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

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