2018 Austria MotoGP Friday News
Red Bull Ring Better this Year in the Rain
One year after several MotoGP riders threatened to boycott the race should it rain on Sunday, a thorough clean-up job seemed to have solved the problems that made the Red Bull Ring so horribly treacherous in the wet.
In 2017 when rain struck in the second Moto2 free practice, it triggered carnage. Eleven riders managed a total of 14 crashes, mostly in the heavy braking zones for Turns 1 and 3. The blame went to rubber laid down by F1 cars, which brake later than the bikes; with the crashes coming as bikes ran from their own braking zone into the car zone.
For this year, the track was sandblasted in these areas … and the proof of the pudding came in the eating. When heavy rain hit MotoGP’s FP2 in the afternoon, there was not a single fall.
New Bits for Some Teams
While most other teams came away from Brno tests with new bits or at least new hopes, it wasn’t the case at the increasingly beleaguered factory Yamaha team.
Maverick Vinales didn’t even make the test, with the excuse being his crash on the first lap of the race the day before … although severe friction between the rider and his fellow-Spanish crew chief Ramon Forcada could also have been a factor, because in any case it seems the Japanese factory did not have much in the way of development for their riders to assess.
Rossi did ride, but to no good effect, if you take his comments at face value.
“We worked a lot, but in the end we did not find anything better,” he said.
Honda’s Marquez was up-beat. “We had many things to test, and some we will try using here” he said, on the eve of practice.
Suzuki had a new version of the carbon-reinforced chassis, which had been raced by test rider Sylvain Guintoli. While Iannone missed most of the day after a heavy tumble, Alex Rins did try it … and liked it so much he persuaded the factory to let him use it in Austria, even though there was just one, a prototype for 2019.
Aprilia riders Redding and Aleix Espargaro had a carbon-fibre swing-arm, with each of them liking it. According to the Briton, the bike’s edge grip was much improved.
MotoGP to Mexico?
Mexico – yes or no? Reaction to news earlier this week of a possible 20th GP in Mexico as soon as next year has left many heads shaking at the perils of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, situated in a Mexico City park.
The major worry is the proximity of walls on a track that was reprofiled for a return of F1 in 2015; the major quirks are the location of a baseball stadium within the oval circuit which uses part of the GP track layout, and the altitude of around 2,300 metres.
Riders first heard of the possibility at the confidential Safety Commission meeting at Brno a week ago; Rossi went public a few days later with the bald statement that “it is too dangerous for MotoGP.”
At Austria, Marquez had some conciliatory words. “They say they are improving a lot the run-off areas. It is very hard to understand from a map, but it looks like there are some strange corners. But I like strange corners.”
Brno winner Dovizioso was dubious, but said: “I don’t think anything is fixed;” while Moto2 championship leader Miguel Oliveira was resigned. “I don’t watch F1 so I don’t know what the track is like. But if Dorna say we will go, we must go.”
Marquez added a final plea. “Please, not more than 20 races a year.”
Dorna’s plan is to slot the Mexican race in as round three, two weekends after the Argentine event, and a week before the race in Texas.
With the expected 2019 race in Finnland now postponed for at least a year because of delays to the work on the newly-built Kymiring circuit, it would bring the total of races a year to 20.
Jorge Martin Back in Action
Injuries took their toll at the first back-to-back races of the season. KTM’s MotoGP rider Pol Espargaro was a prominent absentee, but Moto3 rider Jorge Martin was back in action a week after breaking his wrist at Brno, albeit below his usual dazzling form.
Espargaro had been reported with just a broken collarbone, a minor fracture at that, after crashing in morning warmup at Brno. But complications emerged afterwards, with a spinal injury causing serious worries as he lost feeling in his arms and legs.
It was caused, according to his Aprilia-riding brother Aleix, but swelling pressing on the spinal cord, and a neurosurgeon had deemed the younger Espargaro extremely lucky to escape more serious damage and potentially long-lasting consequences.
Martin however was back, his left wrist strapped after surgery to a radius bone fracture. He placed a modest 26th out of 30, running ran just ten laps in the morning and just four in the afternoon, improving his time before rain spoiled conditions, but was confident he could continue for the rest of the weekend.
“To be riding here is already a success,” he said. “I’m not fully comfortable but there is room for improvement. I will have to ride through the pain, but I’m not too far behind.”
Marco Bezzecchi Heading to Moto2
Current Moto3 points leader Marco Bezzecchi will not be hanging around to see if he needs another year to secure the title, after today’s official confirmation that he is to move straight up to Moto2.
The rising Italian has been signed up to the Tech 3 Moto2 team along with Jerez Moto3 winner Philipp Oettl, as the French team switches from its in-house Mistral chassis to KTM, in line with its move from Yamaha to KTM in MotoGP.
At the same time, Moto2 itself switches from its original race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines to three-cylinder 675 cc Triumphs.
According to Tech 3 chief Herve Poncharal, “For me this is the perfect moment to do it because … Moto3 is going to have a drastic change; a new engine from Triumph and a new ECU from Magneti Marelli.”
Other Moto2 movements for next year include hard-pushing Xavi Vierge switching from the Dynavolt Kalex team to join Alex Marquez at the VDS team; and current Gresini-Kalex rider Jorge Navarro to Speed Up, where he will replace the MotoGP-bound Fabio Quartararo