There were fewer questions about track conditions and tyre choices for the intermediate class race, given that the racing line was mostly dry, although surrounded by damp patches. However, that did not make the race any less eventful and Marco Bezzecchi was able to secure his first victory of the season and climb on a podium that surprisingly did not feature either of the Red Bull KTM Ajo boys. Almost as happy to be in parc fermé as the victor were Aron Canet and Augusto Fernandez, who completed the podium positions with a lot of speed and a bit of luck.
The home race started pretty well for KTM, with Remy Gardner nailing the launch off the line but Bezzecchi found the inside at turn 1 and the Australian attempting to retaliate at turn 3 cost him another position, inviting teammate Raul Fernandez to claim second. The rookie didn’t get to enjoy it for long though, as Gardner reclaimed the position next time around turn 3, leaving Fernandez under pressure from Canet. Ai Ogura and Sam Lowes were about a second behind and within reach of a sizeable group led by Augusto Fernandez.
Bezzecchi continued untroubled at the front, with Gardner biding his time right behind him, but Canet was on a charge and demoted Raul Fernandez to chase the two leaders by lap 4. The exchange allowed Lowes to get closer and starting to match the rapid pace of the men ahead. The gap was reducing but mostly due to Raul Fernandez slowing down rather than the Brit speeding up.
Canet was less patient than Gardner and took advantage of a mistake from Bezzecchi at turn 1, which allowed the Spaniard to take the lead on lap 7 and dropped the Italian to third. He didn’t enjoy the limelight for too long, however, as Gardner went past at turn 9 and started to push at the front, only Canet seemingly able to keep up at that stage. While Bezzecchi dropped almost a second behind, Raul Fernandez ran very wide out of turn 9 and dropped down to 7th position, behind Lowes and Augusto Fernandez and four seconds off the lead.
Meanwhile, teammate Gardner was the fastest man on track, keeping Canet half a second back and Bezzecchi another seven tenths behind. One second kept Ogura away from the podium positions and the rookie had stretched a bit of a gap over the Marc VDS battle for fifth, where Fernandez got ahead of Lowes on lap 11. The other Fernandez could not bridge the gap to that fight and was left to defend sixth place from Hector Garzo and Somkiat Chantra.
Back at the front, Canet struggled to reel in Gardner but the threat was getting closer from behind, with Bezzecchi and Ogura tagging along to form the chasing group, two seconds ahead of the Marc VDS machines. Bezzecchi made his move for second at turn 1 with 11 laps to go and although Canet could not retaliate, he kept close to the Italian, who started to close the gap on the runaway leader to half a second once more. Despite a track limits warning for Ogura, the rookie was looking for a way past Canet to join the podium positions, but the Spaniard did not make it easy. Two seconds behind, Augusto Fernandez enjoyed a lonely ride to fifth, after teammate Lowes made a mistake and dropped to ninth, at the back of a feisty group including Raul Fernandez, Chantra, Garzo and Xavi Vierge. His recovery mission became slightly easier when Garzo crashed out at turn 4 with 8 laps to go, but Lowes could not recover and almost dropped out of point-scoring positions in the final few laps.
As the race entered the final seven laps, Bezzecchi attacked for the lead into turn 1 and although Gardner took advantage of the Italian running wide at turn 3, Bezzecchi fought straight back at turn 4 to lead proceedings. Although the battle between Ogura and Canet had dropped them about a second behind the two leaders, once the rookie settled that dispute, he managed to steadily reduce the gap to the leaders and suddenly found himself in second position after Gardner got unsettled at turn 4 with 6 laps remaining. That dropped Gardner down to 5th position, four seconds ahead of his teammate.
Ogura got very close to challenge for victory but was immediately given a long lap penalty for exceeding track limits. Once that was served, luck swung back in Gardner’s favour, promoting the championship leader to fourth, but almost two seconds off the final podium position inherited by Augusto Fernandez. Over two seconds in front of the Spaniard, the battle for victory was unfolding between Bezzecchi and Canet, but the SKY Racing rider had a little extra speed and extended a safe gap going into the final lap.
Bezzecchi took the checkered flag one second ahead of Canet, with Augusto Fernandez completing the podium and Gardner settling for fourth. Ogura secured fifth in style, with the fastest lap on the final lap of the race and was able to keep fourth despite a three second penalty for crossing the white line while serving his long lap penalty. Although we’ve barely seen him during the race, Celestino Vietti was one of the stars of the Styrian GP, the Italian going from 19th on the grid to steal sixth place from Raul Fernandez on the final lap and score his best result of the year. Chantra, Vierge and Marcel Schrotter rounded out the top 10 positions, with Lowes dropping to 14th.
Despite a strange day for both Red Bull KTM Ajo boys, Gardner extends his lead in the world championship to 35 points over Raul Fernandez, while Bezzecchi gets closer, with a 44 point deficit.
|12||19||Lorenzo Dalla Porta||Kalex||+14.071|
|13||21||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Kalex||+14.197|
|21||7||Lorenzo Baldassarri||MV Agusta||+30.121|
|25||24||Simone Corsi||MV Agusta||2 Laps|
|6||Cameron Beaubier||Kalex||6 Laps|
|40||Hector Garzo||Kalex||8 Laps|
|55||Hafizh Syahrin||NTS||16 Laps|
|16||Joe Roberts||Kalex||16 Laps|
|70||Barry Baltus||NTS||24 Laps|