The Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, venue for the Austrian round of MotoGP, appears to be a Ducati track. At the end of the first day of testing for the MotoGP riders in Austria, Andrea Dovizioso topped the timesheets, nearly six tenths clear of his Factory Ducati teammate Andrea Iannone.
Scott Redding set the third fastest time of the day, just ahead of official test rider, Casey Stoner. There is persistent paddock gossip that Stoner is using this test to gauge his competitiveness, with a view to racing as a wildcard at the Austrian Grand Prix. Given Stoner's long association with Red Bull, and the fact that nobody has raced at the Red Bull Ring (except for Valentino Rossi, who raced a 125 there in 1996 and 1997, and Jack Miller, who raced a 125 there in 2011 in the German IDM championship), it gives him the best chance of being competitive.
Maverick Viñales was the first non-Ducati in fifth place, but he was squeezed in between three more Ducatis, with Hector Barbera, Eugene Laverty and Danilo Petrucci taking slots six through nine. Valentino Rossi was the fastest Yamaha, nearly 1.3 seconds slower than Dovizioso, while his teammate Jorge Lorenzo was just over a tenth slower than Rossi.
The Red Bull Ring was the first time the KTM was on track with the other MotoGP machines. Test rider Mika Kallio was the fastest of the KTMs, 2.292 slower than Dovizioso. By comparison, when Randy De Puniet rode the Suzuki MotoGP bike with the other MotoGP bikes at the Barcelona test in 2014, he was 2.5 seconds off the pace. By that measure, the KTM looks a little more competitive than the Suzuki was at the same stage.
We won't know the real state of the KTM until the beginning of next year, however, once Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro have got some miles under their belt on the bike. At Assen, one KTM engineer described the bike as being "ready to be given to a Grand Prix rider." At the moment, they must make do with test rider Kallio and Moto2 rider Tom Luthi.
Aprilia were also present at the test, but as they had no transponders fitted, we have no idea of their lap times. The Repsol Honda riders and the Tech 3 Yamaha riders are not attending the test. Persistent paddock rumor suggests that Ducati, who are organizing the test, vetoed Repsol Honda's participation, as a reprisal for Honda's role in banning wings in MotoGP. The Tech 3 riders are otherwise engaged, with Pol Espargaro heading to Japan to take part in the Suzuka 8 Hour race again this year.
So far, the Red Bull Ring looks like being very much a Ducati track. Given that it is basically a series of longish straights connected with a few corners, that would make sense, the track playing very much into the Ducati's strength: horsepower and acceleration. Given that the KTM is rumored to make a lot of horsepower, that may also be a factor in the performance of the Austrian machines.
Testing continues tomorrow. The riders will also use the test to assess the safety of the circuit, with several points of concern around the track.
Times* at the end of day 1:
* Aprilia did not fit transponders for the test