Besides its tight layout, rain presented the largest challenge for the 24-rider MotoGP grid Sunday during the Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi.Friday was Andrea Dovizioso’s day, the Italian Ducati Team pilot leading Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez during soaking wet free practices. The wet conditions continued Saturday, but it was a shock performance by Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Johann Zarco after the Frenchman secured a dominating pole in the wet.
Three for three, rain plagued Sunday’s 24-lap race. And from the outset, this season’s two main title contenders—Marquez and Dovizioso—battled with Octo Pramc Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, who qualified second.Dovi impressed the most. The GP17 pilot qualified ninth, but quickly got the front of the grid. From there it was one of the Ducati GP17 pilots most impressive rides. He would battle with Marquez to the final corner—“Victory” corner—to claim his fifth win of the season, and seventh of his MotoGP career.He held off Marquez by 0.249 of a second. Earning third was Petrucci, who finished alone in third, 10.577 seconds back.Due to his win, Dovi now only trails Marquez by 11 points with three rounds remaining. The the wet Motegi MotoGP was the first of three back-to-back races, and the teams head to Phillip Island in Australia next weekend for round 16 of 18.“It was a difficult race because at the start there wasn’t much grip and I didn’t have a good feeling with the bike but I never gave up, not even when I was losing ground, and this made all the difference,” Andrea Dovizioso says.“Marc was really quick and he tried right until the end, but there were some places where I could attack and he also made a small mistake on the last lap which gave me a chance to catch him again and try and pass him at Turn 11. I knew that he was going to attack me in the final two corners but I was prepared for this, I closed the door on him and he had to go a bit wide to pass me. It was absolutely vital to win here and I’m really so pleased for the whole team and for the championship.”Ducati also moved to second in the manufacturer’s race behind leader Honda. Dovi will now continue the chase for Ducati’s second MotoGP, the first arriving in 2007 with Casey Stoner at the controls of the GP7.Following is the official race recap:Marquez took the lead off the front row, with Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) soon pouncing on the first lap to take second and take over in the lead. Marquez was followed by Petrucci and Zarco, with Dovizioso staging a stunning start to tag on the back. Marquez then fought back as Lorenzo moved back slightly, before Petrucci struck at the front and the trio who would head the remaining laps was decided: Petrucci, Marquez, and Dovizioso.As the laps ticked down, the two title contenders remained locked together and Petrucci found some clear air in the lead. But with 12 laps to go Marquez made his first move to take over, with “DesmoDovi” then through on his compatriot to keep close company with the Championship leader. They pulled away, and the stage was set.With six laps to go, Dovizioso attacked at Turn 6, and the cat and mouse continued. Marquez then hit back with a brutal pass in Turn 3 with three laps to go, and the fuse was lit. Dueling it out with some of the most spectacular racing of the season – and in the pouring rain – it seemed Marquez was holding the cards as the final lap approached.Pushing hard to catch the race and Championship leader, the gap was hovering just over half a second for Dovizioso, until Marquez suddenly suffered a moment at Turn 8 and the Ducati was back on him. The Italian struck to take the lead soon after and prepared himself for the aptly-named victory corner – knowing the number 93 was close behind and undoubtedly with Austria on his mind.The door didn’t prove closed for Marquez as he shot up the inside, but Dovizioso was prepared for the move and kept it together as the Honda RC213V headed wide. Almost neck and neck over the line, it was Doviziosowho took the victory in a duel that will go down in history – and he cuts the gap to 11 points at the top.Behind the trio on the rostrum it was a stunning ride for Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) into fourth, as the Italian picked his way through from P12 on the grid as was able to close in on his teammate Alex Rins, then getting past him in the latter stages. Rins was top rookie after his own display of brilliance, however, earlier shadowing Zarco and then moving through as the Frenchman faded.After dropping back after a stunning start, Jorge Lorenzo was able to move back past those ahead of him to cross the line in sixth for another good haul of points – getting back Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) as his final victim, with the Spaniard coming seventh. Zarco faded in the latter stages to head home in P8, ahead of a difficult day for Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). Viñales is now 41 points off Marquez at the top of the table.Loris Baz (Reale Avintia Racing) completed the top ten as he sliced through in the rain, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) taking another top result for the Austrian factory in P11. In twelfth, it was wildcard Yamalube Factory Racing rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga – 2017 Suzuka 8H winner and former MotoGP podium finisher – as the Japanese veteran impressed as ever.Sam Lowes (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) took his best ever result and some good points in P13, with the points scorers completed by Hector Barbera (Reale Avintia Racing) and Tito Rabat (EG 0,0 Marc VDS). Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) crashed out of contention, but the nine-time World Champion, who broke his leg five weeks ago, walked away unharmed.With 75 points up for grabs, only four riders have a mathematical chance of securing the 2017 MotoGP Title: Marquez (244 points); Dovizioso (233); Vinales (203); or Dani Pedrosa (170).For full results, point standings and a photo gallery, click through to page 2.
Ducati Scrambler Icon Dark + Chip Doherty with Neale Bayly
byMotos and Friends by Ultimate Motorcycle
The Motos & Friends Podcast is brought to you by the Yamaha YZF-R7. The R7 is a brilliant supersport machine that is also comfortable. Now there’s an idea! Check it out at YamahaMotorsports.com, or you can see it for yourself at your local Yamaha dealer.
This week, in the first segment Senior Editor Nic de Sena talks to us about the new Ducati Scrambler Icon Dark. This somewhat entry-level machine still comes with all the great Ducati hallmarks of excellent low down torque and impeccable handling. If you like to hear about fun motorcycles, then you’ll enjoy this one.
In the second segment, Editor-at-Large Neale Bayly brings us another of his interviews, this time it’s with Chip Doherty.
Chip’s amazing resume includes motorcycle racer, restorer and collector. Back in the early 2000s he used his engineering background to start motorcycle clothing manufacturer Motophoria.
After selling that company in 2007, Chip’s resume gained him entry to NASA where for 7 years he was responsible for launching the space shuttle! Since moving on from NASA, Chip expanded his collection of classic British bikes. Eventually Neale persuaded him to ride to Peru and help Neale’s Wellspring Foundation raise money for the orphanage there.
So, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!