For the first time in 19 years, MotoGP returned to Austria. Just as Sachsenring in Germany – the ninth round that sealed the first-half of the season three weeks ago – Austria’s Red Bull Ring is tight, the sloping circuit once known as Österreichring 2.68 miles long with 10 corners.The two biggest questions heading into Saturday’s qualifying were: can anyone stop the Ducati Team GP16s piloted by Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, and will points leader Marc Marquez find something extra in his RC213V?
On Friday Austria MotoGP practice, Dovi dominated practice, finishing 0.238 of a second ahead of teammate Iannone. The next closest rider was Team Ecstar Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales, who finished 0.854 of a second back.As for Marquez, he finished 10th on Friday. The Spaniard also rode Saturday after dislocating his shoulder at turn 3 – the highest of the circuit – during free practice three earlier in the morning.But it was a Ducati day as the Bologna-based team chases its first win since Phillip Island in 2010. The man who claimed that win, two-time MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner, was working closely with the Andreas Friday and Saturday.In one of the most exciting 15-minute qualifying sessions of the season, first it looked as if Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo would take the pole. But within the last two minutes, it went to Dovizioso, and then to nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi.But at the line the “maniac” Iannone posted a 1:23.142 to claim his second-career MotoGP pole, his other arriving at Mugello in 2015.Joining Iannone on the front row is 37-year-old Rossi, who surprised after struggling on Friday, and Dovizioso. Rossi trailed by a mere 0.147 of a second, and Dovizioso by 0.156. This creates an all-Italian front row in Austria.Heading up row two is Lorenzo, who finished 0.219 of a second behind. The reigning MotoGP Champion will be joined on row two by Marquez (-0.333) and Vinales (-0.442).Rounding out the top 10 in qualifying were LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, who entered Q2 for the first time of his MotoGP career (-0.455); Octo Pramac Yakhnick Ducati’s Scott Redding (-0.635); Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro (-0.671); and the final rider to post within a second of Iannone, Avintia Racing Ducati’s Hector Barbera (-0.671).The 28-lap race (75 miles) gets underway at 8 a.m. EST Sunday. All eyes will be on the Ducati Team duo as they look to bring Ducati back to the top tier of the podium.Photos below by Luciano Bianchetto
2016 Austria MotoGP Qualifying Results – Photo Gallery
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.