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Ducati faces moment of truth vs Marquez in Austria

SPIELBERG, Austria: After winning the last three MotoGPs in Austria, it is make or break time for the Ducatis this weekend as they return to Spielberg, hoping to stop Marc Marquez’s seemingly unstoppable march to the title.

Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, winner of this race in 2017, is 63 points behind the Spaniard whose Honda has taken the checkered flag in the last two races in Germany and the Czech Republic.

Another Marquez victory in Austria — he already has 6 out of 10 so far this season — and Dovizioso can all but kiss goodbye the title even though there are a further eight races to come.

“The Red Bull Ring is an excellent track for us, this is clear from the results achieved there in the last few years,” said the 33-year-old Italian who is still searching for his first world title.

“But as I’m always saying, each race has its own story to tell. Last year Márquez finished ahead of me, so I’m sure that this year he will again be competitive,” Dovizioso added.

The Ducatis will certainly give the Hondas a good race although the speed of the bikes of Dovizioso and Jack Miller, who finished second and third in Brno on Sunday, cannot compensate for a lack of agility on the turns.

Repsol Honda Team’s Spanish rider Marc Marquez rides his Honda during the first free practice session of the Austrian Moto GP Grand Prix in Spielberg on Friday. AFP PHOTO

But the Austrian circuit is fast and the record top speed of 316.5 kilometer per hour, which they set in 2017, could be beaten.

Marquez, though, who has never won in Austria, will be well aware that the course requires a lot of braking, one of the strengths of his Honda.

He will again be teamed up with the German Stefan Bradl while Jorge Lorenzo — won here for Ducati last year — is still recovering from injuries he picked up in Assen in June. He is expected to return at Silverstone at the end of the month.

Crash rules out Suzuki’s Mir

Suzuki will be a man down following Joan Mir’s high-speed accident during testing in Brno on Monday.

“It was a big crash and I was transferred to the hospital for further checks because I rolled through the gravel many times and took a lot of hits,” Mir told the team website.

Although he is out of the hospital, Suzuki decided Mir, who won two Moto 3 races at the Red Bull Ring, should skip the race in Austria.

With Mir absent, Alex Rins will be the sole Suzuki on the start line.

Yamaha, meanwhile, is raring to get to grips with this fast circuit.

Its tuned-up bikes went well in the Brno testing with young Frenchman Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Vinales and Franco Morbidelli putting in the best three performances.

The official team, composed of Vinales and Valentino Rossi, is still a little behind the Yamaha-SRT customer team (Quartararo and Morbidelli) and the French rookie could still shine in Spielberg.

The MotoGP starts on Sunday.

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