Another weekend, another race at the Red Bull Ring and another one for the history books as Miguel Oliveira ratcheted up the sheer unpredictability of this year’s 2020 MotoGP World Championship with a hard fought and landmark laden win.

He’s naturally one of the big winners’ this weekend, but who else shone and who needs to go and lay down in a dark room…

The Winners

Miguel Oliveira

Lucky, opportunistic, right place right time… for sure Miguel Oliveira had a few factors fall his way en route to a wholly unexpected maiden MotoGP victory in Austria, but at the end of the day you still need to make your own luck, take those opportunities and – in this case - ensure you are in the right place at the right time when Jack Miller and Pol Espargaro duff each other up in the final corner.

In many ways, Oliveira’s off-script victory at the Red Bull Ring perfectly encapsulates this entirely unpredictable 2020 MotoGP season. Capitalising on KTM’s big step forward over the winter but also making great personal strides to become a regular front runner, Oliveira’s personal best has jumped from sixth to first,

Moreover, shocking though the win have been, one feels he won’t become a one-hit wonder.

It’s a measure of just how open this series is this year that everyone believes they can win a race this season and, frankly, based on the results of recent races there isn’t anyone who couldn’t.

Tech 3 Racing

While we doff our caps to Oliveira, we stand and salute the venerable, the veteran and the very deserving race-winning Tech 3 Racing team.

It’s remarkable to think Tech 3 Racing came into this race weekend yet to taste the winners’ champagne in MotoGP in almost 20 years of trying. That’s not to say its not come close… in fact Tech 3 has made 34 trips to the MotoGP podium without standing on the top step… at least, until this weekend.

Better yet, it’s justified all the difficult decisions that led to it parting ways with the competitive Yamaha team – which in turn paved the way for Petronas SRT to come in and make its own mark – and commit to KTM.

Tail-end results in 2019 raised some questions about the wisdom of such a move, but with KTM providing greater like-for-like factory support than Yamaha ever could and Tech 3’s Herve Poncharal one of the wisest minds you’ll find in the MotoGP package, the team hasn’t had to bide much time to reap rewards.

It’s been a long wait but that just makes victory taste all that bit sweeter.

Johann Zarco

As far as eventful weeks go, Johann Zarco was perhaps the busiest bee of anyone in MotoGP… and yet despite a whirlwind of drama around him, he rarely let the smile drop.

The hangover from the huge Austrian MotoGP accident saw Zarco belatedly diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid necessitating surgery, but it also saw him come under fire from certain quarters over the role he played in what others felt was a racing incident.

So, on Wednesday Zarco underwent surgery, on Thursday he met with stewards who gave him a pit-lane start punishment for his next race and he missed Friday’s track action altogether.

Nonetheless, with just one practice session behind him Zarco sets the third fastest time in qualifying… the top Ducati rider on a year-old Desmosedici at the manufacturer’s most successful circuit. That’s how you respond to the doubters.

Alas, that penalty and a lack of stamina neutered his race day chances but there is something satisfying about including both KTM and Zarco as our big winners this weekend, almost exactly a year after their two parties’ endured its rather bitter divorce…

The Losers

Yamaha

If it’s not watching its riders ducking out of the way of flying motorcycles – one of which was also one of its entries – it is holding its breath as Maverick Vinales is forced to throw himself off the Yamaha to extricate himself from his brake-less M1.

After two weekends in which riders complained the Yamaha brakes felt spongey and unresponsive – or as Fabio Quartararo said ‘like a clutch lever’ – the worst case scenario unfolded as Vinales pulled the brakes, felt nothing and bailed at 230km/h.

Again – mercifully – Vinales was unhurt, something you couldn’t say about the Yamaha as it crumpled up and burst into flames.

It was the explosive moment of a bafflingly poor weekend for Yamaha all round, with Valentino Rossi its best finisher in ninth, while championship leader Fabio Quartararo was only 14th to watch his lead trimmed to three points

Granted, the Red Bull Ring is up there as one of Yamaha’s bogey circuits, but in such a wide open season, it can’t afford to pile technical issues on top of indifferent competitiveness. After a brilliant start to the year, Yamaha needs to regroup for Misano…

Cal Crutchlow

The news that Marc Marquez is all but out of action for the remainder of the 2020 MotoGP season will be a bitter pill to swallow for HRC bosses as it ponders whether to persevere with Stefan Bradl alongside rookie Alex Marquez, given the German has contributed nothing to the title-defending team’s meagre 16-point haul thus far.

Nonetheless, with the same 2020 RC213V material underneath him, it stands to reason Cal Crutchlow becomes Honda’s de facto team leader despite his LCR colours. However, his wrist injury at the start of the season notwithstanding, the Briton barely cracked the top 15 across the two Austrian weekends.

In fact, with only 7 points to his name this year – after a 17th this weekend – Crutchlow is now bottom of the full-time riders in the standings.

Indeed, Honda’s focus on Marquez is more than simply resource based, with the RC213V curated to his needs, making it particularly difficult for someone like Crutchlow to forge development along in his absence.

However, when you see Takaaki Nakagami notching up a fifth straight top ten finish from a front row start, one has to wonder how such a successful manufacturer is looking to its satellite rider on the 2019-spec machine for its Sunday points’ haul…

Joan Mir

OK, Joan Mir is not a ‘loser’ per se, but he definitely lost out on Sunday… indeed, he could and probably should have been right at the top of this piece as the big winner, the Spaniard pulling all the strings together – strong practice pace, a great qualifying performance and an excellent strategy – to forge what was destined to be a fantastic maiden win.

However, the red flag came to ruin it, Mir stuck with a used to tyre on a grid of fresh rubbered rivals, leaving him an unrepresentative fourth at the chequered flag.

Nonetheless, it is a very encouraging clue as to what to expect from Mir and Suzuki when it all clicks, another example of the so-called next generation already being here and very present…

 

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