Pecco Bagnaia won at the Red Bull Ring in a barnstorming race between the two championship contenders to retake the championship lead, ahead of rival Miguel Oliviera.
The race started with the news that the new Marc VDS recruit Xavi Vierge would not be starting after being taken out of the race by Steven Odendaal, fracturing his right wrist in the process and leaving Marcel Schrotter as the sole Dynavolt representative.
The race started with pole man Bagnaia getting the jump off the line, but there was a lot of bumping into turn 1 as Fabio Quartararo put Bagnaia off line and sent them both backwards, this left Oliviera with an opportunity to lead, and attempt to check out as Jorge Navarro would follow him with Bagnaia hot on his heels. Joan Mir would get an incredible start from 20th on the grid to be 6th after the first lap and set off after his team mate Alex Marquez, as Stefano Manzi would cause shenanigans and send a few people wide at the final corner.
As the race started to settle there would be a three-bike incident involving the Pons teammates Baldassarri and Fernandez, and the unfortunate Simone Corsi was collected, for once an innocent party in a crash, as Bagnaia took second from Navarro and Remy Gardner crashed out too. Mir was the man on the move, the fastest man on track by a margin and was tagging onto the back of Mattia Pasini and looked to be dragged up to the top 4. He would have his rhythm interrupted by Brad Binder and the second place man from Brno, Luca Marini. Marini would set the fastest lap as it looked as though Bagnaia was reeling Oliviera in, the gap going from 1.4 seconds to 0.8 in three laps. Navarro was still third, but coming under pressure from Marquez, Pasini and now Marini.
It wouldn’t take long for Navarro to be disposed of by all three riders in quick succession, with Binder and Mir coming very quickly, but the real action was at the front as Bagnaia would bridge the gap to the Red Bull KTM, which wouldn’t go down to well as it was their home race, as KTM are based just down the road in Mattighofen. It would become a game of chess, there was no passing as it seemed everyone from 3rd to 9th was working together to be able to bridge the gap to the top two riders, as Marini got a penalty for repeatedly exceeding the track limits, and was forced to drop a place, but unfortunately the position behind him was over a second back to Binder, and he would have a lot of work to do to regain his place. Sam Lowes and Niki Tuuli would both also cop penalties for the same thing, but they were 15th and 22nd respectively.
With only 8 laps to go, Bagnaia was stalking Oliviera, you could have put a blanket over them they were that close, but Bagnaia would not show his hand knowing what an intelligent racer Oliviera was, preferring to work out his strategy, knowing the KTM was struggling to turn in as well as his Kalex. Further down the field, Marini had made third place his own despite the penalty and looked to consolidate the place by gapping the chasing pack. Lowes would compound his misery by crashing out at turn 9 from 15th place, chasing a solitary point.
With 4 laps to go, Bagnaia decided it was time and tried to put two separate moves on Oliviera, but wasn’t able to make either stick as the KTM had a much better corner exit. The race craft from them both was incredible, they were racing unbelievably closely but there was no contact from either rider, the respect between them was apparent. As the last lap ticked it was an utter classic last lap dice, Oliviera was leading into turn 7, Bagnaia put a move on him into the penultimate corner as Oliviera attempted to bite straight back into the final corner, passing the Kalex but running slightly wide with his rear wheel in the air, allowing Bagnaia to pass him back and getting the run to the line, as there was drama behind when Marquez attempted to pass Marini on the final corner for third place, but went extremely wide and falling, he would not remount and that was probably game over for his championship challenge. That meant Marini would round out the podium, both Sky Racing VR46 bikes would visit the podium for the second race in a row.
Next up is the British GP at Silverstone, where all our reporters will bring you everything from onsite!
Full results here.
Championship standings here.