Spielberg, Austria – Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez put on a show to remember at the Red Bull Ring, taking it down to the wire in an instant classic, as Lorenzo denied the world champion a win at this circuit yet again.
And the man who beat him in Austria in 2017, Ducati Team leader Andrea Dovizioso, completed the podium in third.
South Africa’s Brad Binder had to settle for sixth (again!) in Moto2 after being ordered to drop a place for running off the circuit, while Steven Odendaal improved his best finish yet on the new NTS by moving up one position to 18th, and Binder’s younger brother Darryn, still recovering from surgery to a smashed collarbone, put in a gritty ride to 19th in Moto3.
Marquez held the initial advantage as he broke away over the first few laps, leaving the Ducati duo of Lorenzo and Dovizioso trailing him by more than half a second, almost close enough to look like one bike at a passing glance.
Dovizioso looked threatening a couple of times but didn’t make a move; with Marquez no longer gaining ground, however, the tide began to turn as Lorenzo slowly reeled him in. By lap 12 the Ducatis were right back on the tail of the Honda until Lorenzo just ran it wide at Turn 3 – but used the grunt of the Desmosedici to fire himself back into second.
As the laps counted down, Lorenzo passed the champion into Turn 1 as team-mate Dovizioso ran wide and dropped back a little. With three laps to go Lorenzo ran wide in Turn 3 and Marquez went through, only for Lorenzo to strike back with a brutal move at Turn 9.
Marquez tried again in Turn 3 on the penultimate lap but Lorenzo led over the line to begin the final lap. The big showdown came at Turn 3 again, as Marquez dived straight for the inside - but Lorenzo held his line and was able to regain the ground on the exit. Marquez pushed it to the limit, the works Honda shaking its tail under braking and its head under acceleration but was unable to make another move as Lorenzo rook the win by just 0.13s, with Dovizioso recovering to finish less than two second adrift.
Honda privateer Cal Crutchlow put his Spielberg demons (he’d never before done better than 15th at this circuit) to rest with an impressive ride to fourth, while satellite Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci also able to bounce back after a tough Austrian race in 2017 race to round out the top five.
Racing legend Valentino Rossi - who told Yamaha management on Friday in public that Yamaha could fix the problem with its MotoGP machine if it wanted to badly enough - put in a stunning ride through the field from 14th on the grid, climaxing in an epic battle for sixth with Honda’s Dani Pedrosa that saw them finish just 0.13s apart – exactly the same gap as between the two leaders.
Alex Rins brought his works Suzuki home in eighth after mixing it at the front in the early stages, with Johann Zarco (Yamaha Tech 3) and Ducati privateer Alvaro completing the top 10.
Francesco Bagnaia maintained his 100 percent pole to win ratio after a brilliant battle with championship rival, works KTM rider Miguel Oliveira, that went all the way down to the final corner, with Luca Marini third after Alex Marquez crashed out in the final corner.
The start nearly ended in disaster for Bagnaia; he initially pulled the better launch but got bogged down in the second phase, with Fabio Quartararo (Speed Up) making contact on the inside and forcing both wide. Bagnaia slotted into fourth with Quartararo having to rejoin outside the top 20.
That gave Oliveira a 0.8s lead at the front, with Jorge Navarro second and Bagnaia recovering to third. It was only a matter of time before Bagnaia made his move past Navarro, and that’s exactly what he did on lap six to set his sights on Oliviera .
The gap stayed at just less than a second, however, until Bagnaia gained nearly half a second in the middle stages as it became clear the Kalex had better front grip than Oliviera’s KTM.
There was nothing to choose between the two championship contenders until Bagnaia made his first move at the penultimate corner on lap 21, only for Oliveira to snap straight back at the final corner. Bagnaia tried again at Turn 1, only for Oliveira to use the KTM’s superior rear grip to power past on the exit.
Oliveira led until the penultimate corner when Bagnaia made his move. Oliviera lunged back up the inside at the final corner but couldn’t hold the inside line as Bagnaia dived back up the inside to force his way past and snatch back lead in the championship standings.
There was more drama just behind, with Marquez crashing at the final corner after battling for the final podium place with Marini, the Italian securing his third consecutive rostrum. Mattia Pasini was in the hunt for the podium but had to settle for fourth, with Jorge Navarro posting his best result of the season in fifth, ahead of Binder, Marcel Schrotter, Joan Mir, Quartararo and Iker Lecuona.
Marco Bezzecchi (KTM) sealed his second race win of the season after leading from start to finish, half a second ahead of a hard charging Enea Bastianini (Honda), with the truly heroic Jorge Martin (Honda) completing the podium after a stunning race, just over a week after surgery on a broken left wrist.
Bezzecchi got hole shot from pole, with Albert Arenas (KTM), Martin and Gabriel Rodrigo (KTM) tucking in behind him as they opened an immediate gap to the pack. Jaume Masia (KTM) and Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Honda) then joined the fray after bridging the one second gap a few laps later, but a mistake from Dalla Porta dropped him back into the clutches of the second group.
Back at the front Bezzecchi was holding station, with nobody able to get close enough to make a move, with Martin, Arenas and Masia swopping places behind him. Bezzecchi tried to make a break in the latter stages, creating a gap of 0.6AS on two separate occasions, but the miraculous Martin was able to claw his title rival back in, setting the stage for a classic finale, as Bastianini setting the fastest laps of the race to reel in the leading group. Bezzecchi was half a second clear at the front and when Arenas ran wide in Turn 1, Bastianini had Martin and Masia firmly in his sights. He passed Martin in Turn 6, then Masia ran slightly wide at the penultimate corner to allow Bastianini through, with Martin slicing his way up the inside to claim the final podium place on the final corner, while Bezzecchi‘s second win of the season extended his lead in the championship to 12 points.
Arenas came home fourth, just ahead of Dalla Porta and Masia; Ayumu Sasaki (Honda) finished a fantastic seventh, with Rodrigo slipping down to eighth at the flag, and Tony Arbolino (Honda) and Aron Canet (Honda) rounding out the top 10.