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Dovizioso edges Marquez in MotoGP Austrian thriller

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Some finishes at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria that have seen the lead change hands on the last corner of the last lap – see Michael Schumacher over Rubens Barrichello in the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix – are memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Others, such as today’s MotoGP Austrian Grand Prix, are memorable for all the right ones. Today it was Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso who wrote a spellbinding final chapter to an otherwise scintillating race, holding off a last-lap, last-turn gasp from Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez to secure the victory.

The two exchanged positions quite a number of times throughout the race but it was Dovizioso who held on by just 0.176 of a second for the win, his third of the season, after a gripping fight.

You can see the final corner of the race in a slo-mo video linked here.

Dani Pedrosa took third in the second of the Repsol Hondas, a few seconds in arrears.

Marquez now leads Dovizioso by 16 points, 174-158, after this result in the championship battle. Marquez won last week at Brno in the Czech Republic but today’s result sees Dovizioso regain some of the points lost there.

The series’ next race is at Silverstone in two weeks’ time.

Rayhall: One that got away in Austria

Photo courtesy United Autosports
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Editor’s note: Sean Rayhall, one of America’s rising driving talents, will file a series of blogs throughout the year chronicling his season in the European Le Mans Series, co-driving with John Falb at Zak Brown and Richard Dean’s United Autosports team in its Ligier JS P3. His third blog recaps a tough end to what had been a winning weekend in Austria, before a post-race penalty was assessed (previous blogs are linked here; Silverstone, Le Mans). 

The Red Bull Ring weekend for us came at a good time, to get back in a rhythm after I’d had quite a busy few weeks of travel leading into it. Between testing at Spa, coaching at Mont-Tremblant and resting up when I could it was good to have a nice flight back overseas to Austria on the Thursday before Round 3 of the ELMS season.

We felt really positive about our chances going into the weekend with how both the team and us as drivers performed separately last year, so we figured putting the two together could work out nicely for us.

Free practices didn’t go too much as planned, as we were a bit off. We were running a few things differently on our car and we were struggling to achieve the ultimate pace on new tires to qualify up front, although on old tires our pace was mega.

Photo courtesy United Autosports

My engineer “G-Baby” (Gary Robertshaw) was pretty grumpy at this point and to be completely honest, so was I. But what followed next was almost magical because of how rarely you see this happen.

Gary dug deep and worked incredibly hard to do what he did, to get us the pace in qualifying. Going in, he looked at me and said, “Alright, we are changing everything. It’s going to be better and you’re just going to have to drive whatever it is.”

From a driver’s eyes, this is both motivating and concerning. I was literally briefed in the car by radio five minutes before qualifying on how I was going to have to brake differently. That being said, long story short, throwing the kitchen sink at it worked and we qualified sixth, within a few tenths of the other Ligiers.

At race time I wasn’t sure what our race pace was going to be like, so I knew I needed to get to the front and keep as many people behind me as possible to secure a good race for us.

So launching flat out on the start going up the hill, everyone hugged the inside and I went “high side and handsome” to get us into P3 by Turn 3. As this is such a short track, you need to make positions up quickly before a lap gets away from you.

A few laps later we made the pass for P2 coming out of Turn 4, and we were on a mission. About 35 minutes into the first stint a GTE car came back on track in front of me, which caused me to completely flat spot the right front tire I had to race on till the end of my second stint.

This took a lot of patience because I knew I would give up P2, but I also knew that I had to nurse this tire for another hour and a half. So we hit a bad bit of traffic and (Giorgio) Mondini got by as I settled into P3 for the rest of my stints.

John got in the car on a mission and was chasing down the leader with new tires, and I’d have to say it was one of the best drives of his life.

Win celebrations were there at first, but were short-lived. Photo courtesy United Autosports

He got to the leader and it was a battle for about 45 minutes before the driver in the No. 11 Eurointernational car cracked under pressure and made contact with a lapped car. We weren’t home free yet, as we were assessed a drive through penalty for track limit violations as John was avoiding a GTE car. Somehow after serving the penalty we still came out on track 2.5 seconds ahead of second. And somehow, we were safe to bring it home and grab the win. Talk about a nail-biter weekend and an emotional roller coaster!

The initial post-victory celebrations before penalty. Photo courtesy United Autosports

We had a great afternoon getting our belongings and trophies, had a drink with the team, and then went to our favorite Italian man in Austria’s place for some pizza and a bottle of his famous Orange melon Liquor to take back to Vienna with us. Antonino was perhaps the oddest but funniest man we met it Austria. By far, John Falb, Scott Andrews, and I had the best dinner out of everyone from the track that night!

About an hour into the car drive back to Vienna, I received a phone call informing us we had been penalized for getting to 80 kph two seconds too late (failing to reduce enough speed), and they had given us a post-race penalty of 25 seconds. That gave the win away and put us in second place. To be honest, these were two penalties that we never gained time from, would never have been race deciding, that were allowed to decide our race for us.

Unfortunately, that’s racing and we will just have to work had enough to be able to handle 50 seconds in penalties at Paul Ricard – but ideally, not receive any further penalties assessed.

This is the challenge though and it’s up to us how we rise above it between John, myself, “G-Baby” and the entire United Autosports team, who again put us in a position to win. And the team still did get one win – our guys in the LMP2 car, Filipe, Will and Hugo, won the race overall in their Ligier! Congrats to them.

Thanks for reading guys! Will let you know how the next one goes!

F1 Paddock Pass: Austrian Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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The latest episode of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass is now live from the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

As usual, the show is broken up into two parts, as hosted by NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton.

First up, Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo discusses having a home race for the Austrian team, radio restrictions, returning to Red Bull and challenging Mercedes for the title.

Buxton also checks in with one of the on form drivers at the moment, Sergio Perez of Sahara Force India, who has two podiums in the last three races.

Meanwhile in the second part, Haas F1 Team driver Esteban Gutierrez wouldn’t talk about a potential move next season to Ferrari.

Free practice coverage starts on Friday; times are linked here.

Rosberg fastest of week in Austria test after leading on Wednesday

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Austrian Grand Prix winner Nico Rosberg took over at the helm of the Mercedes W06 on Wednesday and promptly set the fastest time of the week in the two-day, post-race test.

The German completed 117 laps and set a best time of 1:09.113, which was easily fastest of the week. Times improved two seconds from Tuesday on a day where no rain interrupted running.

Beyond the veterans, Pascal Wehrlein switched from Mercedes to Force India and clocked 132 laps.

Marco Wittman, the DTM front-runner, turned in the most laps of the day in his F1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso. He completed 158 laps and ended fourth with a best time of 1:10.103.

After stopping at pit in late in the afternoon, Daniel Ricciardo brought out the day’s only red flag.

Times are below:

Williams testing new aero component in rear wheel assembly (PHOTOS)

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The Red Bull Ring seems to be the track Williams Martini Racing likes to make headlines.

Last year, the front row lockout and Felipe Massa’s surprise, but welcome, pole position was the story before Valtteri Bottas got on the podium for the first time in his Formula 1 career. Massa’s defense of Sebastian Vettel for the final podium position this year was another Williams at Austria story.

Now come pictures from today’s post-Austrian Grand Prix test that the team is testing a new aero component, similar to the rear wheel guard or sidepod extenders you see in IndyCar, ahead of the rear wheels.

Here’s two photos posted to Twitter, one via Sutton Images and the other via Tobias Gruner of Auto Motor und Sport, showing the new aero component.

Stay tuned for whether this part becomes a more integral part of the chassis in further Grands Prix.