Dovizioso leads Ducati 1-2 at Sepang MotoGP
It was a must win in many ways for Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso as the paddock arrived at Sepang International Circuit, and the Italian kept calm under intense pressure to secure his sixth win of the season – and take the Championship fight down to the wire.
Slicing through the rain to catch and pass teammate Jorge Lorenzo, Dovizioso was seven tenths clear of the Majorcan at the flag in a 1-2 for Ducatu – and key rival Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) crossed the line in fourth. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) completed the podium after a stunning start, wrapping up the title of top Independent Team rider.
It was Marquez who took an incredible initial holeshot from the third row, but the reigning Champion headed wide along with Lorenzo – allowing Zarco to slice through into the lead. Once there, the Frenchman lit it up to escape into the distance, and Lorenzo moved through to chase the Tech 3 rider down. Marquez slotted into third, with Dovizioso initially the man to lose out – but the Italian soon began to move through.
Zarco’s lead began to diminish, Dovizioso passed Marquez, and then both Ducatis were able to pass the Frenchman. It seemed Marquez would have the pace to take third from Zarco, but the reigning Champion couldn’t make up the ground.
At the front, Lorenzo was holding firm as the two red machines streaked away – but the number 99 then suffered a moment at Turn 15 with a foot off the footpeg. ‘DesmoDovi’ saw his chance to strike, then facing down some nervous laps as the end of the race neared. Lorenzo brought it back to seven tenths over the line, with Zarco back on the rostrum in third.
Andrea Dovizioso shared, “It was a truly perfect weekend: we were quick in every session, both in the dry and in the wet, and today in the rain we dominated. Here at Sepang Jorge and I really had a bike advantage, because our Desmosedici was very fast, and we managed to administer the gap in the best possible way even though track conditions were very difficult because there wasn’t much grip. I’m very pleased for the win which keeps my hopes alive for the title, and even though I know it will be very difficult at Valencia because it’s a track where Marquez always goes well, we’ll be going to Spain with confidence to try and bring home the victory.”
Jorge Lorenzo added, “It was a great race that showed the progress we made throughout the weekend. I was really at ease on the bike, and even though I’d have preferred a dry race, when I saw it was raining I changed my mentality and tried to keep focussed, in order to avoid a mistake like Misano. I pushed hard but in the last few laps I was in a bit of crisis with the tyres, especially the front, and had a few scary moments in some corners. It wasn’t the right time to do anything stupid and when I almost crashed at Turn 15 and Andrea passed me I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to fight for the win. I know exactly how important a world title is for Ducati, Dovizioso has had a fantastic season and deserves to fight for the championship right down to the last race. In this weekend Andrea has always been faster and I’m pleased for the team for this first 1-2 win of the season, because it means we’re working really well.”
First independent Johann Zarco took his second podium in a row, saying, “It was a great race and I am happy to be on the podium again. I was a bit worried about riding in the wet because when it rained on Friday, I was not fast and overall, Marquez and Dovizioso were pretty quick. Today I used the soft tyre in order to be safe but also to get some feeling and the lap times during the race were not amazing, yet, they were fast enough to lead and I opened up a gap. It was good to start the GP in this way, and even though I felt that I couldn’t push anymore, I did enough to stay first. Then, when the two Ducati riders overtook me, I thought about fighting with them. Eventually, I lost too much in acceleration so I had to push a lot on the brakes. Yet, it was too risky and I lost the rear twice. I wasn’t sure about what to do, however, I expected the track to dry a bit, and then I wanted to attempt to catch them, but I was limited. On the last three laps, I ran alone in third, so I decided to stay focused and the result was already pretty good so I chose to be safe and enjoy it!”
Marquez was eight seconds further back in fourth, with polesitter and teammate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) completing the top five after a more promising showing in the wet for the former winner at the venue in similar conditions. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) put in a superstar performance in the wet as he was forced to start from the back after a technical problem with his number one bike, and moved up to take sixth over the line – a gain of over 15 places.
Marc Marquez explained, “Today the race was the most difficult one we could have had for the Championship because we had rain conditions and the track was extremely slippery. Anyway, I got a good start, and I tried to push at the beginning because I didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of the group. Then I tried to find the feeling and the pace but I saw that both the Ducatis were very fast, so I decided to not take too many risks, to be calm, and to get good points for the Championship. I thought about trying to get Zarco but the risk was too big just to have an advantage of 24 points instead of 21. This wasn’t the race to win the Title but rather one to get closer to it. I’m happy because after a difficult weekend, at a track were we always struggle, we still managed to finish fourth. Of course now we need to keep focused, to train well this week, and to work to be at 100% on Sunday in Valencia without relaxing too much with the advantage we have. Today we won the Constructor Title, and that’s a first step!”
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was close to his compatriot by the end of the race to take seventh and only four tenths back, ahead of a more lonely finish for EG 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller into P8. Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) had a tough race for ninth, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory) giving KTM another consecutive top ten finish after another impressive race.
Valentino Rossi added, “We were a little bit unlucky with the weather because I think that on the dry we could have been competitive. We wanted to do a good race because we arrived here fresh from a podium on Phillip Island and it’s good to try to stay at the top, but it rained. Unfortunately, today we also weren’t strong enough with this bike on the wet. We had a lot of problems and I was struggling for more or less three quarters of the race. We need to understand the situation and try to improve and that’s just the way it is. We’ll see what happens in Valencia. It’s another important race and a difficult track, but we’ll see. We’ll try to be competitive.”
Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) took P11, with the points scorers completed by Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing), Hector Barbera (Reale Avintia Racing) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda.)
It’s now truly everything or nothing for the two title challengers, and the Championship comes back to Europe for the final showdown at Valencia. Marquez leads by 21 points, so it’s a long shot for ‘DesmoDovi’…but never, ever say never.
MotoGP Race Results
- Andrea Dovizioso (ITA – Ducati) 44’51.497
- Jorge Lorenzo (SPA – Ducati) + 0.743
- Johann Zarco (FRA – Yamaha) +9.738
…8. Jack Miller
MotoGP Standings following Sepang
- Marc MARQUEZ Honda SPA 282
- Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati ITA 261
- Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha SPA 226
- Valentino ROSSI Yamaha ITA 197
- Dani PEDROSA Honda SPA 185
- Johann ZARCO Yamaha FRA 154
- Jorge LORENZO Ducati SPA 137
- Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati ITA 121
- Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda GBR 104
- Jonas FOLGER Yamaha GER 84
- Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati SPA 75
- Jack MILLER Honda AUS 73
Moto2: Oliveira leads another KTM 1-2 in Sepang –
Morbidelli takes Moto2 Crown
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took back-to-back wins for the first time in Moto2 with a stunning demolition job at Sepang International Circuit, over five seconds clear at one point and putting in a faultless ride to the flag despite the late threat of rain.
Rookie teammate Brad Binder made it another 1-2 for the Austrian factory as he took his second Moto2 podium in second, able to get past new Moto2 World Champion Franco Morbidelli in the latter stages. The number 21 – who has led the standings all year – completed the rostrum.
Earlier in the day it was announced that key title rival Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) had been declared unfit to race, so Morbidelli’s 29 point advantage going into the Malaysian GP was enough to secure the crown. But celebrations waited until after the flag, when the customary number one was stuck to the front of Morbidelli’s EG 0,0 Marc VDS machine on the way back to parc ferme.
Behind the fastest three in front, Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) made a late charge to take advantage of the late rain flags and make it into fourth, three tenths ahead of Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) after the Rookie of the Year initially mounted a podium challenge then completed the top five. It was an even closer finish for sixth, with local hero Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) just catching and getting the better of front row starter Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP 40) by 0.078 seconds.
Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) and Isaac Viñales (BE-A-VIP SAG Team) were two more close finishers, just 0.068 apart in P8 and P9 respectively. Tetsuta Nagashima (Teluru SAG Team) completed the top ten after a solid ride for his best finish so far.
Simone Corsi and Augusto Fernandez (Speed Up), Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team), Iker Lecuona and Jesko Raffin (Garage Plus Interwetten) completed the points scorers – with a number of high profile DNFs in the race, including one for Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS).
Now the title is wrapped up and a little more history has been made, it’s back to European soil for the final circus of the season in Valencia.
- Miguel Oliveira (POR – KTM) 40’28.955
- Brad Binder (RSA – KTM) +2.387
- Franco Morbidelli (ITA – Kalex) +6.878
Moto3: Mir pulls out another stunner
Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) backed up his win and Championship title from Phillip Island with another impressive performance at Sepang International Circuit, taking the win after catching and passing early leader Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3).
Martin took second – just – after dueling with Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) to the line. Bastianini was just 0.039 off the Spaniard over the line to complete the podium. Mir now has 11 wins to extend his lead in the record books in the “most wins in Moto3” category, and is the first rider to win ten races in a year in the lighweight category since Marc Marquez in 2010.
It was Martin who got the holeshot from second on the grid, and the Spaniard shot away into the lead early – six tenths inside the lap record second time around. In clear air and breaking the slipstream effect early, it seemed it could be a done deal – but Mir was soon on the chase. The new Champion reeled in his compatriot and sliced past as soon as he was on the scene – but he wasn’t able to escape. Bastianini was then able to catch the pair and the three were together on track until a close moment between the number 33 and the number 88 allowed Mir to make a break for it.
Not needing a second invitation, the Majorcan was then able to hold onto it and leave the two behind to duel it out for the remaining spots on the podium, with that decided at the final corner in favour of Martin.
Livio Loi (Leopard Racing) put in another impressive ride after bouncing back from a broken collarbone earlier in the season, and the Belgian had a lonely ride to fourth. He was ahead of an incredible group battle for fifth as John McPhee (British Talent Team) made his move late to take the reins in that fight, crossing the line in P5 by just 0.039 over Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46).
Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) took seventh ahead of his rival for second in the standings Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), thereby confirming himself as the runner up in 2017. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) was able to move up from his grid position for ninth, with Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completing the top ten.
Adam Norrodin (SIC Racing Team) had an eventful home race as he was running up near the front for some time before a crash, remounting in a flash and getting back in the action in fourteenth. By the end of the race, the Malaysian was able to take eleventh and just beat rookie teammate Ayumu Sasaki at the flag – but it was a solid double points finish and a positive home weekend for the Sepang International Circuit Racing Team.
RBA Racing Team duo Juanfran Guevara and Gabriel Rodrigo took P13 and P14 respectively, with Manuel Pagliani (CIP) completing the points scorers. Now it’s back west for the final round in Spain.
Moto3 Race Results
- Joan Mir (SPA – Honda) 40’14.545
- Jorge Martin (SPA – Honda) + 0.724
- Enea Bastianini (ITA – Honda) + 0.763