WOW! In a race no-one will forget for a long time, Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso bested his Honda rival and world championship leader Marc Marquez to score a stunning win in the Austrian GP at the Red Bull Ring circuit near Spielberg.
One of the more amiable riders in MotoGP, Dovi is often cast as the man too nice to really fight hard for a world championship.
No longer. A man of steel turned up in Austria and his fight with the great street brawler of motorcycling showed he is ready to go after the 2017 MotoGP title.
The last lap of 28 was one to savour as Marquez boldly and audaciously tried everything to find a way through to the lead. The Spaniard was always going to try something. Anything. But Dovizioso had the speed and the bike placement to make that task very difficult.
The predictably aggressive effort came in the last corner, with Marquez all crossed up on the outside kerbing.
But Dovi held firm to take a narrow win at the fastest circuit on the MotoGP calendar.
There were hugs and kisses and tears in the Ducati pits, and that was just amongst the blokes.
“It was a crazy race, but to be honest the whole weekend was incredible, and in particular the final curve of the last lap,” said Dovizioso. “But I managed to remain clear headed and was aware that Marquez was going to try and pass me. It was a very difficult situation because if Marc had closed the door coming out of the corner, he would have forced me out and passed me. Instead I was able to resist his attack and I went on to win!
“We had a great race, we’re making up points in the championship, and we’ve got all the right cards to fight for the title.”
Dovizioso started from the middle of the front row, with Marquez on pole and Ducati teammate Jorge Lorenzo third.
Lorenzo used a soft rear tyre to take an early lead from Marquez, Dovi, and Valentino Rossi but no-one cleared out.
Rossi ruined his chances when he ran wide mid-race, while Lorenzo slipped back to fourth, where he stayed.
It looked like a Moto3 race. Marquez got to the front on lap 12 and the reigning champion tried to make a break, but Dovizioso wouldn’t let him get away.
Dani Pedrosa loomed up behind the front pair to make it a three-bike race, as Dovizioso took the lead on lap 18. Marquez fought back to the front, but on lap 22, after a rugged exchange, the Ducati man raced to the front again.
The 90,411 fans trackside then watched as the two combatants produced an incredible last few laps as they changed places numerous times
Dovi’s 25-point haul for the win, his third of the season, moves him into second place in the overall championship standings, 16 points away from Marquez.
Australia’s Jack Miller qualified his private Honda 19th but charged hard up to 12th early before hitting the deck late in the GP.
Miller has confirmed he is leaving the Honda family, the Queenslander signing a one-year deal with the Octo Pramac Racing team for next season to ride a Ducati Desmosedici GP bike alongside Italian Danilo Petrucci.
The deal, which Miller did directly with Ducati, had been speculated for some time.
Miller will ride a GP17 bike next season. He follows a couple of successful countrymen, Casey Stoner and Troy Bayliss, both of whom won aboard the Italian MotoGP bikes.
MotoGP-bound Franco Morbidelli continued his blitz of Moto2, leading home Marc VDS teammate Alex Marquez and Tom Luthi for his seventh win of the season. Luthi made a number of desperate lunges on Marquez, but on every occasion was beaten out of the corners. Aussie Remy Gardner had troubles in qualifying but salvaged a point from 15th in the race.
We’re seeing a similar dominance in Moto3, where young Spaniard Joan Mir engineered a runaway win from 10th on the grid. It was Mir’s seventh win from 11 races, stretching his lead to 64 points. Philipp Oerlt took a strong second, his first dry race podium, while the injured Jorge Martin fought hard bravely to grab third.
James Davison shines in XFinity NASCAR
Sam Hornish Jr won a wild fender-bender Xfinity NASCAR road course race at Mid-Ohio on Saturday, but Australian James Davison’s great fourth against the odds demonstrated that he is deserving of a full-time ride.
Following his memorable run in this year’s Indianapolis 500 (where he lead for two laps in the latter stages before being taken out), the versatile 30-year-old worked hard to find the money to fund a few drives with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity series – one rung below the premier Cup Championship of NASCAR.
The brutal Mid-Ohio race collected two red flag periods and six yellow, and lasted more than three hours.
Of the famous Melbourne racing royal family, Davison fought a second gear selection issue from half distance but hung tough through the shunts and ambitious overtaking moves and hard wheel-to-wheel duels.
After qualifying his Toyota Camry 11th in the 40-car field, he ran as high as second and finished within sight of the winner Hornish.
“Pretty awesome experience today,” Davison tweeted afterwards. “Man those cars are tough to drive!”
It was Davison’s second NASCAR start (he raced in the Xfinity series at Elkhart Lake last year).
Hornish, making his third start of the season in the Team Penske #22 Ford, led a race-high 61 of the 75 laps in the Mid-Ohio Challenge.
Daniel Hemric led three times and held on to match his career best in second place. His Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was 1.335 seconds behind Hornish’s car at the chequer.
Matt Tifft, Davison and Andy Lally rounded out the top five — all three drivers posting career-best finishes in the series.
Davison’s next scheduled outing will be at another road course XFinity event at Road America in less than two weeks.