Can Dovizioso double up on home turf?

2017-09-04 11:42
The aquamarine shores of the Adriatic are the next port of call for 2017

Throngs of tourists line the beaches and beachside towns of the Riviera di Rimini as they come to bask in the sun of the Adriatic coast, but many descend on the region for another reason entirely: Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, set back from the sea but perfectly placed to provide the best of both worlds. Sun, speed and sand – and another home race for many on the grid, not least nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). Misano bleeds yellow. The smoke rising from the stands – yellow – and the shirts streaming through the gates – yellow – leave no doubt as to who holds the honour of the hometown hero here. But after an accident in training, the number 46 sadly won't be riding - so the hopes of Italy in the title fight now fall solely on the shoulders of Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). An Italian rider on an Italian bike riding in Italy - it was a good recipe at Mugello. So can he do it again?

Dovizioso is the man in the lead once more as we arrive into Round 13. Taking another 25 points at Silverstone – a track where, on paper, that should have proved difficult – show ‘DesmoDovi’ is as real a threat as can be crafted. Ducati also tested at the venue recently, and the Italian on the Italian bike will enjoy some good home support – with the Borgo Panigale factory not so far away at all. And his teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, is getting closer by the race. Another half a tenth nearer per lap at Silverstone, the ‘Spartan’ is the man with the stats at Misano: first or second for an incredible eight season span from 2007, beginning with a victory in the 250cc race that year, see Lorenzo top of the pile for track records – good omens stacking up as he makes good progress in red.

Last year was another story. From eighth on the grid, race day belonged to one man: Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team). Pedrosa, who became the eighth different winner of the year, was untouchable under the blazing Sunday sun. He’ll remember that when he lines up on the grid in 2017, and he’ll want to do it again. Losing no ground in the title fight at Silverstone by way of teammate Marquez’ DNF, it’s only 35 points between Pedrosa in fifth and Dovizioso at the top of the standings. Everything can change in a race, or a single lap.

Marc Marquez found that out the hard way in the British GP. Fighting for the podium and the victory, the rider from Cervera was well placed when he suffered a mechanical problem and was forced to retire with seven laps to go. That saw him lose the lead in the Championship, but not by too much: he’s now in second, nine points off Dovizioso. But Marquez has never won a dry premier class race at Misano, and he’ll want the record book to prove unreliable once again in an ever-changing 2017. A 125cc win, two Moto2™ wins and a flag-to-flag masterclass in 2015 are the statistics that will most interest the reigning Champion.

Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) is another who wants to write another chapter rather than re-stage one he’s already penned. The title challenger – currently third in the standings – has never won on the Adriatic. But he did take a front row start last year in P3, converted it into a top five result in the race, and has a podium in the lower classes. Track time in recent testing and good feelings reported thereafter should make Viñales a key threat once again – and the Spaniard was only a tenth off the win last time out.

Racing on Italian turf makes home heroes of many. Not least of all Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who suffered a crash at Silverstone that saw him collide with compatriot Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing), making Misano a perfect stage for both to bounce back. And as well as the home riders, there’s also Aprilia Racing Team Gresini who count Misano as their second home race, making Aleix Espargaro and Sam Lowes eager to write different stories on the Riviera di Rimini to those that transpired in the UK.

As always, there will be a cast of familiar and fast Independent Team names looking to get in their way in the fight at the front: two-time GP winner Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team)…and Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) will be back on track after missing the British GP following a crash in morning Warm Up. Fellow rookie Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was back in the top ten at Silverstone as he regains full fitness, and there’s also Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing) riding for a home team and with premier class podium history at the venue, no less. The ever-gaining Red Bull KTM Factory racing are also a serious threat for the top ten now, and there’s no margin for error for any in the tight field of 2017.

The crowd may be partisan, but the competitors never are. They’re out to win, and the stakes for some are higher than ever. Six races and four title challengers remain in 2017: it has, both mathematically and on track, never been so close. And as Silverstone and the week after proved once again – everything can chance in a race, or even a single lap.

The Gran Premio Tribul Mastercard di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini will add another 28 laps to that racing tally of 2017, and the lights go out for show number 13 at 14:00 on Sunday. Lucky for some? We’re about to find out.

MotoGP World Championship Classification
1 - Andrea Dovizioso (ITA - Ducati) 183 points
2 - Marc Márquez (SPA - Honda) 174 points
3 - Maverick Viñales (SPA - Yamaha) 170 points
4 - Valentino Rossi (ITA - Yamaha) 157 points
5 - Dani Pedrosa (SPA - Honda) 148 points
Morbidelli fired up for an Adriatic attack
Misano awaits and the Championship leader will come out swinging

After learning at Brno how quickly the colour of the Championship can change, Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) remains very much on the attack after Silverstone - despite his 29 point advantage over Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) in the standings. Next up is his home race at Misano and having never shone too brightly on home turf, the Italian wants to change that this year as he aims to make sure that he’ll be the man with the Moto2™ World Championship under his belt when he and Lüthi share a MotoGP™ garage next season.

Last year at Misano, Morbidelli was fifth and Lüthi sixth. Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team) was the winner and he’ll want to be back on form, but it’s been a tougher season so far for the Forward rider. The other key name on last year’s podium was Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) in third – the man who took victory at Silverstone - so there will be some serious competition, as always.

Another home hero with little on the line and no pressure is superfast rookie Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46), yet another complication in the mix as the two title rivals look to make a melee into a duel, and he was just ahead of Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) and Stefano Manzi (Sky Racing Team VR46) at Silverstone. Manzi, after a tough first season in the intermediate class thus far, put on a great show of form in the UK to come home seventh – and he’ll want to back it up quickly. Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) is another local, and another who wants to repeat some good points and pace at Silverstone.

The bounce back crew after a difficult British GP is led by Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS). With stunning pace all weekend and a front row start, the rider from Cervera suffered a lowside out the lead and lost his shot at his first win outside Spain. Remounting to finish fourteenth and take points was of little consolation, but now it’s situation reset and he’ll have a point to prove – something he’s managed many times before. He’s not won at Misano yet, but he was only 0.042 seconds off in 2014 on his way to the Moto3™ title. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is another ready to strike back after a difficult British GP, with the Portuguese riding taking P8 in the UK, and he’s another who’s been close to the victory on the Riviera di Rimini – in his case only 0.037 seconds off in 2015.

The margin between winning and losing can be a tenth or ten seconds, but the points taken home are the same. Morbidelli knows that, and says he’ll stay on the attack - but the question could be how much he values home glory over once again increasing that points lead.

Lights out on Sunday for the intermediate class is at 12:20 (GMT +2).

Moto2 World Championship Classification
1 - Franco Morbidelli (ITA - Kalex) 223 points
2 - Thomas Lüthi (SWI - Kalex) 194 points
3 - Álex Márquez (SPA - Kalex) 155 points
4 - Miguel Oliveira (POR - KTM) 141 points
5 - Francesco Bagnaia (ITA - Kalex) 111 points
Can Fenati fight back on home turf?
Mir is still clear – but Silverstone saw Canet overtake the Italian in the standings

Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) took his third win of the year at the British GP, and the 25 points accrued saw him leapfrog Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) into second in the standings. But that’s exactly what Championship leader Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) will want – his rivals taking points off each other as he enjoys his 64 point advantage. That’s what it remains at after Silverstone, where the Leopard rider took fifth but it was a different challenger at the front. Now Fenati will want to hit back, and he’ll be on home turf to do it.

The British GP saw something else significant, however, with Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) taking second and his first podium of the season after a tough year. And the Italian is the rider with the best record at Misano, taking his first win there in 2015 and then coming home a close-fought second in 2016. The ‘Beast’ may well be back. His compatriots – including Mugello winner Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) and teammate Nicolo Bulega – will also be pushing hard at home. At Misano, there is more at stake than points.

Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) will join Mir in the Spanish charge on Italian soil, as the Gresini rider continues getting back to full strength. Riding through the pain barrier in Austria for a stunning podium, a couple of weeks more recovery following his German GP crash saw Martin manage it again at Silverstone. Still waiting for his first win, the Spaniard has shown his pace and will want to unleash it again at Misano. His teammate, Fabio Di Giannantonio, will be another to watch. Riding at home at Mugello saw ‘Diggia’ on top form and he’ll want to do the same on the second visit to familiar turf.

The other man to watch could be John McPhee (British Talent Team), after a solid second row start at Silverstone and a number of podiums already in 2017. The British GP turned out tough on race day, so there is some bouncing back to be done for the Brit.

Last year when they were rookies, Mir was on the podium, Bulega was fourth, Canet took eighth, and Di Giannantonio a top ten. The Championship leader will hope he still has the advantage this year - and Fenati will be racing for points, his place in the standings and some home glory.

Moto3™ go racing at 11:00 (GMT +2) on Sunday for the Gran Premio Tribul Mastercard di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini.

Moto3 World Championship Classification
1 - Joan Mir (SPA - Honda) 226 points
2 - Aron Canet (SPA - Honda) 162 points
3 - Romano Fenati (ITA - Honda) 160 points
4 - Jorge Martín (SPA - Honda) 121 points
5 - Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA - Honda) 101 points


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