DESMO DOVI DOES IT AGAIN…
After Andrea Dovizioso crossed the finish line at Silverstone to take victory, he became (at time of writing) the only man to win four races in 2017, and the only man to double up on back-to-back victories, too. First it was Mugello followed by Catalunya, now it’s Austria followed by Great Britain – and the lead in the 2017 MotoGP points table, to boot.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround for Dovi, given that it took him five years to win again (Sepang last year) from his first ever MotoGP victory at Donington in 2011 on the Repsol Honda, both of which were races held under inclement skies. And so on to 2017, his fifth year riding the Ducati and now not only are the wins flooding in, but he’s unexpectedly found himself in a title fight.
Just how and why this turns of events has occurred, is down to a plethora of reasons, but one big one in particular – the switch to Michelin tyres.
Andrea has always been a decent, solid rider, but it’s taken him a long time to get to grips with the Ducati, and he’s lucky in that he’s been given the time to adapt bit by bit, as the bike has under Gigi Dall’Igna’s revolution within the Italian camp. Many other riders over the years haven’t been given the same time, or the bike has chewed them up and spat them out. But with Dovi’s bit-by-bit approach he’s stayed the course.
His overall results thus far since he joined Ducati for 2013’s season have, on paper, been unremarkable. From 2013 to 2016 he finished 8th, 5th, 7th and 5th respectively, with 12 podiums and one victory to show over the four seasons. That’s a decent return for a ‘non-alien’ on an ‘unfavourable’ bike, sure, but in terms of the regular front runners, not much to shout about.
The first year of Michelin’s return certainly shook things up, with multiple different winners including Dovi, but this year the French firm seems to be boggling everyone on a race to race basis – except Ducati, and to a lesser degree, Marc Marquez. Marquez seems to make it work through his ridiculous talent, but with Dovi and Ducati it’s been a culmination of brains and brawn, on both the rider and technical side of things, that have thus far seen them succeed.
Yamaha can’t get their heads around the Michelins enough to mount a sustained challenge: one race victors, the next utter pony. Honda likewise (Marquez excepted) have been struggling on a tyre that doesn’t suit the RCV’s traditional corner-entry strengths, which is why Pedrosa is up there one week and nowhere the next, too. Ducati and Dovi have been able to find a consistency the others lack, and a killer edge towards the end of races using a softer tyre while the others all hedge their bets on the harder compound lasting longer.
In truth, and including Marquez’s rare engine blow-up at Silverstone, it’s the inconsistency of his rivals and their teams that has given Dovi a bit of a leg up. Sometimes that kind of thing helps win world titles, but it’s not just Dovi that is showing good progress. Jorge Lorenzo may have been drafted in to be the number one rider, but only the most insanely optimistic person would have foreseen much success (if any) in his debut season. Yet Jorge is getting there lap by lap, he’s already led a few races, each time for more laps than before, and the gap between him and the winner has started to tumble to the point where he was just three seconds back from Dovi at Silverstone, and was the fastest man on track for many of the last few laps.
This is decent progress from the Spaniard, and Ducati are (wisely) not applying any pressure on him, rather working away at it one piece at a time – much like Dovi has the last few years. Give Lorenzo as much time on the Ducati as Dovi has had and of course success would follow. For now though, with all the attention being on Andrea, Jorge incrementally gets better race by race – and there’s nothing quite like your team-mate doing a lot of winning, to motivate you to do the same, is there?