That’s a wrap for round ten out of twenty of the 2023 MotoGP™ World Championship which was hosted on Austrian soil at the internationally known Red Bull Ring in Styria. Under Francesco Bagnaia’s dominance in KTM’s backyard, rookie Augusto Fernandez collected points for the tenth weekend in a row, with an important P14 place on Sunday, rewarding the GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 rider after his tough and challenging weekend. Pol Espargaro, who impressed us in the Tissot Sprint on Saturday, pulled another time with a strong effort during twenty-eight laps, at the end of which he came in fourteenth. However, a late long lap penalty which he was unable to complete got him a three second-penalty, meaning that he took sixteenth in Austria.
Maybe one of the toughest weekends of 2023 so far for Augusto Fernandez on the GASGAS RC16, but his never give-up attitude and strong willpower to progress and perform brought him in the points again on Sunday as he claimed fourteenth at the main race of the CryptoDATA Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich. The weekend had not been going like he would have wanted so far, with a disappointing qualifying on Friday which placed him only twenty-second on the grid, and the Sprint did not go his way either. The rookie admitted struggling with the braking on this layout, but hard work and perseverance saw him progressing through the day today. Hot and tough conditions were awaiting the riders at 14:00 local time, with thirty-three degrees on the ground and thirty in the air. When lights went out, rookie Augusto Fernandez quickly figured out that it was not going to be easy. The track being greasy, he struggled to find a good grip, but that did not stop him from gaining a few places in the first lap, as he was nineteenth ahead of Raul Fernandez after one lap. If he is usually one to set his fastest lap halfway through the race, Augusto rode his fastest on lap 5 today, in 1’30.679, a lap which gave him the speed to overtake both Takaaki Nakagami and Fabio Di Giannantionio as he placed himself in seventeenth, just behind Joan Mir. While he was controlling his lack of grip, he continued to put pressure on the 2020 World Championship, who eventually crashed out on lap 12. That left Augusto chasing his teammate Pol Espargaro, who was himself trying to keep up with Marc Marquez’ rhythm. One last lap crash of Raul Fernandez and the three second penalty powered Augusto into P14. He scores another two points to bring his total of points to fifty one, and stands thirteenth in the riders championship, fourteen points away from Franco Morbidelli.
Pol Espargaro impressed us all on Saturday with a P6 finish at the Tissot Sprint, but everyone’s heads remained on the shoulders, as twenty-eight laps at full gas was always going to be another story for the Spaniard who only came back to racing early August. If he had qualified in P13 on the grid, his Practice incident with ex-teammate Marc Marquez cost him three places on today’s starting grid, so he lined up on the sixth row at 2pm, in sixteenth. At the race start, the number 44 overtook Joan Mir very quickly, and a couple of laps later, that was Franco Morbidelli’s turn. Holding the fourteenth place, his early laps were quite strong and he rode his fastest lap on lap 5, in 1’30.679, as he led his trio shared with Morbidelli and Marquez. Eventually, Morbidelli, who’s pace had increased, overtook him leaving him in a Morbidelli-Marquez sandwich. Nice sandwich, but that did not last long as he was overtaken by the multiple world champion after a few laps. The body hurt, it was hot, twenty-eight laps are long, but Espargaro did not let go and fought hard to continue his efforts. He managed to overtake Jack Miller in the final lap and passed the checkered flag in P14. However, he had been given a long lap penalty for track limits exceeding, which he did not have time to complete, so he was given a three second-penalty, meaning that he dropped to P16. Eitherway, that was another great effort from Pol Espargaro, who will now be looking forward to his home round in two weeks as GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 heads to Barcelona for the Grand Prix of Catalunya, on September 1-3, 2023.