The story of Ducati and MotoGP is one of ups and downs. When the MotoGP class changed in 2002 from 500cc two-stroke to four-stroke machinery, Ducati wasted no time. The Bologna manufacturer unveiled its V4 Desmosedici at 2002 Mugello, and announced it would enter the 2003 MotoGP Championship; this was Ducati’s first entry into GP racing.Like many new manufacturers entering the world’s largest stage of motorcycle racing, the struggles were real. Even with powerhouses Loris Capirossi, Troy Bayliss, and Carlos Checa at the controls of the Ducati GP bikes – always named for the year of the races such as GP3, GP4, etc., success was far away.
The downs changed in 2007, when engine displacement was reduced to 800cc, and Casey Stoner joined the Ducati team. The Australian was the perfect match for the powerful Ducati, harnessing that power of the Desmo to earn 10 wins and provide Ducati with it’s first title. Stoner finished second the following year, but then the Ducati downs returned; Stoner’s last season was 2010, and Valentino Rossi joined the team for 2011 and 2012 – a situation that seemed impossible to beat. But that was far from true; Ducati’s struggles continued…and continued…and continued.Ducati’s GP win list ran dry, it’s last arriving at the 2010 Phillip Island MotoGP with Stoner at the controls. Ducati delivered frequent podiums with the latest lineup of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, but wins were out of reach.This finally changed Sunday during the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, which was MotoGP’s first return to Austria in 19 years. From the first free practice through the race, the Ducati GP16 dominated. What followed was history for both the 27-year-old Italian Iannone and the brand based in Borgo Panigale.Starting from pole, Iannone provided Ducati with its first MotoGP victory in exactly 100 races and six years. This was also Iannone’s first-ever MotoGP win since joining the premier class with Ducati in 2013.Joining Iannone on the podium were teammate Dovizioso, who started his 250th GP in Austria, and the reigning MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo on the Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1.Iannone, who was riding with bruised rips due to motocross injury during the summer break, took a gamble in Austria as Mick Doohan and Casey Stoner looked on from the pits. He was the only rider with soft front/medium rear Michelin tires; most others were on medium front/hard rear.Following the race, Iannone said: “It’s a very beautiful moment, a magical moment for Ducati because it came back for victory after six years. It’s very difficult to explain the feeling – incredible race. Lorenzo pushed to stay ahead, but I managed the tire, and this strategy was fantastic. I used the rest of the fuel for last half of the race while riding 100 percent. The strategy was perfect, and it was a very important moment for me. As for the ribs, I was surprised – I didn’t have pain until the last five laps. I was focused on the ride, and pushed for the win.”
2016 Austria MotoGP Recap
The 28-lap (75 miles) Austrian GP began with the all-Italian front-row qualifiers – a first since 2006 Motegi – of Iannone, Dovizioso and Rossi getting off the line smoothly, Iannone leading the way.Behind, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, a two-time MotoGP Champion, ran wide at turn one, pushing the reigning MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) wide also. Besides this, five riders also jumped the start, including LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, who did well in qualifying, earning seventh.Before 97,000 cheering fans, Rossi wasted no time, passing Dovizioso and Iannone for the lead – but it was short lived. Iannone and Dovizioso returned to the front. Lorenzo also capitalized on a small mistake and led for a few turns, but that also was short lived.By the end of lap three, a six-rider group formed up front, with Iannone leading future Ducati pilot Lorenzo, Rossi, Dovizioso, Marquez and Team Ecstar Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales, who joins Rossi on the factory Yamaha team in 2017.Iannone remained up front, but Dovi was on the charge. Dovizioso, who remains with Ducati through 2018 as Iannone joins the factory Suzuki team, moved into second by lap six and a lap later took the lead off Iannone at turn nine.As the two Ducati GP16s opened a gap, the fight for the final podium position came down to Lorenzo and Rossi. Further behind was Marquez and Vinales; Marquez impressed as much as the injured Iannone; the RC213V pilot Marquez suffered a dislocated shoulder following a crash in Saturday morning’s free practice three sessions. He clearly struggled at Austria, especially at turn one of 10, but was able to fight through the pain to seriously battle with Vinales.With 13 to go, Iannone was now the fastest rider on track as he chased down his teammate Dovizioso. Behind, Lorenzo kept a slight lead on Rossi, and further behind Marquez did the same with Vinales.With seven to go, Iannone took the lead and remained there to the checkered flag. He was on a complete charge, pushing 100 percent, using more fuel and tire, setting the Austria MotoGP Circuit Record on lap 24 (1:24.561).Dovizioso finished 0.938 of a second behind Iannone, with Lorenzo earning third 3.389 seconds back. Rossi claimed fourth, 3.815 of a second back.A further 11.813 seconds behind in fifth was Marquez, who was followed by Vinales (-14.341) and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa (-17.063). Rounding out the top 10 were Octo Pramac Yakhnick Ducati’s Scott Redding (-29.785), and the Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith (-29.785) and Pol Espargaro (-37.094).With his third-place finish, Lorenzo closed in on Marquez’s points lead. Marquez now has 181 points, 43 behind. Rossi is in third overall, 57 behind Marquez.The series takes no time off, and heads straight to Brno in the Czech Republic for round 11 of 18. Last year, Lorenzo dominated Brno MotoGP, finishing ahead of Marquez and Rossi.Photos by Luciano Bianchetto
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.