Ducati Speed Favored On Sunday At Red Bull Ring?

10 MotoGP rider quotes from Thursday’s pre-race press conference in Austria.

2016 Austrian GP
Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso finished 1-2 for Ducati Team last year at the Austrian GP.Ducati Team

Ducati dominated last year's Austrian Grand Prix, with factory riders Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso finishing first and second in the 28-lap race at the spectacular Red Bull Ring. Iannone's victory followed a last-minute rear tire swap on the starting grid. The unorthodox decision gave the 27-year-old Italian a slim advantage at the end of the race over a very disappointed Dovizioso. Margin of victory was 0.938 seconds.

In addition to the win, Ducati took pole position, and recorded the quickest lap and highest top speed of the race, 192 mph. Making it a clean sweep, Ducati test rider Michele Pirro posted the highest speed of the weekend, 194 mph, in Free Practice 4 on Saturday. Since last August, Ducati riders have won three more races, and Dovizioso returns to Spielberg third overall in the standings.

Jorge Lorenzo, who replaced Iannone this year, and Valentino Rossi were the only riders able to keep the Ducatis within sight. Marc Marquez, fifth, didn't appear to be handicapped during the race by the shoulder he dislocated in practice. "If we forget the positions and think only of the championship," he said at the time, "Lorenzo only took five points more than me, Valentino only two. The good thing is that Ducati won and finished second."

2017 press conference
From left to right: Pol Espargaró, Dani Pedrosa, Maverick Viñales, Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, and Cal Crutchlow talk to the press about post-Brno testing and the upcoming race at the Red Bull Ring.MotoGP

At Thursday’s pre-event press conference, Marquez was joined by Rossi and Movistar Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales, LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, and Red Bull KTM rider Pol Espargaro. Thanks to his victory last weekend at Brno in the Czech Republic, Marquez now leads Vinales in the standings by 14 points. With 10 races down and eight more to go, 22 points separate the top four men.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: "Straight away, we come from Brno to here. We had a good feeling on the Monday test [at Brno]; the grip was perfect, and the lap times came easily. Last year, this was one of the weekend's we struggled more but we didn't test here. This year, we improved a little bit the lack of acceleration, so we will see where we are."

MM93 and VR46
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha)MotoGP

Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha: "Looks like this weekend the weather will not be fantastic. We are coming from Brno, which was a good weekend for me. The test on Monday was good. We tried something—something quite good, something quite the same—and I finished more or less with the same lap time I did on Saturday but with a good feeling."

Maverick Vinales, Movistar Yamaha: "I really like this track. Last year, it was one of the tracks where I was closer to the top, so I'm quite motivated for this weekend. Brno, a podium; I felt good again. On Monday, we tested many things. I was feeling great on the bike, in a really good rhythm, especially the last part of the day. I'm ready to go."

Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda: "The test on Monday we never tried anything new. We never had any new items. We tried the winged fairing again. I was still a little sore from the crash in FP3, and I didn't want to test too much. I preferred to rest and see if I could focus on this weekend. To hit the wall at 200 kph [124 mph] was a big crash."

Cal Crutchlow, LCR HondaMotoGP

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: "The Red Bull Ring is a really special circuit—very hard brake points but also very hard acceleration. We will see this year if we can find the correct balance. Last year, I was quite strong, but in the race the rear tire dropped quite a lot because they were a different kind of tires. This year, I believe we can be more competitive."

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: "Obviously in the last races we have been working well. But, for sure, at this track we have to be focused again at our very best from the first minute. Last year, we struggled a lot—in practice, in qualifying, and in the race. It was a difficult weekend."

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol HondaMotoGP

Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha: "When you ride on this track, it is a big difference compared to the others because it is very, very fast—the average is incredible—and you don't have a lot of corners. So, you have to concentrate in every meter to try to do the best. Braking is also important."

Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda: "Strong performance, I felt, in Brno. I never really raced with Valentino; he passed me, and that was it. We'll try again this weekend. The weather here is the weather. It's the same for everybody. You have to go through the conditions that everybody else goes through. We'll take that as it comes."

Maverick Vinales, Movistar YamahaMotoGP
Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTMMotoGP

Maverick Vinales, Movistar Yamaha: "We didn't find anything really positive [with the new fairing tested at Brno.] We need to test again at another track. We have to wait. [The weather] is going to be unstable, so we have to be ready for all situations. It's going to be really important to be inside Qualifying 2."

Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM: "To come to this home GP for the factory is nice because all the mechanics and staff are really pumped to start this weekend. [Brno] was a great race. In the last races, we were strong, and in the Czech Republic, I was able to catch and overtake some riders. It was fantastic."