Dovizioso Wins; Marquez Blows Up
Silverstone marked two-thirds distance in the 2017 MotoGP title battle, the championship top four fighting it out around the track’s high-speed curves and ending the race separated by just 26 points. There can be little doubt that MotoGP is riding through
Rossi rode off like a man possessed. By lap three he had built a lead of 1.1 seconds ahead of Viñales, Marquez, Dovizioso and Crutchlow, who seemed glued together. It looked like the veteran was trying to repeat Viñales’ 2016 Silverstone checkout: make the break and hope your pursuers waste time tripping over each other.
Rossi was riding beautifully, maintaining a steady advantage, while his pursuers held station until halfdistance when the race came alive. Until then Viñales and the rest had been content to follow each other, babying the throttle to conserve tyres. On lap 11 and 12 of 20 Dovizioso swept past the two Spaniards and got Rossi in his sights. Marquez tried to go with Dovizioso. He took Viñales and was giving chase when his engine blew at the end of the back straight, his championship lead gone in a puff of smoke.
Viñales was briefly fazed by the blowup — he was concerned that he might have oil on his tyres — which dropped him more than a second behind the leading Italian duo. However, he came back immediately, closing on the Ducati’s rear wheel as Dovizioso looked for a way past Rossi.
Dovizioso found the way on lap 17, using the Desmosedici’s superior speed to motor past Rossi on the back straight. Rossi tried to defend his position but he couldn’t. Once again, his M1 had consumed its rear tyre and he didn’t have the grip to counter attack. All he could do now was hang on in the hope of celebrating this milestone race from the podium. But now he had Crutchlow breathing down his neck. And, of course, Crutchlow was the only rider with nothing to lose…
Half a lap after Dovizioso had taken the lead, Viñales also pounced on Rossi. He now had three laps left to devour Dovizioso’s half-second advantage
and make a pass. He so nearly made it when Dovizioso ran wide three corners from the flag. But Dovizioso got himself back online to deny Viñales an invitation. He made it to the chequered flag 0.114 seconds ahead for his fourth win in seven races, which gave him a nine-point championship lead over Marquez, who watched the final laps from his pit.
Rossi was a further six-tenths behind the winner and nine-tenths ahead of Crutchlow.
Once again, it had been a mastermind masterclass from Dovizioso: saving his tyres, biding his time, and then making the most of his bike’s strong points to take the lead. “It was very difficult to understand what was happening because the main straight here is very short, so it’s very difficult to see your pit-board,” he said. “I saw that Marc was out but in the last laps I didn’t know there were four of us; I thought I was alone with Valentino. I saw Valentino struggle with his rear tyre so I knew I had to take that opportunity. At the end Viñales came back, so I pushed 100 per cent and was able to manage it. My crew is working very well, which makes such a big difference, especially when you have to make the right decision with tyres, then manage the tyres in the race by riding in different ways.”
Movistar Yamaha’s first one-two since round two in Argentina proved they had made important progress in their recent Misano tests. And Viñales’ second place — his best result since Mugello — confirmed what Dovizioso had proved in Austria and Zarco had proved elsewhere: that Michelin’s soft rear makes a good race tyre.
“I was trying to save my tyres so I could push during the last five laps, which was my strongest point of the race,” said the 2016 British GP winner. “I felt great with the soft; I could enter the corners in a different way. But it was scary when Marc blew up. I got a lot of smoke in my face, but I didn’t know if it was oil or water, so I braked 30 metres earlier and lost a lot of time on the leaders.”
Rossi had led 17 of the 20 laps, so this landmark race ended on a bitter-sweet note: so close and yet so far. “I got a good start and was able to ride well and give my maximum all through the race,” he said. “I enjoyed it because I could ride the bike in a good way, so I had a good pace and was able to stay in front. But we are a bit worried because we still suffer in the last laps. With five laps to go I thought I could win, but then I suffered a bit with the tyres and had to slow down. It was frustrating.”
Crutchlow also suffered with tyres, but with his front. “The hardest front was too soft for us; we need to be one harder,” he said. “In the end I struggled with spinning the rear; I had to use spin to turn the bike because I couldn’t use the front tyre so much.”
Lorenzo had by far his best race on the Ducati, crossing the line in fifth, just 3.5 seconds off the win, comfortably bettering Zarco, who came through from ninth on lap one. Pedrosa took a lonely seventh place, well clear of an on-form Scott Redding (Pramac Ducati). Rookie Alex Rins (Ecstar Suzuki) equalled his best finish in ninth, while team-mate Andrea Iannone crashed out, taking Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati) with him.
Dovi (4) being chased by Marquez (93), but the Spaniard retired with a blown engine
Both Yamaha riders performed well to finish on the podium