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The MotoGP season will turn its attention to the Red Bull Ring for the 2017 Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, when Andrea Iannone will attempt to offset his recent patch of bad form in search of a second successive win in Spielberg.
The Austrian Grand Prix was absent from the MotoGP circuit for almost 20 years prior to last year's running—it was last held in 1997—but the biggest stars missed top spot as the Italian rider surged to victory.
This time around promises to be different, however, after standings leader and champion Marc Marquez rediscovered his stride, and he comes to Spielberg hoping to become the first rider this year to win three successive races.
A group of elite contenders are ready to capitalise on any show of weakness in Austria, though, and here we will provide a breakdown of the top riders coming into Sunday's competition.
Sunday's race will start at 1 p.m. BST (8 a.m. ET). The full schedule can be found on MotoGP's official website.
Dani Pedrosa will be seen as one rider with the potential to slow Marquez's charge this weekend based on recent form, but second-placed Maverick Vinales has a lot more on the line coming into the Austrian Grand Prix.
Just 14 points separate him from Marquez after the champion followed up his triumph at the German Grand Prix with another win in the Czech Republic last Sunday, and Vinales' title hopes are far from over.
The Spaniard returned to the podium in Brno, Czech Republic, following a three-race streak of retirements and finishes outside the top three, but he'll need to start accumulating better results if he's to usurp Marquez.
MotoGP journalist Hannah Smith recently provided an update from Vinales regarding his outlook after the Czech Grand Prix, and the 22-year-old had only positive thoughts:
Hannah Smith @smith_hannah19
Viñales worked on acceleration "I feel happy again on the bike" lot of elecs work. Says forks lighter but didn't give feeling he wanted.2017-8-7 19:02:13
That kind of mentality will help him in his efforts to fend off the likes of Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi—just seven and eight points below him, respectively—although good performances are still required.
Vinales won't have much experience of racing in Austria or having watched a grand prix there considering its prior absence from the calendar, but that mystery arguably aids his campaign to stage a shock on Sunday.
Currently matched with Vinales on three wins apiece, victory for Marquez this Sunday would help set his record apart from the rest of the field and hand the youngster a third win in as many outings.
The Honda Repsol team strutted their stuff with a one-two finish at last weekend's Czech Grand Prix, their second of the year after Pedrosa and Marquez clinched first and second, respectively, at the Spanish Grand Prix in May:
Repsol Honda Team @HRC_MotoGP
Team spirit 🤜🤛 #CzechGP Race @marcmarquez93 @26_danipedrosa @MotoGP #Honda #RepsolHondaTeam #thepowerofdreams https://t.co/WnxyHqwxn42017-8-6 18:02:40
Marquez, 24, could only finish fifth in Spielberg last year but told the official MotoGP website he's hopeful of bigger things in 2017:
“The Red Bull Ring is a circuit where we struggled quite a bit last year but hopefully this year it will be different. Brno also used to be a challenging track for us but in the end we got a fantastic result, so we're going to Austria feeling positive. In the post-race test we were able to look into several aspects of our bike's setup, also in view of the next race, such as getting better acceleration and reducing the wheelie-ing.
"We'll do our best to get a good result and to gain important points for the Championship.”
The field will be doing its utmost to ensure the Spaniard doesn't seal his third win in succession, but superbike rider Eugene Laverty testified to Marquez's unique racing acumen during last Sunday's Grand Prix:
Eugene Laverty @eugenelaverty
I reckon @marcmarquez93 has an Intel Core Processor upstairs! Can’t help but appreciate the best racing brain out there 👏🏼2017-8-6 12:32:28
Marquez's run of four consecutive podium finishes is the longest run of its kind in MotoGP this year, and the champion appears to be enjoying his riding, which is a frightening prospect for his peers.
That being said, the Austrian circuit did hand Marquez concerns en route to a fifth-place finish last year, offering his rivals a glimmer of hope in their efforts to rein in his lead.
Source : http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2726472-motogp-grand-prix-of-austria-2017-race-schedule-live-stream-and-top-riders