“I’ll watch Marc and Dovi. I’ll study and I’ll have an answer tomorrow”, was what Jorge Lorenzo said a day before the Austrian GP. And boy, he did have an answer! He kept Ducati’s winning streak alive at the Red Bull Ring, Austria. A happy Marc Marquez came second, after giving a tough fight to Lorenzo. Andrea Dovizioso came third after a relatively lonely race.
After the second part of the qualifying sessions where Marquez and Dovi were separated by just 0.002 seconds, all eyes were on Dovi and expectations were sky high that he might be able to repeat the performance as he did at Brno last week. The starting grid was set; Marquez was pole sitter and it was his 49th pole position, followed by Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo. This was Lorenzo’s fourth front row start in 2018 season and Dovi’s first back-to back front row start since 2015. Danilo Petrucci was starting at fourth position on the grid, making it a Ducati trio in the top order.
Marc Marquez had the lead from the very first lap, save for some scary moments where Lorenzo overtook Marquez from the inside in turn three of the very first lap. However, Marquez quickly recovered and took the lead. Dovizioso was third, behind Lorenzo. Within five laps of the race, the top three riders took a good lead over the rest of the pack, the Marquez was slowly separating himself from the two Ducatis as both Lorenzo, and Dovzioso were engaged in a tight battle for second. Down the order, Valentino Rossi, who started from 14th place, moved up to 10th position and with 16 laps to go, he moved up to eighth place.
With 10 laps to go, in a desperate attempt to overtake Lorenzo, Dovizioso made a boo-boo and ran wide in turn one, thereby losing precious time. This increased the gap between him and Lorenzo to a massive 1 second, which became 1.6 seconds quickly. That was one wrong move by Dovi and no matter how hard he tried from then on, he could not close the gap between himself and Lorenzo. He was racing a lonely race at third position. With ten laps to go, Lorenzo overtook Marquez at turn 3 as the latter was leading the race until then. By this time, the top two took a massive lead from the rest of the pack. However, Marquez was not about to give up. There was no quarter given and top two riders exchanged the lead a number of times but it was Lorenzo at the front.
Everybody was expecting a classic battle between the three, but it turned out to be a classic battle between two. Marquez and Lorenzo. Two Spaniards with different riding styles and on different machines. Honda versus Ducati. With just three laps to go, the fight between Marquez and Lorenzo became intense and they both exchanged the lead a number of times. In an epic last lap battle, Lorenzo took back the lead from Marquez in turn 3, overtaking on the outside, eclipsing Marquez and hard on the gas. It was the final straight and a visibly ecstatic Lorenzo blitzed through the finish line first, followed by Marquez and Dovizioso, who had given up his dreams to finish in the top two. It was an epic battle and it all boiled down to the last lap battle between the two Spaniards.
Like 2017, it was a battle between Ducati and Honda for the top honours. Marc Marquez entertained the crowd with his brilliant moves and he was happy with the second position, as he himself admitted that he had given it his 100 per cent. A visibly disappointed Dovizioso took the third position. Rossi finished in sixth position while Cal Crutchlow and Danilo Petrucci took the fourth and fifth position respectively. Dani Pedrosa finished in seventh position.
Ducati has now conquered the circuit three times with different riders – with Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone in 2018, 2017 and 2016 respectively. Lorenzo displayed absolute class in the race and at the age of 31, the Spaniard is at the peak of his form. Ducati would do well to retain Lorenzo but that is for another day. Marquez still leads the championship with 201 points, followed by Rossi at 142 points. 12 points behind Rossi is Lorenzo and just one point separates him and Dovizioso. The next race is the British GP, which takes place on August 26. Expect more fireworks at the Silverstone Circuit.
Words by Ganesh Murthy