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MotoGP Sepang: Dovizioso takes flag for ninth different winner of season




In another race affected by the weather, Andrea Dovizioso became the 9th different winner in MotoGP this season, with his second win in the premier class, 7 years after the first at Donington Park in 2009.

Starting from pole position Dovi had a great chance to convert that into a win, particularly if it was a wet race. Earlier in the day, Paolo Ciabatti had said that they were at their most competitive this weekend in the rain and that “if it is wet we wouldn’t complain”. Well, the weather was on Ducati’s side with heavy rain arriving after the Moto2 race, which caused an initial delay in the opening of the pitlane to allow conditions to improve before the riders headed out.

Further torrential rain while the riders were on the grid led to a delay in the start time and the race being reduced by one lap to 19, with the riders being sent back to pitlane to wait it out. After again returning to the grid, there was another delay after numerous riders complained to Safety Officer Loris Capirossi about standing water around the track. The delay gave some time for a last minute tyre change, although most stayed with their first choice, with everyone other than Yonny Hernandez, who chose the soft, running the medium front wet, and the medium rear, while Aleix Espargaro and Hiroshi Aoyama ran the soft rear. Eventually, the weather had eased and the riders were finally ready for lights out.


Jorge Lorenzo got a great start off the line from third and led into turn one, before Marc Marquez swept around the outside to take the lead, with Dovizioso also making a move on the Yamaha rider for the second position. Things got worse for Lorenzo, as he was pushed further back behind numerous riders, while Dovizioso took the lead at turn seven. Valentino Rossi squeezed into second two corners later, with Andrea Iannone and Jorge Lorenzo coming into contact with each other as they jostled for position. At the second to last corner, Dovi ran wide, giving Rossi the lead for the first time in the race with Iannone following him through into second.

But Iannone, who returned this weekend from injury, didn’t stay behind Rossi for long as he took the lead on the run down into turn 12 on lap two. At the start of the third lap, Aleix Espargaro squandered his good start as he ran wide at turn one, dropping the Suzuki rider from 5th to 13th. At this point in the race, conditions were still very tricky, with visibility a definite problem for Rossi who was tucked in behind Iannone with just a red blur peeking through the spray. After the race, Rossi said that being behind Iannone was actually giving him problems with holding the throttle because the spray was making his hands and gloves so wet. The conditions weren’t deterring Cal Crutchlow though who moved into 5th past Lorenzo and set the fastest lap of the race so far.

On lap 5 Rossi slipped up the inside of Iannone at turn 4 to take the lead for a fleeting moment before the two continued to swap positions as Iannone fought back every time. Behind them, Crutchlow had passed Marc Marquez for 4th, while Dovizioso was the first rider to drop his lap times into the 2’13 mark.


Rossi took the lead at turn 1 on lap 6 and this time was able to keep it until turn 13 when Iannone got back in front. The Ducati rider maintained his position for five laps, until Rossi again got the better of his fellow Italian, passing Iannone on the brakes into turn 9. On lap 12, Crutchlow crashed at turn 2, while Dovizioso moved into second past his team-mate, before Marquez also fell off his Honda at turn 11 with a front-end washout, although the Spaniard was able to rejoin. Iannone was the next to falter as he crashed out at turn 9 on lap 13, leaving the battle for the victory solely to Rossi and Dovizioso. Lorenzo had moved into third thanks to the crashes of those in front of him, but he was still very distant from the front two and didn’t pose a threat.

With 5 laps remaining Rossi ran wide at turn 1, allowing Dovizioso to neatly swoop into the lead and there the Italian stayed. Rossi was having some visible issues, which he later attributed to his front tyre not performing as well on the drying track and Dovizioso was able to pull out an impressive gap on his compatriot, despite stating after the race that he had experience problems with his own front tyre since the start.

Dovi now had the victory within his grasp and the Ducati garage could barely watch as they crossed their fingers and prayed he would make it safely to the chequered flag. As he exited the last corner for the run down to the line, his team cheered him on hanging from the pitwall, as the Italian punched the air in delight at winning his second MotoGP race.

Dovizioso Sepang 2016

Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo followed him home in second and third, giving Yamaha an important double podium as they look to close down Honda in both the team and manufacturers championship ahead of the last race in Valencia.

In 4th and 5th the Avintia riders of Hector Barbera and Loris Baz put in a fantastic performance for their team and made it a double celebration for Ducati, with Barbera getting his best result in MotoGP to date and Baz having something to celebrate after an incredibly difficult season.

Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales followed the Avintia duo home in 6th after a difficult race in a weekend they’d earlier performed very strongly in, while Jack Miller was the top Honda with his 8th placed finish, as Marquez crossed the line back in 11th.



Dovi is something of a rarity in MotoGP in that everybody both likes and respects him massively, and it was clear to see that even the other riders were pleased it was him that became the 9th winner of the season as they congratulated him after the chequered flag. For the Ducati team, it’s an important victory (evident by Gigi Dall’Igna’s exuberant celebrations) because although Iannone ended their drought in Austria, Dovi had been incredibly disappointed as he felt that race had been his to win, so after four years of endless hard work developing the Desmo you see now, he finally has his reward.

After the race, the emotion for Dovi was clear to see and speaking about the win he emphasised how much it meant “I never give up, I take some risks.. really happy to get this result” and admitting that the last few laps were “very hard for me because I have to win, have to win, don’t make a mistake, blah blah blah” (his actual words), although the last lap was special for him as his girlfriend and friends were at turn 1 and he was able to see them, which made him so emotional that he cried for the rest of the lap. Speaking about that feeling he described it as something you can’t experience in normal life and said: “this is why we struggle here, we get hurt, we try to win the race because it’s something very special, we are lucky to feel that.”

He also pointed out that if he hadn’t had 3 races with 0 pts, through no fault of his own, at the start of the year, he would’ve been able to fight in the top 3 of the championship, which has him determined to make a further step forward next year so that they can fight for more than just race wins.

Of course, 2017 starts after the final race at Valencia in just two weeks time, but will we see a 10th MotoGP winner next time out, or will the Italian with the two Stallions flanking his helmet be able to win again?

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MotoGP 2018 Preview: Marquez is the rider to beat! But don’t bet against Dovizioso!




It’s finally time.

Winter is over (unless you live in the Southern hemisphere, then summer is nearly over for you… sorry about that), testing is finished and it’s time to go racing in 2018.

Three pre-season tests saw three different riders at the top of the combined timesheets, with Jorge Lorenzo ruling the roost in Sepang before Dani Pedrosa rose to the top in Thailand and Johann Zarco brought testing to a close in Qatar as the number one.

But testing only tells us so much. Yes, it can give a basic idea of what the pace is like and how competitive the grid will be, but with each team and rider running their own schedules and battling their own issues, it’s not until we get down to racing that we really know what this season has in store for us.

2017 was an incredible year that taught us to forget almost everything we thought we knew. It followed a season with 9 different winners that we all thought would be hard to beat in terms of a spectacle. But over 18 races we saw some of the greatest battles in Grand Prix history, last lap and last corner challenges that left us wondering what the hell had just happened, saves that should never have been possible (yes Señor Marquez, I’m talking about you), team orders that had us questioning the strategies we thought we knew and a championship fight that went down to the final race.

2016 was supposed to be hard to beat, then 2017 took our breath away. What does 2018 have in store? Undoubtedly more of the same and probably more than a few surprises that will leave us all stunned. The bikes are new, there’s some new rubber, a new track, even new riders with 5 rookies joining the grid. It’s going to be fast, it’s going to be fierce, and it’s going to be 19 weekends of glorious racing.

There really is no point in making predictions, they’ll probably be wrong and even if I could say with certainty what would happen where would the fun be in that?

Marc Marquez is the rider to beat, of that there’s no doubt. He has a big target on his back, as he has done since he arrived in the class. If you want to win in MotoGP then you have to beat the man who has dominated and revolutionised it first. I do hope he falls off less this season though; his saves are spectacular but a bit less gravel bouncing would probably be a good idea.

Last year it was Andrea Dovizioso that pushed Marquez to Valencia and I fully expect him to be putting in a repeat performance in 2018. Last season was a big milestone in terms of his own development as a rider and a person, he might’ve have turned to the “dark horse” mentality in 2017, but he’s firmly in the spotlight as a title contender this year.

Marquez’s team-mate Dani Pedrosa is almost certain to return to the top step in 2018, and if he can get the tyres to work well for him across more tracks he’ll still be right in the mix once again.

For Dovizioso’s garage companion Jorge Lorenzo, 2017 was a longer learning curve than he had expected and pre-season testing had a few tricky moments as well. But I do believe he will win a race this year and once he finds that winning space everyone else should probably watch out.

At Yamaha, last year started so well for Maverick Vinales, who joined the team and dominated testing before winning 3 of the first 5 races, but then it all burned up with the M1’s rear tyre. Both Vinales and Valentino Rossi have already renewed their contracts with Yamaha for another 2 years and testing has seen a few sparks of optimism. But they do still have issues to work on, particularly with electronics and in certain conditions. If they can find a consistency then both riders have every chance of fighting at the front throughout the year and challenging for the championship.

Their fellow Yamaha rider Johann Zarco was the surprise of 2017, starting when he led a few golden laps at the season opener before crashing. He secured pole positions, swapped paint on more than one occasion (not everyone was pleased) and stood on the podium. Could we see him win this year? Absolutely. Could he potentially be fighting for the title? It’s possible; if any independent rider can do it, then it’s Johann because that Frenchman is fearless.

Joining Zarco at Tech 3 this year will be the first Malaysian in MotoGP, Hafizh Syahrin, who comes in to replace Jonas Folger due to illness. Syahrin wouldn’t necessarily have been the first choice of riders to move into MotoGP based on his Moto2 performances, but in a difficult situation, he’s already proven that he’s a good choice after performing strongly in testing and I’m really looking forward to seeing how he develops over the year.

The other rookies to keep your eyes on in 2018 are Takaaki Nakagami at LCR, Franco Morbidelli and Tom Luthi at Marc VDS and Xavier Simeon at Avintia. Through testing, they’ve all been focussed on just finding their way in the premier class, so as the season progresses they should all make very visible steps forward and put in some good results.

Across the rest of the grid there’s Cal Crutchlow who again takes on the role of the third factory Honda rider, Danilo Petrucci who’s hunting for a factory ride for 2019, Jack Miller who joins Petrucci at Pramac and already looks so much more comfortable on the Ducati, Tito Rabat at Avintia who like Miller seems to prefer being on Italian machinery and Alvaro Bautista and Karel Abraham both return at the renamed Angel Nieto team.

At the other factories, Aleix Espargaro has a new team-mate at Aprilia as he’s joined by Scott Redding who seems to have adapted quite well as the Italian team continue to develop their package. Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro line-up together again at KTM, with the Spaniard still recovering from a hernia operation but feeling much better than at the last pre-season test. Suzuki is once again made up of Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins with both riders showing good promise in testing. Rins, in particular, could bring out a few surprises in 2018 and if Iannone can keep his level of motivation high hopefully we’ll see The Maniac back in full force (just without the crashes and seagull murder please).

The track is fast, particularly once you’ve reached the more open areas of sectors two and three, before tearing onto the front straight. Turn 1 is one of the most challenging on the calendar as riders brake from 350km/h down to 99km/h over 289 metres in 5.1 seconds. Only Jerez sees riders use the brakes more times over race distance. It brings close, fast racing despite overtaking being tricky with only four main areas; turn 1 at the end of the straight, the tight left of turn 6, turn 12 and turn 16 onto the back straight, but watch out for the slipstream!

When the riders hit the track for the first time on Friday afternoon we’ll start to get some idea of who could be standing on the top step come Sunday, but we won’t really know until they’re racing under the floodlights.

The Losail International Circuit in Doha has played host to the season opener of MotoGP since 2007 and as the city has grown around it, the racing it hosts has itself been evolving.

This year will actually bring something a little different with Moto3 racing in daylight, Moto2 at sunset (which should look amazing) and MotoGP getting underway once it’s dark.

But one thing that’ll remain the same is that we are guaranteed three amazing races for the next 19 races, and personally, I can’t wait to get started.

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WSBK Phillip Island: Double Ducati delight for Melandri in drag race finish




After the addition of a flag-to-flag format caused by rapidly declining tyre issues, yesterday we ended with an intense hope for something interesting to happen in race two.

Well, today did not disappoint, because Race two threw up several intense, race long battles and an incredible  photo finish.

Continuing the form shown in qualifying, it was Eugene Laverty who had an incredible start off the line to pull a considerate lead over his rivals. sadly, it wasn’t meant to be for the Irishman whoever, who crashed out on lap three; re-joining at the back of the field.

As anticipated, it was to be the pit-lane changes that were to be the root of most of the action and first into the pits came Xavi Fores, Jonathan Rea and Michael van der Mark on lap ten – with Fores the quickest out the blocks.

One lap later, and Chaz Davies, Marco Melandri, Ales Lowes, Tom Sykes and Leon Camier all came in, with Camier winning the coming out race.

However, all riders held back on the pit exit in order to avoid a ride through penalty for leaving pit lane before the mandatory one minute and three second time, so it was Davies who led the pack back onto the track; only to see him crash on lap 13 and to hand the lead to Fores.

And from there it was close. Nobody could create a gap, and the lead tossed between Fores and Rea.

Just as it looked as if Rea would taste victory for the first time this season, Race One winner Melandri passed Fores and by the last lap, he was all over the back of Rea.

Melandri leapt almost immediately for the lead, but Rea fought straight back, with the two now locked into an intense last lap battle.

It was a drag race out of the final corner to the line, but Melandri it was who was declared victorious from the photo finish.

Say what you like about the rest of the bike, but that Ducati has some serious straight line speed.

Xavi Fores bought it home in third as the top independent rider. After a seriously impressive race where he was constantly fighting in the top five, it was well deserved for the Spaniard, who has only ever had one podium in the Superbike class.

A personal standout for me was Leon Camier on the Honda SP2, a bike that so desperately struggled during the last season. The Brit was always up there, fighting with the Yamaha’s and never losing time which cements the fact that last season, he was the driving force for the MV Agusta’s success.

World Superbike next heads to Buriram, Thailand in a month’s time. So there is a long wait until the next battle.

So, a long delay, but long may this close racing continue.

World Superbike race two:
1. Marco Melandri – Racing Ducati – 34.42.633
2. Jonathan Rea – Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK + 0.021
3. Xavi Fores – BARNI Racing Team + 0.304 (top independent)
4. Tom Sykes – Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK + 1.488
5. Alex Lowes – Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team + 2.474
6. Leon Camier – Red Bull Honda WorldSBK Team + 2.745
7. Michael van der Mark – Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team + 3.098
8. Jordi Torres – MV Agusta Reparto Corse + 14.301
9. Loris Baz – Gulf Althea BMW Racing Team + 14.361
10. Toprak Razgatlioglu – Kawasaki Puccetti Racing + 19.785

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