Ducati rider Jorge Lorenzo scored his third MotoGP win of the season after a thrilling battle with world champion Marc Marquez in today’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Marquez had set the early pace on his Repsol Honda, but the Ducati duo of Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso were never far away at a track considered by most to favour the powerful red Italian machines.
Lorenzo took the lead on lap 19 of 28, as the leading two dropped Dovizioso, who chose a harder tyre compound than his rivals and found himself unable to match them for grip. Marquez and Lorenzo, who will be team-mates at the factory Repsol Honda team next year, traded places throughout the latter stages of the race, but it was the resurgent Ducati man who emerged victorious after resisting a last lap challenge from his rival.
“It was an incredible race, maybe one of the best of my career,” exclaimed Lorenzo after the race. “Winning with Ducati on this circuit, where I had never won before, after a close quarters battle with Marquez, has a really special taste. Before the race I had thought about which strategy to use, and I decided to do like Brno, administering the tyre wear well and then attacking in the final part of the race, especially because I was one of the few riders who had chosen soft tyres and my riding style allowed me to conserve them until the end. When I found myself fighting against Marquez I knew that it was going to be difficult to pass him, so I decided to improvise by making the best use of the Desmosedici GP’s acceleration and it worked perfectly. Now we’re third in the championship standings, but above all I’m proud and very pleased with the way we’re working because the feeling with the bike is better and better all the time, and I believe we can fight for the win in many other races. Now let’s just enjoy this moment with all the team and I’m also very happy for them.”
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow had a superb fourth place on his LCR Honda, despite the fast Red Bull Ring being one of the Coventry rider’s least favourite tracks. The 32-year-old made a superb start from fifth on the grid to hang on to the battle for the lead in the opening laps, before finding a good rhythm to complete a strong but lonely race in fourth, finishing 9.434 seconds behind Lorenzo and almost four seconds ahead of fifth placed Danilo Petrucci on another Ducati.
“We weren’t able to compete for the podium here today, but before the weekend I said we’d be happy with a top six finish and that’s what we have come away with,” said Crutchlow, who lies eighth in the world championship. “I rode well, but I couldn’t go away with the front guys at the start. It was impossible with the hard front tyre as I needed to build heat into it, as I almost found out at turn four on the first lap when I nearly went down.”
The result sees the three-time MotoGP race winner go into his home race at Silverstone in buoyant mood, adding: “I am obviously happy with the result today. I finished 15th here over the last couple of years, so to finish fourth today is a big step forward. To go away from here with valuable points and a couple of races of strong finishes it means that I can throw the chips all in at Silverstone in two weeks. A top-five finish won’t be out of the question, and I will aim to get onto that podium in front of the home fans.”
Fellow Brit Bradley Smith scored two points for 14thplace at his KTM team’s home race, but countryman Scott Redding had another race to forget, finishing well outside of the points in 20th. Both racers remain without a contract for 2019, with Smith being linked to a ride in the American Moto America series and Scott Redding being touted for a move to British superbikes with Paul Bird’s PBM Ducati squad.
Despite missing out on the win, second place sees Marquez extend his championship lead to 59 points, with eight races remaining. His nearest challenger in the points standings remains Valentino Rossi, with the consistent veteran salvaging sixth on a challenging weekend for the Yamaha riders. Lorenzo leapfrogs team-mate Dovizioso by one point to take third in the standings, 71 points behind Marquez.