Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso took his second successive MotoGP race win at Silverstone yesterday. With pre race points leader Marc Marquez retiring with an engine problem, the Italian rider moves back into the championship lead, with just 13 points separating the top three riders in the championship race.
Defending champ Marquez was in supreme form in qualifying, becoming the only rider to set a sub two minute lap time around the iconic Northamptonshire circuit to set pole position, but with tyre performance over a single lap not reflecting that of a full race distance, the 20-lap main event was to prove a different matter altogether, with lap times almost two seconds a lap slower.
From the lights it was veteran Valentino Rossi who took the lead on his Yamaha. The Italian icon, starting his 300th premier class race, pulled away and held a narrow lead over the pursuing pack, which consisted of team-mate Maverick Vinales, home favourite Cal Crutchlow, Marquez and Dovizioso.
Marquez’ challenge ended in a puff of smoke on lap 14 of 20, when his Repsol Honda machine expired as he powered down the back straight. Meanwhile, Dovizioso and Vinales made their charge to hunt down and pass Rossi, who once again found himself unable to maintain maximum pace for the full race distance, an apparent characteristic of his Yamaha over recent races. There was to be no fairytale 300th race for the Italian as both rivals were able to edge with just over three laps remaining, although Crutchlow was unable to deliver a second successive British GP podium for the home fans. Fourth was, however, a highly creditable result around a circuit where the Hondas also struggled to find a front tyre choice that would allow them to run a good lap time over race distance. In the end, Crutchlow was less than 1.7 seconds behind the winner but over nine seconds ahead of Dani Pedrosa on the next Honda.
The result sees Dovizioso lead the championship by nine points from Marquez, with Vinales a further four points adrift. Just six races now remain in the 2017 championship, with the next outing at Misano, in Italy, in two weeks’ time.
Speaking after the race, the series leader said: “I’m so happy about today’s victory, my fourth this year, because every race we win is different from the others, and this means that we are really strong and can fight for the championship. It was a really tough race because all of our rivals were on top form. Today Marquez was unlucky, but we did a perfect race because, even though we were probably not the quickest outright, we were able to interpret it in the best possible way and go on to win. This means that the work we did during the weekend was excellent, and so was my race strategy because I managed to get into the right position at the right time. This year every race is a story in itself and the tyres are always a key factor, but we are very focused on our working method which is producing results.”
Silverstone marked the third race where Marquez has failed to score but the Spaniard’s almost supernatural talent means that he still remains the man to beat in the title race. He commented: “Today was really unlucky, as I was feeling very good on the bike and was there with the others, just trying to manage the race and tyres, especially the front as the temperature was higher than yesterday and I wanted to save it so to attack in the end. I had already seen that Dovi had something more than Viñales and Rossi, but I thought I could try and fight with him. So, everything was going well when I suddenly had a problem with the engine at the end of the straight. It’s a shame of course but that’s something that can happen in racing, and it was the first time for me with Honda. The positives are that we were fast here, as we have been at other tracks, and that we’re still there in the championship. Zero points today, but I’m still feeling good with the bike and am looking forward to the next races.”
Despite leading for most of the race, Rossi remained pragmatic. With a 26 point deficit to Marquez, the Italian icon needs a big slice of luck if he is to secure a 10th world title but he was mostly upbeat after the race, saying: “I’m satisfied because it was a great race for me. I was able to ride really well after a great start and I stayed in front and rode on the limit without making mistakes, so I enjoyed it a lot for 17 laps. I think this is a good way to celebrate my 300th race in MotoGP’s premier class. There remains a bit of frustration, because I knew on the last laps I would suffer a bit with the degradation of the rear tyre, but I think this weekend we improved a lot. We’re still not at the top, we have to do better if we want to try to win, but it was a good weekend.”
After much hope, there were to be no British riders on the podium at their home Grand Prix. In the Moto3 race, championship front runner John McPhee was a disappointing 13th on the British Talent Team Honda, albeit less than 2.2 seconds back from winner Aron Canet. The Moto3 race did see a very impressive ride from wild-card Tom Booth-Amos, who finished 21st KTM and posted highly competitive lap times on his national championship. Team mate Jake Archer also competed but retired with bike problems early on.
In Moto2, Jake Dixon was the best of the local riders on his debut in the championship. The Kent rider, who normally competes in the British Superbike Championship, was competing as a replacement for the injured German rider Marcel Schrotter and finished 25th. He had been battling with Tarran Mackenzie, before the Scot crashed out and remounted to finish 30th. The race was won by Japanese rider Takaaki Nakagami, who earlier in the week was confirmed as a MotoGP rider in 2018 after signing for the LCR Honda team.
Behind Crutchlow, Scott Redding had a strong showing in eighth. Bradley Smith’s frustrating season on the new KTM continued as he finished 17th and last, a result compounded by the fact that his team-mate Pol Espargaro was 11th and over 18 seconds ahead of the Brit. Sam Lowes’ nightmarish season also continued as he crashed his Aprilia while running last. There was some consolation for the Lincolnshire rider though, as it was confirmed that he will race for the front running Interwetten team in Moto2 next season.