Austria MotoGP Test, Day 1: Dovizioso Fastest, Ducatis Dominate, KTM Debuts

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:

Pos No Rider Bike Time Diff Prev
1 4 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 1:23.764    
2 29 Andrea Iannone Ducati 1:24.347 0.583 0.583
3 45 Scott Redding Ducati 1:24.461 0.697 0.114
4 27 Casey Stoner Ducati 1:24.502 0.738 0.041
5 25 Maverick Vinales Suzuki 1:24.595 0.831 0.093
6 8 Hector Barbera Ducati 1:24.649 0.885 0.054
7 50 Eugene Laverty Ducati 1:24.751 0.987 0.102
8 9 Danilo Petrucci Ducati 1:24.992 1.228 0.241
9 46 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1:25.054 1.290 0.062
10 68 Yonni Hernandez Ducati 1:25.171 1.407 0.117
11 99 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1:25.175 1.411 0.004
12 41 Aleix Espargaro Suzuki 1:25.223 1.459 0.048
13 43 Jack Miller Honda 1:25.345 1.581 0.122
14 35 Cal Crutchlow Honda 1:25.438 1.674 0.093
15 76 Loris Baz Ducati 1:25.994 2.230 0.556
16 36 Mika Kallio KTM 1:26.056 2.292 0.062
17 53 Tito Rabat Honda 1:26.195 2.431 0.139
18 12 Tom Luthi KTM 1:26.405 2.641 0.210

* Aprilia did not fit transponders for the test

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The few photos of Stoner seemed to show him riding without winglets.

Presumably he is already testing in readiness for next year's rules, but I wonder how much difference it make to the times and how comparable they are.

Reading a review of the test on another site I read some quotes from Stoner in which he said he tested various set ups including with and without winglets. Not sure which configuration he set his best time on. WOuld be interesting to know the lap time difference between with and with out, especially at this circiut, as I understand the wings have more efect on high speed corners? Could be wrong. And this track is more low speed corners and straights.

Kallio only 1 second behind Rossi!  That sounds better.  At least he was ahead of Rabat and more or lass even with Baz.  A good first day.  Nice to see Dovi at the sharp end.

Mika, a rider who couldn't get a contract in moto2 this year (although he should have), on the KTM may have been 2.3s behind the top Ducati, but he was only 1s off Rossi, 0.8s behind the top Honda (Miller).

It was obvious that he was at a track he hadn't been to before, but I didn't realise until now that this was the test he was participating in.

He seems happy with the bike, but not enamoured of the track.

It would make little sense for Stoner to get used to winglets only to see them vanish at the end of the year.

I'm sure he's curious about them, I wonder if Ducati will let him have a go on Dovi's bike?

Nice to see that Dovizioso is fastest on this new track. On Dutch Eurosport, Patrick van den Goorbergh is always picking on Dovi, saying he can't get a fast lap out on his own and that he is always following someone else. I guess this proves him wrong.

It would be brilliant to have Casey Stoner back in MotoGP. Fingers crossed!