After the disappointment of not getting to see the MotoGP boys go head-to-head for championship points one year ago, we all again eagerly await the on track battle to see if Andrea Dovizioso can claw points back from Marc Marquez at Silverstone.
33-year-old Dovizioso, the 2004 125cc world champion, has been tantalisingly close to that elusive premier class crown. As the Marc Marquez train rolls on, is Dovizioso’s time running out?
After qualifying seventh for the race at Silverstone, Dovizioso will need luck on his side as Marquez starts from pole alongside Valentino Rossi and Jack Miller.
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‘Really happy’: Miller sizzles at Silverstone after bike drama
That’s some front row: Marquez pips Rossi and Miller in qualifying
Fast Friday: Quartararo sets Silverstone pace as Marquez crashes
Kicking the season off at Qatar in March, we saw Dovizioso take the 25 points from Marquez in an absolute thriller. Dovizioso finally got the “Black Horse” back out again, ironically at the Red Bull Ring.
Dovizioso took the mental approach that Dr Claudio Costa told him about a few years ago — the Dovi that will take a risk and stick it in there, exactly like he did in that last corner on the last lap at the Red Bull Ring. He desperately chucked it up the inside of Marquez and beat him to the chequered flag, trimming his lead back to 58 points, exactly what it was going into Brno.
With eight rounds remaining and 200 points up for grabs, the championship is mathematically well and truly still wide open. Some say that the engravers have already started on the trophy for Marquez!
OK, put the year on it, fair enough, but Dovizioso has more than one reason to let that Black Horse have eight more runs by mid-November. Rumours that Luigi Dall’Igna was trying to get Jorge Lorenzo back in the Ducati squad, even if it was to be at the expense of young Jack Miller at Pramac, indicated that he doesn’t think Dovizioso can beat Marquez to the title.
Meanwhile, Miller has been confirmed to stay with Ducati at Pramac Racing next season. With all those rumours flying around during the Austria race weekend, Miller must have been somewhat distracted and unfortunately crashed from a potential podium position. No doubt, he will bounce back in true Jack Miller style at Silverstone this weekend, and Saturday’s qualifying was a reflection of that.
Lorenzo returns after missing the last four races due to back injuries sustained at Assen. He also missed vital development time at the Brno post-race test. Before Assen at Catalunya, he qualified 10th and in a lap-and-a-half, he rocketed up to the lead group, very unfamiliar territory since his move to Honda. However, he made a desperate lunge up the inside from fifth at the end of the back straight under brakes, lost the front and crashed, taking Dovizioso, Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi with him, leaving Marquez to run away with another 25 points to stack on his pile.
Lorenzo has not scored any points in the last five rounds and sits 19th in the championship standings on just 19 points. Struggling to adapt to the Repsol Honda since moving from Ducati, his best results in both qualifying and races was at Le Mans where he qualified eighth and ran 11th in the race. Surely he will continue his struggles this weekend as he tries to come to terms with “a bike that is difficult to ride” as said by championship leader Marquez recently.
Yamaha seem to be making progress with their traction and acceleration issues having tested the first prototype for 2020 at the Brno post-race test. Fabio Quartararo, Rossi and Vinales finished third, fourth and fifth respectively in Austria, not a favourite track for the Yamahas. They have two of the last five race wins at Silverstone, for Lorenzo (2013) and Rossi (2015).
Marquez won on the Honda in 2014, Vinales and Suzuki 2016 and Dovizioso on his Ducati 2017. Five different men on four different machines. Silverstone has been fully resurfaced and cambered since the cancellation last year, and riders have faced a very different prospect to the notoriously bumpy track. On race day, they will require quite a different machine set-up for the reportedly “billiard table smooth” fresh surface for the 5.9km lap, the longest of the season.
Can red hot rookie Quartararo shape up for his first MotoGP win? Alex Rins on the ever-improving Suzuki will be another one to watch this weekend. The sweet handling GSX-RR and Rins’ super smooth riding style, combined with Silverstone’s new surface, may well put him back in a race-winning position.
From ninth on the grid, Cal Crutchlow will be pulling out all the stops to become the first British rider to win in the premier class on British soil!
And hopefully Remy Gardner has cooled down since Austria! He needs to convert the pace he has already got into solid results.
Good luck to all on race day!