It was once commonplace, but now a rarity. We speak of Aussie representation in all three classes – Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP – over a race weekend of the Road Racing World Championship. By our estimation, that’s hasn’t occurred since 2015, but this weekend the drought will be broken thanks to emerging Aussie Senna Agius.
The 17-year-old livewire has been the focus of many lavish headlines during this year’s hard-fought European Moto2 series, and that’s piqued the interest of the Marc VDS Racing Team which has invited him to deputise for the injured Sam Lowes at this weekend’s MotoGP round in the mountains and forests of the beautiful Red Bull Ring in Austria. And not just a once-off: he’ll then saddle up in the next round at Misano before Lowes comes back.
Yes, 17 years old! That’s almost an absurd notion to get your head around, but in sync with European superstars such as Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez who were plying their trade in the Moto2 class at a similar age before graduating to MotoGP.
The Sydney-bred Agius, an ex-dirt tracker before he turned his hand to road racing, is also riding for one of the premier teams in the Moto2 paddock.
“This is a big childhood dream of mine. Firstly, I’d like to wish Sam a speedy recovery,” said Agius. “I would also like to say a huge thank you to the Elf Marc VDS Racing Team for giving me this opportunity to make my debut in the Moto2 World Championship.
“I can’t wait to get started at the Austrian Grand Prix. This is a big childhood dream of mine and I’m very excited to accomplish it with such an amazing team to learn from. I will give my best to represent the Elf Marc VDS colours.”
And who were the three Aussies competing in all three classes in 2015? Remy Gardner in Moto3, Anthony West in Moto2 and Jack Miller in MotoGP.
Seven years later, Miller is now an entrenched member of the MotoGP top brass, while Gardner is in his rookie campaign.
Miller’s in great shape at the moment, and after a podium finish at the British Grand Prix he’s made tracks to a circuit where Ducati has won six of the eight MotoGP races since 2016 – although the last two have gone the way of Austrian juggernaut KTM.
The warp speed 4.318km circuit – which bore witness in 2020 to one of the most horrific crashes in recent history after Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli had a coming together which saw Rossi and Maverick Vinales only millimetres from becoming cannon fodder – has now been restrained a little thanks to the addition of two 90-degree double-apex chicanes.
Still, the Red Bull Ring is favourable to Ducati, which as well as Miller has the in-form Pecco Bagnaia on its roster as well as the likes of Zarco, Enea Bastianini and Jorge Martin.
“I’m happy to be racing in Austria again this weekend. The Red Bull Ring is a track I like and where I have already finished on the podium in the past,” said Miller. “Last year we were unlucky with a crash in the first race and rain that caught us in the second.
“My goal is to be able to redeem myself this year: we’re going through a positive moment, and my sensation on the Desmosedici GP is really good. I’m confident and determined to do well in this race as well.”
Miller has just returned from a glamping trip with his fiancé, Ruby, where he also had a Ducati Diavel power cruiser along for company…
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After winning at Silverstone, Bagnaia has now won the most races in 2022 – four, ahead of world champion Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and Bastianini on three apiece – and he’ll rightly start as favourite in this Sunday’s 28-lap feature race.
Bagnaia is now third in the standings, behind Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia). Miller is sixth, but within striking distance of Bastianini and Zarco.
The Red Bull Ring may be a simple point-and-shoot layout, but the seven right-hand turns generate some massive stresses on the Michelin rubber which the riders will have to deal with. As well as tyre strategy, there’s the smaller matter of speed retardation and for that Brembo will be bringing along some huge 355mm disc rotors. In fact, that size rotor is mandated and, after some of the scary over-braking off-track excursions of previous years, that’s probably a good thing!
Gardner (KTM) head into his employer’s back yard still none the wiser whether he will continue with the team next year – Pol Espargaro has been confirmed as making the move from Honda to fill one of the seats – but he’s set that indecision aside as he looks to make even more improvements.
“I am looking forward to heading to Austria, which is the home Grand Prix of KTM, so it will be a very demanding weekend, both on and off track,” said Gardner. “We had a good weekend in Silverstone and took a further step, especially in qualifying, so I hope that we can carry on like this at the Red Bull Ring and hopefully bring home a good result for our manufacturer.”
Meanwhile, Marc Marquez will be on location in Austria, but his Repsol Honda leathers will remain dormant while he continues to recover from arm surgery about three months ago. Mind you, he’s still the leading Honda in the championship such as been the anus horribilis for the rest of the Honda fraternity in 2022: Pol Espargaro, Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Marquez. Maybe Austria could be a turning point.
And the Aussie in Moto3? Joel Kelso (KTM) will return after fracturing his left foot in a crash entirely not of his doing at Assen. If the Darwin native can position himself in the leading freight train – which is a given unless the heavens open or there is another form of maelstrom – he can be in the running for a stirring result at the pointy end.
How to watch the Austrian MotoGP: Moto3 will air live from 7:00pm AEST on Fox Sports and Kayo, followed by Moto2 at 8:20pm and MotoGP at 10:00pm.
2022 MotoGP standings (after 12 of 20 rounds):
1. Fabio Quartararo – Yamaha – 180pts
2. Aleix Espargaro – Aprilia – 158pts
3. Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati – 131pts
4. Enea Bastianini – Ducati – 118pts
5. Johann Zarco – Ducati – 114pts
6. Jack Miller – Ducati – 107pts
7. Brad Binder – KTM – 98pts
8. Alex Rins – Suzuki – 84pts
8. Joan Mir – Suzuki – 84pts
9. Maverick Vinales – Aprilia – 82pts
10. Miguel Oliveira – KTM – 88pts
23. Remy Gardner – KTM – 9pts
Mark ‘Mav’ Fattore has been hanging around the motorcycle scene longer than he can remember, but still struggles to contain his two-wheel exuberance. He also eats like a bull-at-a-gate, which is why he once swallowed the prong off a plastic fork stuffing down Chinese takeaway during a frenetic magazine deadline. The digital space is a safer haven, and he’ll turn his writing hand to anything.