MotoE was back after the summer break: at Red Bull Ring, Maria Herrera endured a difficult weekend with rear-brake issues.
After a long summer break, the all-electric MotoE World Cup returned to the track at the latest Austrian GP for its fifth round of the season - with Maria Herrera as the only female rider on the grid.
The Spanish racer had finished the opening two races in the top-10 and scored points in all previous rounds ahead of Red Bull Ring - a circuit that she had raced on in 2019.
“We already went to Austria in 2019 and I quite liked the circuit for MotoE, I am looking
forward to racing there again." - she said prior to the event.
"I had fun with the speed of the bike, but you have to be precise when braking, because there are very slow corners."
"We are going to work with the bike from the first moment thinking about the race", she continued. "On Saturday we have free practice very soon and we will have to be aware
about the temperatures ”.
Shortly before the event, Mattia Casadei tested positive for Covid-19, which is the reason why he was pulled off of the event. He was replaced by Stefano Valtulini.
In FP1, this season's qualifying master Eric Granado once again proved to be one of the quickest men and finished 0,080s ahead of Matteo Ferrari. Behind them were Dominique Aegerter, Xavi Cardelus, and Fermin Aldeguer. His teammate Maria Herrera was 13th fastest.
The Swiss, who was third in first practice, pulled off an incredible last sector to knock Fermin Aldeguer out of the top spot in FP2. Eric Granado was third fastest, while Herrera finished the second session in P14.
Fermin Aldeguer was fastest in FP3, setting the time comfortably clear off Matteo Ferrari and Lukas Tulovic. Herrera was again 14th.
A few hours later, the young Spanish rookie astonished the whole Red Bull Ring by producing a flawless lap to take his maiden pole in the category: he demoted Lukas Tulovic from the top spot - as the German also completed a very clean lap, proving he had speed at the Austrian venue.
Maria Herrera completed a solid lap in 1:36.614 that secured her the 14th position on the grid for Sunday's race.
Hikari Okubo was the first rider to break the 1:36 barrier in qualifying; Eric Granado was chasing another pole, but almost fell off his bike and the Brazillian saved himself from a big high-side in the opening stages of the lap, but still secured P13 on the grid. Fortunately for him, his title rivals weren't also having their best sessions: Jordi Torres would line up in P7 and Dominique Aegerter in P8.
Okubo's name finally fell down the order when the three final riders went out on track. Tulovic had a slower second sector but quickly recovered and took the provisional pole; then Ferrari, who was riding after the German, secured P2 and a front row start.
The last racer to go out was Fermin Aldeguer, who took pole at the age of just 16.
“Compared with the first year we are going slower and I don't understand why - I don't feel the same. We made a change ahead of the ePole and I was feeling better."
- said Maria Herrera after the session, claiming that her goal for Sunday was to stay and fight with the group.
The race on Sunday took place after the MotoGP class rivalry and the MotoE round was shortened to 5 laps and declared a "wet" race. No rain was falling from the sky and, with temperatures actually rising, the track was drying up quickly.
Fermin Aldeguer had a really good start, but on the first corner, Lukas Tulovic chose a better line and overtook him for P1.
Maria Herrera fell behind to the last place - later, she explained that she had no rear brake and couldn't feel comfortable under braking.
Okubo made a great start: at turn 3, he overtook the Spanish pole-sitter and claimed second place. Xavi Cardelus also pushed the rookie down the order, with Aegerter soon advancing to fourth place ahead of Zaccone - all before the end of the first lap.
Tulovic created a gap over Cardelus, who made into second place. Okubo lost his P3 to Aegerter on the longest straight of the circuit. The rest of the pack was fighting hard - Granado, who started from P13, joined them in a battle for the top positions. Amidst the action, the Brazilian went wide and Okubo dropped down.
Eric Granado was meanwhile making a great comeback and moved into fifth position.
On the last lap, right behind the finish line, three riders - Fermin Aldeguer, Eric Granado, and Dominique Aegerter - were fighting hard for the podium.
With almost half of the lap left, Xavi Cardelus crashed and destroyed his chances for a notable result.
The top three continued to battle for victory until the very final corner: as they crossed the line, Lukas Tulovic took victory at the Austrian Grand Prix, having controlled the race. Eric Granado was second and preceded Dominique Aegerter in third. Pole sitter Fermin Aldeguer crossed the line in fourth, missing the podium by just eighteen thousandths.
Maria Herrera struggled with no rear brakes, which prevented her from riding comfortably and fighting for positions. The Spaniard crossed the line in 17th place, which is her first finish outside of the points this season.
"I knew that the race was going to be dry and that I could go fast, but I couldn't stop the bike because I didn't have the rear brake. I went deep, I was uncomfortable and I couldn't drive in the last days. It was a shame."
- she said after the race.
The next round of MotoE World Cup will take place at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in September. The double header of the San Marino Grand Prix will conclude this season of the electric bikes championship.