When the FIM MotoGP World Championship returned to Spielberg in Austria and the Red Bull Ring last year after an absence of 19 years, the fast improving factory Ducati team dominated proceedings with their two bikes finishing 1-2, almost three and a half seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
The circuit, dominated by straights and tight corners, played into the hands of the Italian manufacturer that has normally produced the most powerful MotoGP machinery.
Well, as per most predictions, Ducati did emerge victorious but not by the comfortable margin everyone expected them to despite Honda’s Marc Marquez starting on pole position. Andrea Dovizioso held off a charging Marquez as the Spaniard finished just 0.176 seconds behind the Italian after trying to slide past for the lead on the last corner of the last lap of the race.
Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez traded the lead of the 28-lap race around the 10-turn, 4.318km circuit and managed the pace after early leader Jorge Lorenzo tried to make a run for it.
Lorenzo, however, continued this season’s trend of not being able to manage the tyre wear on the Ducati as well as teammate Dovizioso and slipped back to ultimately finish a lonely fourth.
With Lorenzo back in fourth and Honda’s Dani Pedrosa wearing out his tyres after charging to third, Dovizioso and Marquez routinely swapped the lead with the Italian rider being able to take advantage of his Ducati’s prodigious grunt to hold off the MotoGP championship leader over the last five laps when the battle for the win started in earnest.
Marquez, who had opted for a hard compound rear tyre – despite obvious improvements made by Honda to limit wheel-spin and tyre wear under acceleration – was still faster than Dovizioso as the riders hit the more flowing section of the circuit instead of over the straights.
Showing no lack of effort, and running wide on many occasions, Marquez ultimately came up short by less than two tenths of a second but still ended up extending his championship lead by two points that had stood at 14 points before the race.
Now, instead of leading Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales by 14 points, Marquez leads Dovizioso by 16.
Seven rounds remain in this year’s championship season with the next round coming up in two weeks at Silverstone on the 25 to 27 August weekend.