Watch a re-run, a highlights package or even catch some clips on social media because the 2018 Grand Prix of Austria was another golden example of why MotoGP is the most gripping and exhilarating motorsport on the planet. Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo produced a performance that will rank up with his milestone debut win in red at Mugello and the mastery of Montmelo in Barcelona as an undoubted highlight of the year.
The FIM World Championship had hurriedly moved from Brno and the Czech Republic last weekend to the green and epic mountain range of Spielberg in Austria for the eleventh date on the slate. The layout is one of the quickest and most awe-inspiring from the nineteen that form the 2018 calendar: straight sections that cause the MotoGP bikes to howl almost in protest, never-ending curves and stop-go corners that strain braking acumen and bravery means that Spielberg is a special kinda test.
On this stage Lorenzo enacted a compelling duel with World Champion Marc Marquez. The spat lasted from the middle of the race right up until the final corner and had the packed attendance in Austria and hundreds of thousands watching through screens guessing until the exit of that decisive Turn 10. “When you overtake Marc then he is always with you until the end! It was a fight of two ambitious riders until the last corner,” JL said.
Lorenzo prevailed for the third time by just tenth of a second. He revealed that management of his Soft rear Michelin tyre and some key analysis of how he was attacking the track came into play. “The big improvement I made in sector three was key because I was losing two tenths there,” Lorenzo admitted on his efforts through Friday and Saturday. “It was a matter of looking at videos and my body position and it worked during the race because I was really catching Marc.”
“This is one of my best victories, when you beat Marc it is special, when you win with Ducati then it is special,” the Spaniard added, who is now within touching distance of second place in the championship standings.
Cal Crutchlow was in podium contention for most of the race on a track that was favourable to the speed and grunt of the factory Dukes. The Brit’s fourth place was his best result in four races. In sixth was Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi; the Italian salvaging some points in a dire weekend of competitiveness for the blue factory.
MotoGP was matched in the entertainment stakes by a similar encounter in Moto2. SKY Racing Team’s VR46 Pecco Bagnaia chased Miguel Oliveira and mugged the Portuguese through the final two corners. It was not only a battle of the two fastest riders in the category but also two championship contenders: Bagnaia’s fifth win of 2018 giving him the series lead by just three points over Oliveira and the title rumble rumbles on.
“I had to make up a bit of a gap at the beginning and then followed Miguel,” the Italian recounted. “On the last two laps I tried to overtake him and I had the better ‘way’ into the last corner. It was really important to win here for the championship because I am leading again. I have to thank my team for the incredible work this weekend.”
More VR46 joy came in Moto3. Marco Bezzecchi somehow emerged from a typical melee to match Pole Position to a second chequered flag of the year. The success also delivered more points to the championship leader’s tally. “Since Brno we have worked on my mental approach” said Bezzecchi and the maturity was evident at a throttle-tapped Spielberg.
From one speed bowl to another: the history-tinged fast fringes of Silverstone will be the site of the British Grand Prix in two weeks time.