Repsol Honda team manager Alberto Puig has speculated track and grip conditions at the Austrian MotoGP changed drastically to erode Marc Marquez’s perceived pace advantage which he had demonstrated throughout practice and qualifying.

After storming to a record-breaking 59th career pole position, taking the outright record from Mick Doohan on 58 poles, Marquez went into the Red Bull Ring race hot favourite having demonstrated superior race pace during practice.

But with practice taking place in hotter conditions compared to the race, which was cooled off by early morning rain on Sunday which also made warm-up a wet session, Marquez was unable to escape Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso.

That set up a dramatic final-corner duel which Dovizioso triumphed in to claim victory ahead of Marquez by 0.213s at the chequered flag.

Puig says as the race unfolded it was clear Marquez’s earlier pace advantage wasn’t prominent and felt the change in track conditions could have been the cause.

“All weekend Marquez had a pace that was 0.3s or 0.4s faster than the rest. But on race day he couldn’t match what we had seen in practice,” Puig said.

“Maybe the rain changed the track and the grip, we aren’t exactly sure, but there was certainly something different from practice.

“Immediately we understood that the situation was not going as predicted. Of course, in racing plans and predictions can change in minutes.”

After the race Marquez conceded his pick for a Michelin medium rear tyre compromised his race but paid credit to Dovizioso’s late race attack.

“In FP4 the medium was working better than the soft with that temperature, but in the beginning we were thinking about the soft, but we said the medium [was the tyre to choose] as the temperature started to go up a little bit,” Marquez said.

“We thought that the medium would work better in the last laps but it was completely the opposite. For that reason our main problem in the race was the rear tyre option but this doesn’t mean Dovi was faster than us and Dovi did an incredible race.”

Marquez’s team boss Puig echoed his sentiments and with a 58-point lead in the MotoGP world championship standings he remains content with the Austrian round as a whole.

“There is nothing negative to take away from this weekend in Austria. Nobody was injured, everything went okay in the race overall,” Puig explained.

“Normally we race to win but when somebody beats you, you should accept defeat and congratulate them.

“But in these situations you also have to come back and try even harder next time – this is Honda and Marc’s mentality. In two weeks we have another race and we will try again to win.”

Repsol Honda expect to welcome back Jorge Lorenzo at the next round at Silverstone as he recovers from fractured vertebrae sustained at Assen during practice ahead of the Dutch round in June. Lorenzo has missed the last four races, including Assen, with Honda test rider Stefan Bradl filling in as replacement.

 

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