the last exit we should also have changed the front tyre, which was pretty worn, and it didn’t allow me to push the way I wanted to and improve my time. In any case third place on the grid is very good and now we have to think of a good strategy for tomorrow, because it’ll probably be a race between me, Dovi and Marquez, and I think we’re going to have some fun! We are all very close together and the most important thing is that we have confirmed that now we’re competitive at every circuit and that we are working in the right direction.”
Cal Crutchlow will start Sunday’s Grand Prix of Austria from the second row of the grid after setting the fifth fastest time during qualifying at the Spielberg circuit on Saturday. Going into the weekend the Brit had expected things to be tough at the hillside venue, but could be pleased with his performance in the 15-minute shootout.
The LCR Honda CASTROL man has been up against tricky conditions in the Styrian mountains, with rain hampering both the second and third free practice sessions. However, he made good of the dry conditions once the sun emerged from the behind the clouds, and is hopeful of getting involved in the battle for the top positions in the 28-lap race.
Cal Crutchlow – 5th
(1’23.812 – lap 8 of 9)
“We have to be happy with the second row, but I made a really scrappy lap to be honest. I pushed hard but it wasn’t good enough unfortunately. I had the speed and should have gone faster, but I was just not clean enough really. I don’t know how much farther we would have been up the grid, maybe only fourth, but we tried our best”.
“The LCR Honda CASTROL team have worked well with the bike, and I’m pleased to qualify where we have. I think we have good pace for the race on Sunday. We are in between set-ups at the moment, going back and forth between what we have used up to now and a quite radical change with the bike. I have set the same lap times with both settings so we are a bit confused which way to go, but we look forward to the race to see what we can do.”
Bradley Smith almost makes Q2 and is only one second from Pole at HomeGP in Austria
QUALIFYING 11th Rd. MotoGP 2018 – Red Bull Ring, Spielberg (AUT)
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team relied on lone representative Bradley Smith to take the KTM RC16 to 13th position in Qualification at the Red Bull Ring today. The Brit was only a second away from Marc Marquez’ Pole Position effort and will line-up first on the fifth row of the grid for the 28-lap eleventh round of nineteen in MotoGP tomorrow. Championship leader Miguel Oliveira starts from second position with his KTM Moto2 bike, Moto3 leader Marco Bezzecchi did the fastest lap time in qualifying on the KTM RC250 GP.
With Pol Espargaro and Mika Kallio absent through injury it was left to Bradley Smith to set up KTM’s flagship racing machine for one of the fastest circuits on the MotoGP calendar. Changeable conditions made for some complicated work at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg and through the four Free Practice sessions. Smith excelled in the wet and classified second in FP3 on the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike.
#38 set his best lap-time with his second-to-last run in Q1 this afternoon and missed out on his first Q2 appearance by just five hundredths of a second. He beat Valentino Rossi (in 14th) and ended up just a second from World Champion Marc Marquez. His feat was an improvement of almost half a second from 2017.
Smith: “It was frustrating not to get into Q2 and I should have done it on the first flying run but I made a mistake into Turn 4 and then I’m sure 0.05 was about the tyre not accelerating a bit better out of the last corner (on the second run). It is weird to be frustrated in a situation where we are 13th but I feel we had the pace to be in Q2 today. Anyway tomorrow is when it counts and when it’s about points. I had good pace on the Medium tyre in FP4. We’ll try and analyse everything we can for tomorrow when we’ll have another chance. I’m happy we can keep on improving our current bike because that bodes well when the new one comes along. The top ten is possible tomorrow. It will be very close. The start will be everything and tyre choice as well.”
Sebastian Risse (Technical Director MotoGP): “Considering all the pressure and expectation here Bradley is doing an excellent job for us. Having just one rider instead of three does not make it easier for anybody; we miss data and information and especially with quite ‘special’ track conditions in a lot of the sessions. The bike works well here and we are still working on things because some corners are demanding. The track looks quite simple on the map and amazing when you are standing next to it but you have to set up the bike in a particular way. Tyre choice will be a bit of a gamble because nobody could get a lot of experience with the range in all conditions. I don’t think we are in a bad spot and we just missed Q2 by a little bit. The dominant feeling is one of positivity and we’ll try to make the most of it tomorrow.”
Marc Marquez grabs a brilliant pole at the Red Bull Ring, Pedrosa on third row
First in this morning’s damp FP3 session, first in this afternoon’s dry FP4 session, Marc Marquez concluded an extremely positive Saturday at the Red Bull Ring by taking his 49th MotoGP pole, the 77th of his career.
It was not an easy affair for Marc. He had to fight tooth and nail to beat runner-up Andrea Dovizioso and third-fastest Jorge Lorenzo for the top spot on the grid, and he ultimately succeeded by the blink of an eye, just 0.002”. It was amazing display of riding and determination from the Championship leader as he prepared for tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix.
It will be a third-row start for teammate Dani Pedrosa, who suffered with the post-rain lack of grip, but the Spaniard looks forward to an improvement in track conditions with the fairer weather expected tomorrow and will endeavour to recover a good pace in the race.
“We’re on pole but it was all so very tight today. The plan was to make three runs, but I was comfortable during my second exit and decided not to stop. My last lap wasn’t perfect as I made a little mistake in the last corner and had to close the gas a little bit, but we got it anyway. I’ve felt good on the bike for the entire weekend, and today I was able to be fast during every practice, especially FP4, and that’s the most important thing. Anyway, we must keep pushing, keep working, and remain totally concentrated because Dovizioso and Lorenzo have a very good pace, consistent and fast. It looks like tomorrow will be dry and the warm-up will be crucial for choosing the best tyre for the race; I’ve tested the soft and the medium, but it will be important to also understand the level of the hard spec. Of course I would like to win here and tomorrow I’ll start with that objective, but if it’s not possible, I’ll take points for the championship.”
“After yesterday and today’s rain, the track didn’t have much grip, and I didn’t have a good feeling with the rear. Basically, that was the issue today, and it’s why our performance wasn’t what we were looking for. I hope the track conditions will improve tomorrow and that I’ll be able to start well and be fast from the beginning.”
Spielberg (Austria), 11th August 2018
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales put up a fight, trying a two-stop strategy in Q2, and secured 11th place on the grid for tomorrow‘s eyetime Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich. Valentino Rossi aimed to battle his way through Q1 after finishing outside the combined FP top-10 results due to the wet conditions of this morning’s FP3 session, but he came just short. He will be starting the race from 14th position.
Vinales put his head down straight out of the gate in Q2. He quickly left the box to slip into sixth position and immediately headed back to pit lane with more than ten minutes on the clock.
He had been pushed back to 11th place as he headed back out less than two minutes later, starting his second charge. He set a 1’24.831s but didn‘t move up the order. He hurried back to pit lane to make a second stop with four and a half minutes remaining.
With two and a half minutes left to leave his mark, and now in 12th position, the Spaniard continued his challenge. There was just enough time left for two last flyers. A new personal best of 1‘24.284s put him in 11th place. He followed it up with a promising start to his final lap but was ultimately unable to improve and had to settle for a starting place in the middle of the fourth row.
Rossi had a cautious start to the Q1 session as he tried to shake off other riders that were aiming to follow him around the Austrian circuit. His first flying lap put him in eighth place, but he improved on the next two laps to fifth when he dropped under the 1‘25s mark for the first time this day.
With more than six minutes remaining, the Doctor pulled into the pits for a quick stop. The Italian kicked the level up a notch when he returned. Having been pushed back to seventh he now placed second, but it was short-lived as he got pushed back to fourth soon after. He had two more goes, setting another red sector and two personal best sectors on his final lap for a 1‘24.309s, but was unable to improve his position. He will start tomorrow‘s race from 14th position on the grid.
Today was a very complicated day to get it right, due to the big contrast between the morning and the afternoon sessions. FP3 was wet, so it became clear early on that Vale would have to join Q1, while Maverick would promote to Q2. The change in conditions in the afternoon meant we had to try all our dry-setting options in FP4. The dry qualifying didn’t go as we expected. The riders couldn’t push the way they wanted to, so the team will work hard to find a solution to the problems. The start of the race will be crucial, both riders will need a good launch from the fourth and fifth row to hit the front of the field early on. We will use the warm-up session to fine-tune the bikes for the race, regardless of the weather conditions, though we hope for either a fully dry or fully wet day. It’s been a very dark weekend for us so far and we acknowledge our responsibility for not being able to provide the riders with a package that enables them to fight at the top, where they both deserve to be, but we will continue to fight as a team, so together we can overcome the struggles and the technical issues that have held us back so far.
Actually, this weekend we have some more problems with the electronics and the bike was not working well on the track. Anyway, we hope to solve it for tomorrow. It is an important race and it’s important to be inside the top-10 and get points for the championship. We have the same situation as yesterday, we couldn’t find improvements. So, let’s see tomorrow if we can fix it in the Warm Up. For the race the soft tyre is too soft for us. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I’ll do my best as always. We’ll get through this race and then we’ll focus on Silverstone. We’re a team, we have to keep pushing and working. I hope Yamaha can respond, so we can be stronger.
During this weekend I was unlucky, because the only dry session for going into Q2 was Friday morning and I broke the bike after three laps. With the other bike I wasn’t strong enough to be in the top-10. The other problem is that, when we tried the soft tyre today in the qualifying, I didn’t feel good. It didn’t work well for our bike. I was able to improve my lap time but not by a lot and I didn’t feel comfortable, and unfortunately I didn’t go into Q2. We have to say that in FP4 my pace was nothing fantastic, but it was average. So, we need to work to improve the race pace for tomorrow a little bit. Starting from the fifth row will be chaotic with everybody going crazy in the first braking zone. We have to overtake in that moment, and then we’ll see.