Those readers who can recall all the way back to last year will remember it as the year of nine winners. Some will recall it as a year Marc Marquez titled and eight other guys won races. 2017 will be remembered as the year Andrea Dovizioso got his Alien card punched and went looking for Marquez at crunch time, anxious to take on the Spanish wonderkid.

Two legitimate title threats, neither one named Rossi, Lorenzo or Pedrosa. Each capable of winning on any track under any conditions. Each at the height of his powers, each virtually joined at the wrists and hips to his bike after years of getting up close and personal with it in some tight spots.

The last three races of the season beckon. Eleven points is like nothing.

For me, the most interesting moment at Motegi was when Dovizioso decided not to allow Marquez to get away over the last three or four laps. After leading a Ducati doubleteam with Danilo Petrucci for 20-some laps, it would have been a perfect opportunity for Dovi to settle for second, acknowledging Marquez’ inevitable place in the racing firmament. Instead, still having some rear tire to work with, he closed back up on #93, lined him up again, passed him on the last lap, resisted the late-lap dive, and put himself in great position to win a championship.

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Marc Marquez pressed hard but Andrea Dovizioso would not capitulate at Motegi.

At this point in Marc Marquez’ career, there are few riders anxious for him to suddenly appear on their rear wheel late in a race. Dovizioso, it appears, doesn’t let it bother him. Certainly, he’s been there, done that on both the Honda and the Ducati, and has learned how to tame the Ducati, allowing it to do what it loves to do, which is to approach liftoff on the straights and try to keep it close in the turns.

Recent History at Phillip Island

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His only DNF in 2014, Phillip Island was a rare blemish in Marc Marquez’s otherwise remarkable season.

Phillip Island 2014: Having clinched the title the previous week at Motegi, Marquez crashed out of a four second lead on Lap 18 as his Bridgestone front seemed to turn to ice. 23 riders started the race; 14 finished. Valentino Rossi led a trio of Yamaha M1s to the checkered flag, joined on the podium by Jorge Lorenzo and premier class podium virgin Bradley Smith, who whipped his Tech 3 Yamaha to his first premier class podium. None of it really mattered, as Marquez left Down Under a barely visible speck in the distance, ahead of chaser Rossi by 57 points on the way to his second world championship. In case we’ve neglected to mention it in the past, Phillip Island is a Yamaha/Ducati kind of joint.

Phillip Island 2015: The Pramac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix had something for everyone. Repsol Honda defending double world champion Marc Marquez, in his season of discontent, laid down an historic last lap to steal the victory from compatriot Jorge Lorenzo. Trailing Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi by 18 coming in, Lorenzo was blessed that day by a statement performance from factory Ducati (then #1) Andrea Iannone, who slipped past Rossi for the last of many times on the final lap, surging onto the podium and trimming Rossi’s lead over Lorenzo to 11 points heading for Sepang and Round 17. Keeping in mind that Lorenzo ended up beating Rossi in 2015, Dovi should feel pretty good about trailing by only 11 with three rounds left.

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Marc Marquez crashed out again in last year’s Australian Grand Prix. Along with a disqualification in 2013 for not making a mandatory pit stop, you’d think Marquez hasn’t had much luck at Phillip Island. Of course, in the two years he was able to finish the race, he has a win (2015) and a second place finish (2012).

The 2016 Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix was about what one would expect from this great track after the championship had been decided – see 2014. Crown champion Marc Marquez, on the factory Honda, having given a clinic on Saturday to take pole, obliterated the field early, apparently on his way to an easy win. Until Lap 10, when he apparently lost focus, went to Bermuda for a few moments, pushing harder than necessary, folded the front in Turn 4 and handed the win to an astonished Cal Crutchlow. Cal was joined on the podium that afternoon by Rossi and Maverick Viñales, then employed by Suzuki Racing. As so often happens in this sport, the best contest of the day was the fight for 7th place, won by Scott Redding on the Pramac Ducati, trailed by Smith, Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller, the gap from 7th to 10th a full 45/100ths of a second.

So, to review and summarize, we’ve had two of the last four races here in which the title had already been decided, and two with real stuff on the line. Four different winners in four years. Honda having won the last two is the only discernible trend. Dovizioso has never done well here on the Ducati, but 2017 is a whole new year for him and the entire team minus, of course, Jorge Lorenzo, who is mentally re-living 2016 and 2015 every day.

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Andrea Dovizioso’s best ever result at Phillip Island came in 2011 when he finished third for Repsol Honda.

Marquez is on a monstrous roll since Mugello, his gritty performance in Japan doing nothing to diminish the dimensions of his accomplishments this season. And challenger Dovizioso is unafraid. With a championship in the balance, this sounds like a pretty good recipe for a weekend of racing.

Short Quiz

Match the rider on the left with the number of premier class wins he has enjoyed since the end of the 2009 season:

Valentino Rossi 6
Jorge Lorenzo 12
Marc Marquez 21
Dani Pedrosa 34
Andrea Dovizioso 38

Answers, in order: 12, 38, 34, 21, 6.

Yes, it’s true. As much as we like to take cheap shots at Dani Pedrosa. As much as some of us, um, YOU worship the very ground Valentino Rossi limps on. Yet, in the years since The Doctor’s last title, Pedrosa has won almost twice as many races (21 to 12) as has Rossi. Marc Marquez trails Jorge Lorenzo by four wins and three years.

Just sayin’.

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Dani Pedrosa: underrated?

Your Weekend Forecast

The long-range weather forecast for the greater Cowes metro area calls for temps in the 50’s, windy conditions, with the best chance of rain on Sunday. Worse, possibly, than those we found in Motegi last week. And none of which matters in the least to our two primary punters, who will arrive ready for anything.

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Jack Miller is expected to return to action this weekend for his home race. The Australian racer will sport this wicked scar after getting a plate and eight screws inserted below his right knee. In other injury news, Jonas Folger will again be out of action, with Australian racer Broc Parkes taking his place for Tech 3 Yamaha.

Marquez has the advantage of owning the lead (however slight), more successful history at this track, and the experience of having won multiple premier class championships. Andrea Dovizioso has the proverbial fire in the belly and the fastest bike in the civilized world. Dovizioso won in Japan due to a small “moment” and routine breathtaking save by Marquez midway through the last lap. One suspects it will be uncomfortably close again this weekend in the former British penal colony.

The race goes off in the middle of the night in most of the Northern hemisphere. Unlike all those pesky European rounds, we’ll post results after breakfast, my morning constitutional, and a bit of a hot shower.

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Motegi was Marc Marquez’s 100th career Grand Prix podium. Marquez is the youngest rider to reach the century mark.
  • Starmag

    There is supposed to be light rain in the arvo. Either way, this should be a ripper. Good thing my esky is chockers with stubbies. Both MM and Dovi will be goin flat chat.

    • Terry Smith

      You might need to use Google Translate on this one Starmag….

      • Starmag
        • Old MOron

          Ah, the strain of strine. That’s a good link, but we need Ozzy Mick to confirm those. Oy, Mick!

          • Ozzy Mick

            Mate, if Starmag ain’t a true blue Aussie, he deserves to be made an onery one.
            I’ve told him if he makes it to Phillip Island, we’ll organise a free pass for him to visit the dunnies (toilets; holes in ground).
            To appease Mr. Allen, JB and publishers of this great magazine, l should throw in my two bob’s worth of relevance and predict a Dovictory.

    • Ozzy Mick

      Oi Starmag!
      You a dinky di true blue ocker?
      If you’re not, you bl**dy well should be given a free pass to the dunnies at the Island, mate.
      Onya! 👍

  • Old MOron

    Wow, Marquez has had 3 DNF’s and 1 win at Phillip Island?
    I’d forgotten about that.

    Oh, so you like doing research now, eh?
    You want to count up Pedrosa’s wins and compare them to Vale’s?
    The numbers are interesting after2009, but let’s do some more slicing and dicing.

    Ten of Pedrosa’s 22 wins came in 2011 and 2012, the years Valentino was marooned on Ducati Island. If we include 2013, the year Vale was re acclimating to the Yam, that brings Pedrosa’s total to 13. So more than half of his wins came while Valentino was understandably uncompetitive.

    If we look at the years after 2013, Vale has 9 wins to Pedrosa’s 5. Just sayin’.

    • john phyyt

      Are you cutting Rossi too much slack?: I know love is blind. But! . Stoner showed what a Ducati could do. Is Lorenzo , also, marooned ?

      • Old MOron

        It’s possible I’m too lenient on Rossi. But prolly not. Casey showed that the bike could win races – apparently if it was ridden in his special way. But the only Ducati championship came in 2007, when Casey and no one else had the magic Bridgestones. He was all to happy to follow Livio Suppo to Honda, where he claimed his second championship.

        As for Jorge, he could be marooned. No doubt the Duc is different from the Yam. Dovi seems to be getting good use from the red bike even though he’s no Casey Stoner. And Gigi’s bike is reputed to be much different from the previous version. Jorge seems to be able to adapt in the early laps, but not over race distance. Don’t know what that means. Maybe he’s working hard to ride the bike and he gets tired as the race goes on.

        • Possibly it runs the same with a full tank as it does with a half tank. Is Lorenzo slowing down, or is the rest of the field speeding up? I’d look it up myself, but I have a life.

          • Old MOron

            Since I have no life, I can be here for you, Brucey.
            http://resources.motogp.com/files/results/2017/JPN/MotoGP/RAC/Analysis.pdf

          • Old MOron

            Got to love this quote from Jorge:
            “It’s clear they’ve taken on board a lot of what I said from when I arrived at Ducati, and from there it’s natural that it’s also benefited Dovizioso.”

          • No one I know likes Lorenzo. But he de-throned Rossi and his incredible marketing machine at Yamaha, has won three world championships, and will probably get the Duc figured out in time to challenge Marquez, Vinales and the Upcoming Young Studs for a title. We should forgive him for occasionally whining that he gets no respect. I mean, whiners generally don’t, but still…

          • spiff

            Do either of you think Yamaha would take him back when Rossi retires?

            This is my guess on Lorenzo’s limited time at the front. I think that when the tire first shows that it isn’t new he loses the feeling. He falls so far off that he is no longer pushing the tire, effective saving it for later.

          • Old MOron

            LOL c’mon Spiff, we talked about this already. http://disq.us/p/1i3qwyk

          • spiff

            Your memory is better than mine.

          • Old MOron

            How well do you know Gruf Rude?
            He has empathy and respect for Lorenzo: http://disq.us/p/1b6wz9t

            I agree that we can respect his skill and bravery. But forgive him for being a dick? Why? It’s one thing when a guy comes around and says, “I was a dick. Sorry, I won’t do it any more.” Then you can forgive and forget. But if he continues to be a dick, where’s the motivation to forgive?

    • Thank you for the clarification. Remind me, again, please, who it was that placed the gun against Rossi’s temple and forced him to jump to Ducati. He could have been winning races for those three years. For filthy lucre.

      Scoreboard.

      • spiff

        Why did Lorenzo make the move? At least he gets to ride a more competitive bike.

        Rossi going to Ducati was not good. No question of that, but hrough it all, he keep going. Still winning races, and appears to be enjoying it.

        • spiff

          …and, while he isn’t the fastest overall, he is still there, in the hunt most races, keeping everyone honest. I would love it if he won it all just by being relentless, and retired next year. Telling ya Bruce, it could happen.

          Go Rossi!!! End transmission.

          • Is it true they rubberize the walls in places like where you’re undoubtedly and unavoidably being detained? You could put on one of those VR headsets and throw yourself around the room watching enhanced video of Rossi putting Stoner’s dick in the dirt at Laguna Seca in 2008, back when life didn’t suck.

          • spiff

            They did away with rubber rooms. Bad for wifi.

      • Old MOron

        Scoreboard? Good idea.
        I see seven premier class championships to zero. What do you see?
        Oh, never mind. We know your cherry-picking perspective.

        • Wait. You make my point for me. Here’s Pedrosa, never won nothing in the premier class, punking Rossi for the past seven years. There are those who say Rossi won the majority of his titles back when competition was pretty scarce. I don’t bother looking back that far when I can cherry pick right from the website. 😉

          • Old MOron

            The only time Pedrosa got the better of Rossi was during Rossi’s time in the wilderness. Even with Rossi breaking his leg this year, Pedrosa is only ahead by two points.

            And if you want to subscribe to the idea that Rossi won against scarce competition, you would have to include Pedrosa in that scarcity.

          • You know me well enough to know that I’ve never been one to jock Dani Pedrosa, a hard-luck little big man whose game peaked in 2012. I’M JUST SAYIN’!!! You Rossi guys are touchy. Except for spiff, who’s delusional.

          • Old MOron

            She’s alright, Bruce. We yellow fans have to take our rash of shit like anyone else.

  • Vrooom

    Prediction, Dovi, Petrucci, Crutchlow. I know sounds crazy, but it was hard coming up with people not named Marquez. Crutchlow has to make something of this season.

  • Old MOron

    Getting back to the time zones, the races fall on Saturday night for those of us on the west coast.

    7:00 PM: Moto 3
    8:20 PM: Moto 2
    10:00 PM: Moto GP

    What an awesome Saturday night it’s going to be!

    • Ozzy Mick

      Perfect time to fire up the barbie, throw some shrimps and snags on, get the sheila to grab a stubby from Starmag’s esky, and sit back and enjoy the show

      • Too right!

      • spiff

        All I can be sure of is this. You plan on enjoying some shrimp among other things to eat, and plan on watching the race. 🙂

  • spiff

    Go Dovi!!! End transmission.

    • Old MOron

      Aw crap, Marquez is on pole, and Dovi is back in the 4th row.
      Here’s hoping the likes of Miller, Vinnie, Zarco et al can slow MM down while Dovi works his way forward.

      • Gruf Rude

        None of the Ducatis are doing well. Odd. Ducks better pray for rain. On the other hand, Mav and Rossi need cool and dry. Nobody but Marquez can ride the Honda at the top of the order, and to me, he looked more ragged than usual on his pole lap. It’s going to be interesting.

        • Old MOron

          Miller’s speed has been a pleasant surprise. I don’t know how consistent his laps have been, but he’s been hustling that recently broken leg around the track pretty well. I think you’re right about things going to be interesting.

      • Ozzy Mick

        A report in motogp.com pointed out that Dovi was in P9 at Motegi, and Dovi himself wasn’t too fazed, saying racing and qualifying are different kettles of fish (my interpretation).
        Go Dovi, but second to Miller!

        • Old MOron

          Of course you’ve seen the race. Oh, my god! We are less likely to get a Valencia decider now, but that race was worth it.

          • Ozzy Mick

            Yeah, bummer, but it was a good race, and kudos to MM, #46,and Miller (especially given he had a broken leg).

  • spiff

    Looks like the Suzukis are benefiting from the new fairing.

  • Ozzy Mick

    A couple of minutes to go. The brolley sheilas look a bit of all right. Showers heading to the Island. Bring it on!