This article originally appeared on Late-Braking MotoGP.
For the first time in recent memory, MotoGP enters a race weekend resigned to predictable results in both the premier and Moto2 classes. The Ducati contingent – Andrea Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller – will be tearing up the big bikes. Marc Marquez will end up on the podium. Alex Marquez will finish in the Moto2 money along with two other guys. The best race of the day will likely be the lightweights – ha! – of Moto3.
Recent History in Austria
Recent history at the Red Bull Ring has been, well, recent. The track re-joined the calendar in 2016 after an 18-year breach in the running of the Austrian Motorcycle Grand Prix. Selecting Red Bull Ring as the sponsoring venue, with its nine or ten turns depending, gave Ducati Corse a bulletproof squat they could dominate with their eyes closed until KTM gets its hometown Austrian act together. In 2016, Ducati’s Dueling Andreas led the factory Yamahas on a merry chase through the lush Austrian countryside, followed by everyone else. At the flag, Andrea Iannone handled Dovizioso (this was the year everyone but Scott Redding won a race) while a tumescent Spartan, Jorge Lorenzo, outgunned The Doctor for the last step on the podium.
2017 would have been a carbon copy of 2016 with the exception of Dovizioso winning, JLo taking Iannone’s seat and finishing fourth, and, ahem, those pesky, unwelcome factory Hondas, Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, hogging the second and third steps on the podium. This was one of those races, similar to what we saw several times last year, when Marquez, in hot pursuit, and Dovizioso went knives-in-a-phonebooth, Spain vs. Italy, Honda vs. Ducati, and Dovi ended up on top, as he usually does. The kind of competition that gives motorcycle racing a good name.
In 2018, for the third year in a row, MotoGP riders tried to dislodge Ducati Corse from the pronounced advantage they enjoy here. In 2016, it was Lorenzo who failed to flag down Iannone and Dovizioso. 2017 was Marquez trying valiantly, and ultimately failing, to overtake the determined Dovizioso. Last year, it was Marquez losing again by a tenth, this time to a rejuvenated Lorenzo, in a last lap duel that was entertaining, if not riveting.
Sloppy Seconds from Brno
Most of the conversations I’m hearing, standing in my kitchen by myself, have to do with Moto2 and especially Moto3; until further notice, MotoGP is essentially over for this year.
For those of you who haven’t noticed, Alex Marquez is currently doing to the Moto2 grid what his brother has been doing to MotoGP for the last few years – pummeling it into submission. He won the Moto3 title in 2014 at age 18, when Tito Rabat won Moto2 and Marc won the MotoGP title, the three training partners on top of the world in Valencia. Alex was rumored to be faster than Marc, raising expectations for little brother off the charts. He graduated to Moto2, to the high-profile Estella Galicia/Marc VDS team, then running Honda engines, and proceeded to lay eggs for four full years, becoming a poster child for Underachieving Little Brothers Everywhere. Things were heading that way again this year, capped by a P24 in Jerez, for God’s sake, when someone lit a fire beneath him.
The punching bag has become the knockout artist. Other than getting collected by BadAss Lorenzo Baldassarri at Assen, where he was fast again, he is undefeated since Le Mans, trying to convince the world – he’s convinced me – that he’s ready to move up. He has made the smart choice of staying in Moto2 for another year to wait for a winning bike on a winning team in 2021. He’s 23 – it’s not like he’s old. He will be 24 when he hits MotoGP on a factory bike for someone (!). Redemption stories generally make one feel good, except here, where Moto2 suddenly provides no competitive relief from MotoGP.
Leaving things to Moto3, a class I ignored until, like, 2014. Back in the day the lightweights were running 125cc bikes that sounded like nuclear pencil sharpeners.
Having owned and ridden an 80cc Yamaha (top speed, pegged, maybe 50 mph with chunks of the head gasket flying off) I had no respect for riders on such small bikes. Imagine my horror upon reading that, way back in the day, guys were famously winning 50cc championships.
The switch this year in Moto2 from 600cc Honda to 765cc Triumph engines seems to have inspired a number of Moto3 riders to aggressively position themselves for promotions. One cannot imagine a Moto3 racer not wanting to saddle up on a big Triumph, with around three-quarters of the grunt of a premier class bike. For them, if 250cc is fun, 765cc would be a lot more fun.
The list of Moto3 riders with credible resumes for Moto2 gigs is long. Names like Aron Canet, Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Niccolò Antonelli, Tony Arbolino, Jaume Masia and Marcos Ramirez. John McPhee. Even Romano Fenati, for whom the lithium seems to be helping, would be the devil himself on a Moto2 bike. There were moments during the Brno race where Arbolino and Antonelli were trading moves, and it was impossibly good stuff. My notes – “these two guys can ball.” Canet and young Masia are KTM guys the Austrians rightly see as having bright futures.
Here’s the deal. These guys all need to earn a promotion to a credible Moto2 team for next season. Then, they need to do well in Moto2 right away, unlike, say, Jorge Martin and Marco Bezzecchi, whom I had expected to be consistently top ten this year. And the reason is the MotoGP contracts mostly roll over after the 2020 season. Late next year is a prime opportunity to catch a MotoGP ride for 2021-22. And you really can’t do it from Moto3. Had he not podiumed last week, I would have played the “Paging Jack Miller” card here.
Your Weekend Forecast
The weather for metropolitan Spielberg this weekend calls for temps in the low 70s with the best chance of rain on Saturday, much like last week. Hard core fans like me will watch the MotoGP and Moto2 races for information rather than enjoyment. The fun will be in Moto3, and the weather doesn’t really matter, as any of a dozen different riders will have a chance of winning regardless of the conditions. Last week at one point the lead group consisted of 17 riders. Dalla Porta and Canet lead the championship by a mile, but no lead is safe in Moto3. Too bad it comes on at 5 am EDT, 2 am PDT. I will be getting up early on Sunday; I expect some of you will be staying up late on Saturday.
Whatever. We’ll have results and analysis right here after the races. After many of you old MOrons sleep it off.