It was a wild flag-to-flag race that led Brad Binder to a shock victory, as he made the gamble on slick tyres to take the crown of the Austrian Grand Prix.
With dark clouds immersing the 4.3 km circuit and spots of rain already in the air, a flag to flag race was expected as riders sat on the grid, ready to begin a frantic 28 lap race.
It was the pole sitter of Jorge Martin who made a rocket start from lights out, taking a marginal lead into the first corner following fellow Ducati rider, Francesco Bagnaia.
An intense opening lap saw the front runners of Martin, Quartararo, Bagnaia, Zarco, and Marquez scrambling for position, rubbing elbows and refusing to give each other an inch.
The sheer power of Bagnaia’s Factory Ducati proved to be too much for the rest, as he soon managed to lead the pack and maintain an early lead.
As the riders fought fiercely for position, Quartararo and Martin made contact at Turn 6, as the rookie refused to back down from the current championship leader. The Frenchman dropped 4 positions by the end of lap 1.
Further down the field, it was a magnificent start to the race for Iker Lecuona, as he pushed through from sixteenth on the grid to run in tenth as they began lap 2.
The early laps of the race saw Bagnaia remain comfortably in the lead, followed by Martin, Marquez, Zarco, and Quartararo.
With the most to lose, Fabio Quartararo threw all he had at his fellow opponents, risking the most and pushing on to enter back into the podium positions. 10 laps in and the series leader found himself just behind Bagnaia while being stalked by no one other than Marc Marquez.
As the race progressed, the trio managed to slowly break free from the Pramac riders, Martin and Zarco. Meanwhile, only a few seconds up the road, it was Brad Binder and Aussie man, Jack Miller fighting it out for seventh.
An unfortunate end to what was a promising weekend for Johann Zarco, as he fell victim to Turn 9, crashing out of fifth and ending his race early with 11 laps to go.
Ducati, Yahama, and Honda were still occupying the podium positions as heavier rain began to fall around the circuit. Marquez slipped through to second and began to hunt down Bagnaia, who remained comfortable and consistent with under 10 laps remaining.
Meanwhile, Binder began to push on, as he got the better of Miller and managed to edge into sixth, past Aleix Espargaro who was looking at giving Aprilia their best race finish yet.
With much heavier rain beginning to fall with 7 laps to go, Marquez put the hammer down at the front, starting to apply pressure to the race leader, Bagnaia, and looking for any small gap he could get through to enter the lead.
As the conditions worsened, last year’s race winner, Miguel Oliveira crashed at Turn 1, while Miller and Alex Rins were the first riders to roll into pit lane to change bikes.
Back at the front with four laps to go, the front runners, all on slicks, were beginning to close up. All that had happened leading up to this point was irrelevant now.
Bagnaia, from Marquez, through to Martin, Quartararo, Mir, and Binder were all riding tyre to tyre, jostling for position in impossible conditions. For the first time throughout the race, a small mistake by Bagnaia causes him to lose the lead.
Marquez was the first to take advantage, as the Spaniard entered the front, followed by Quartararo, who also gained a position due to the Ducati rider’s error.
By the end of the lap, five out of the six riders thought the conditions would be too much for slick tyres to handle. They made their way into the pits to tackle the elements on wets.
However, the lionhearted South African of Brad Binder, possessed a win it or bin it mentality, as he decided to risk it all for the chance at victory with only 3 laps to go.
Espargaro would then sit in second, on course to give Aprilia their first MotoGP podium, followed by Takaaki Nakagami and Valentino Rossi.
Following the bike swap, Marquez led the chasers on wet tyres, followed by Bagnaia, Martin, Quartararo, and Mir. Meanwhile, it was The Doctor who came through into third, dare we dream?
It was a small mistake at Turn 1 that ended Marc Marquez’s race early, as he crashed out on the penultimate lap just when a podium seemed to be on the cards.
Heading into the final lap, Binder remained at the front, dancing on ice and trying hard to bring the KTM home in one piece.
Rossi slipped back into fifth while Espagaro was put under pressure from Lecuona. All three riders were still running on slicks, trying hard to do the impossible while heavy rain was continuing to fall.
But the sharks were circling. Bagnaia, Martin, and Mir, all on wets weaved through, with Bagnaia and Martin entering the podium positions, but it was too late to catch Binder, who came across the line to take the win, giving KTM the victory at their home circuit.
Bagnaia and Martin remained in second and third to take the final two steps on the podium, ahead of Joan Mir in fourth. It was a great outing for the rookie rider, Luca Marini who crossed the line in fifth ahead of Lecuona series leader, Quartararo, and Rossi in eighth.