Ducati surges clear in Austria MotoGP practice

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Ducati put its straight-line speed advantage to good use by surging clear in the opening practice session for this weekend’s MotoGP race in Austria.

MotoGP returns to Austria for the first time since 1998 at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, a track chiefly made up of stop-start corners and long straights.

Ducati entered the weekend tipped to end a victory drought dating back to the 2010 Australian Grand Prix given the strengths of the Desmosedici GP16 bike.

Despite seeing Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales top the opening practice session on Friday morning, Ducati struck back in the afternoon as Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone clinched a one-two finish for the Italian marque.

Dovizioso led the way with a fastest lap of 1:23.617, finishing two-tenths clear of Iannone. Vinales finished as the best of the rest in P3, eight-tenths off Dovizioso’s time, with Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi following in fourth place.

“I’m very satisfied with how my weekend has started, although the tires and the weather conditions were very different to during the test in July,” Dovizioso said.

“Despite that, we’ve been able to confirm our good performance and we’re going well – but it’s not enough because we still have room to improve ahead of the race.

“It’s certain though, with this speed, that we can use the two sessions tomorrow to look for the best race pace.”

Qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix takes place on Saturday in Spielberg.

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.