On an idyllic Sunday afternoon in the British countryside, Ducati veteran Andrea Dovizioso, in the midst of a dream season, won the British Grand Prix, pimping the factory Yamaha team at the flag. Disaster struck the Repsol Honda team on Lap 14 when Marc Marquez, fast and fighting for the lead, saw his engine, and series lead, go up in smoke. The championship heads to Misano in two weeks tighter than tree bark.

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The championship took a dramatic turn when Marc Marquez’s engine blew while fighting for the lead at Silverstone.

Practice and Qualifying

Two of the three Brits on the grid, Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding, passed directly into Q2, both on the strength of their times in FP2. Familiar names who failed to do so included the usual suspects, as well as Danilo Petrucci, Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Iannone, Alex Rins (again missing out on Q2 by fractions of a second), and Jonas Folger. In addition to Redding, both Espargaro brothers made it through, the KTM team (Pol’s crew) dancing for joy. Folger and Pedrosa went on to make it through Q1, setting up a scintillating Q2.

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After taking the pole at Silverstone last year, Cal Crutchlow qualified once again on the front row for his home race.

The Main Event on Saturday boiled down to Marc Marquez and everyone else. While the young Catalan marvel was busy breaking track records, one on each soft rear tire, the rest of the grid was running at the limit to stay within touch. One by one, Viñales, Crutchlow (who started on pole last year) and finally Valentino Rossi took runs at him, Rossi looking especially strong on his flying lap until encountering what he describes as his “usual” difficulty in the last sector.

With Rossi settling for second, and looking highly dangerous, Crutchlow completed the first row, Viñales, Jorge Lorenzo and Dovizioso making up Row 2. Parenthetically, Rossi’s time would have been the new track record had it not been for the impudent Spaniard sitting on pole. Vale’s main problem on Sunday, along with the rest of the Yamaha contingent, would be conserving his rear tire over 20 long laps on Sunday. Johann Zarco in eighth and Folger in tenth place appeared not to be serious threats during the next day’s race, although the Yamahas dominated FP2, claiming the top three spots therein.

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Marc Marquez took his eighth pole of the season and fourth in a row.

Tech 3 Yamaha rookie Jonas Folger, who had qualified 10th, crashed heavily in Sunday’s warm-up practice and could not start the race. And Pol Espargaro inexplicably crashed his factory KTM on the warm-down lap after the flag, something rarely seen at this level. In between fans were treated to 20 laps of sweaty palms and high drama, at the only track on the planet sufficiently British to feature a corner named Maggots.

In Honda Weather, Ducati Rules

With air temps in the upper 70s and the track temperature over 100, it felt more like Spain than England, conditions the Hondas love and everyone else loathes. Valentino Rossi took the hole shot from the middle of the front row and had things his own way almost all day, the key word being “almost.” Almost, today, meant until Lap 18, when Dovizioso, who had been steadily climbing the time sheets after finishing Lap 1 in sixth place (from whence he started) went through cleanly and for keeps. Dovi had climbed into second place after dueling with and disposing of Lorenzo (Lap 2), Crutchlow (Lap 3), Marquez (Lap 6) and Viñales on Lap 12. Sandwiched between Rossi and Viñales at that point, Dovi appeared unruffled, not pushing overly hard. My expectation was that he would eventually go the way of all PB&Js, swallowed up by the Boys in Blue.

Not today.

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Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales posed a tough obstacle for Andrea Dovizioso but the Ducati rider was able to pull through for the win.

By Lap 14, Dovizioso was dogging Rossi, dragging Marquez along for the ride, everyone conserving tires and gas as best they could. Viñales and Crutchlow appeared to be struggling to keep up, the Spaniard the only one of the five sporting a soft rear tire, the other four on hard rears, as it were. Suddenly, out of the proverbial clear blue sky, a meaningful puff of white smoke emerged from Marquez’ RC213V (something I don’t recall seeing from a factory Honda in the last 10 years), and his day was over. Dovizioso technically took the lead in the championship at that moment, although there was plenty of race left, plenty of time for disaster to strike someone somewhere.

Not today.

Dovi Stiff-Arms the Yamahas

Once Marquez left the building, the front four consisted of Rossi, humming along unmolested, Dovi, Viñales and Crutchlow. With a third of the race left, Rossi looked to be encountering grip problems, not getting away, and suddenly Dovi appeared to be lining him up. Crutchlow seemed to be gaining on Viñales as the fans, collectively urging him on, awaited the eventual dropoff in the Spaniard’s rear tire. My only note on Lap 16 reads, “CC needs to GO!” Which, unfortunately for him, he never did. Instead, Viñales started showing signs of renewed life. Shortly after Dovizioso went through on Rossi at the Stowe corner (referred to by most of us as Turn 15) on Lap 18, Viñales did the same, consigning Rossi, in his 300th premier class start, to deal with Crutchlow. It was on Lap 17 that Andrea Iannone, wearing out his welcome with Suzuki, lost the front and collected Petrucci on his way out. Petrucci, pedaling hard for a top 10 finish after a gruesome weekend, appeared less than completely amused by the turn of events.

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After the race, Andrea Dovizioso admitted he wasn’t the fastest rider out there but was in the right position at the right moment.

During the last two laps, Rossi took several runs at Viñales, none succeeding, while Viñales, smelling blood and trailing Dovizioso by only 6/10ths of a second at the start of the final lap, fired in his fastest lap of the race on the last lap and came breathtakingly close to overtaking Dovi at the flag, losing by a tenth, with Rossi another half second in arrears. So much for the theory that soft rear Michelins and hot weather do not go together.

The Big Picture

Today’s shocker upset the championship standings at the top, as follows:

35 points continue to stand between Dani Pedrosa, who finished today’s tilt in seventh, and the series leader. But Marquez’ DNF put him nine points behind Dovi, with Viñales snapping at his heels. Rossi and Pedrosa are still in the hunt, just barely, as in trailing by 20 or 30 points with six rounds left. The rest of the field, headed by Johann Zarco and Jorge Lorenzo, need to find other reasons to race besides contending for a championship. Like beating your teammate, or beating a rider (#99, for instance) getting paid boxcars full of euros running sixth for the year. Dovizioso, lucky dog that he is, has the pleasure of all three motivators, and, at age 33, is a legitimate threat for his first premier class title. Earlier in the year he was singing the blues about the Desmosedici GP17 not being good enough to win a title this year. He may have to re-think that; perhaps his meaning was lost in translation.

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With a career high of four wins and the championship lead after two-thirds of the season, Andrea Dovizioso is a serious threat for the 2017 championship.

The Undercards

Taka Nakagami, fresh off the announcement he will be joining the LCR Honda team next season, found enough extra motivation from that to win today’s Moto2 race by a fraction of a second over a reborn Mattia Pasini, who started from pole for the third race in a row after not having a pole position for ten (10) years.

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MotoGP-bound Taka Nakagami (30) took his first win of the season. Franco Morbidelli, who will be joining him in the premier class next season, finished third but still holds a comfortable lead in the Moto2 standings.

Earlier, Aron Canet, another 17-year old Spanish wonder, took the abbreviated Moto3 race in which the top eight finishers were separated by 7/10ths of a second. The race was red-flagged with one lap to go after Bo Bendsneyder and Juanfran Guevara collided, with Guevara stretchered off to a hospital, after losing consciousness. Fortunately, Guevara was soon able to regain consciousness and let everyone know via Instagram that he will be okay:

For most of the day, the Moto3 race had a lead group consisting of over 20 riders, easily some of the best wheel-to-wheel racing anywhere in the world. Next year I think I’ll just cover Moto3 and leave covering the premier class to some other old MOron.

Next Up: Misano

Two weeks from now the flying circus moves to the Adriatic Riviera at Misano, home track to Dovizioso and any other rider with a drop of Italian blood in his veins. All of the non-Italian Ducati riders will be paisans for a long weekend. Expect lots of red in the crowd to go along with the usual tiresome sea of yellow shirts, flags, banners and smoke. The 2017 season is two-thirds over, and nobody I know has a clue who will take the crown in what has become one of the most hotly contested championships in years.

Be there. Aloha.

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After an unfortunate DNF at Silverstone Marc Marquez will look to bounce back at Misano.
  • spiff

    “Expect lots of red in the crowd to go along with the usual tiresome sea of yellow shirts, flags, banners and smoke.”

    Are you just baiting me? It is more like a loving warm yellow hug.

    • Yes. Trying to get a rise outta you and the rest of the Rossiti.

      • Old MOron

        Ha ha, just on priciple. Right, Brucey?

        • Call me a cynic, but somewhere in me resides the thought that a lot of Rossi fans who came of age a decade ago are frontrunners, loyal to be sure, but like NY Yankee fans were in the 60’s, Dallas Cowboy fans in the 70’s, Laker fans in the 80’s, etc. I suppose the same could be said for Marquez fans these days. Personally, although I try to be objective in my work, I get a little motowood every time Marquez does something beyond belief. Like breaking 2 minutes at Silverstone on a lap full of mistakes.

          • Old MOron

            Actually, I was just trying to keep this gag running: http://www.motorcycle.com/events/motogp-brno-results-2017#comment-3455559431

            You’re not the first observer to mock the yellow hordes. But I think Vale deserves his celebrity. Sure he’s loved for his charisma, his post-win celebrations, etc., but he is also a genuine badass. If Marquez and Vinales grew up admiring the Doctor, I don’t see why anyone else should question his worth.

          • Dude is, indeed, badass. Doing things in his late 30’s most riders couldn’t do in their twenties. Plus, if you’re Italian, what the hell else do you have to root for?

          • spiff

            Dovi

          • Aha! That explains the ocean of red 04’s, red smoke, DesmoDovi condoms for sale in the restrooms, etc.

          • Gruf Rude

            If Italian, you can root for Ducati – which does explain “Ducati Island” and T-shirt sales second only to Harley’s . . .

          • spiff

            Any girl would be proud to be protected by the honorable DesmoDovi in red. He is such a gentleman.

          • spiff

            If someone isn’t enjoying Marquez’s career they aren’t paying attention. I have never seen anyone ride at that level. That being said his “fouled plug” didn’t hurt my feelings at all. Lol

            It doesn’t really matter who they root for or why. The fact that they are there is the important part. All the energy in the stands is what elevates “great racing” to an epic event. Plus the guy selling energy drinks doesn’t mind paying for it all.

            And again, think of it as a warm yellow hug. In ten years everyone will be taling about the good old days, and how the ridiculous Rossi fans used to drop so much smoke you couldn’t see during the sighting lap.

          • Well said. Something tells me these are the good old days.

  • spiff

    Was that a spark plug failure for the 93?

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Smoke would seem like a gasket failure.

    • Gruf Rude

      His Honda has been trying to kill Marquez all season; apparently it got so frustrated at its lack of success that it killed itself….

  • JMDGT

    I can’t wait for the next race.

    • Old MOron

      Just think. You’re season-deciding pick-three almost came to pass.

      • JMDGT

        The next race will be very interesting.

  • elgar

    Great summary Bruce, thanks!
    Nice, close racing with no histrionic bike switching or so called ‘pit strategy’!
    Somewhat disappointed for Vale doing all the ‘donkey’ work for 17 laps, and very happy that Desmo Dovi arrived on the top step. My prediction was partially correct: 2 Italians and 1 Spaniard on podium for this round was on point albeit only Dovi was correctly specified.

  • Starmag

    Well Spaceman, congrats for an fairly accurate reading of your crystal ball predicting MM’s “plug foul”. Or was it a prediction stolen from the Naggon mothership or an “Italian conspiracy”?

    Go Desmo Dovi! End transmission.

    • spiff

      What if Dovi does it? Does Lorenzo have to give him his lunch money?

      • Starmag

        It’s going to be awkward, that’s for sure. Dovi is doing it without the “Sister Bertrille’s cornette” wings, as well.

        First El Gato attempts to mimic Rossi’s post-race celebrations, now he’s failing to prove he can succeed at Ducati where Rossi couldn’t. Rossi apparently occupies a large portion of JL’s cranium. He should probably just be glad that it hasn’t rained more than it has this year.

        • spiff

          The bike can win, so if Lorenzo can adapt… Iannone is in the same boat.

      • And carry his books to school all year.

  • Ian Parkes

    Looks like Luigi Dall’Igna’s grumpy refusal to ditch winglets and to reinvent them inside a fairing (making the Ducati the racing equivalent on the eyesoreness scale of a PC800) is paying off. Ducatis now competitive in other places as well as the Red Bull Ring. Yes Dovi had already won a couple of other races but this new fairing is cemeting him in place at the front.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Dovizioso is not using the new fairing.

      • Ian Parkes

        Serves me right for watching this race on my phone. Okay, I give up. How the hell is he doing that, then.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          He is a cool, consistent and smart rider. He was able to anticipate and counter MM’s moves.

  • Old MOron

    I cannot believe that Vinnie set his fastest lap of the race on the final lap of the race. How the heck did he make that soft tire work for 20 laps? Credit to Dovi for being fast and for being smart. Credit to Cal for putting on a good show at his home track. Credit to Vale for leading 17 laps. He said yesterday that he had to improve his race pace. I wonder if he and his team were able to do that at the expense of tire prolongation.

    While I’m wondering, I wonder if Marquez’s bike lost a little power before it blew up. He seemed to be slowing down. Oh well, sucks for him and his fans, but great for the championship. Everyone knows you need to have some luck on your side. It wasn’t on Marc’s today.

    As usual Moto 3 was the best race of the day. I keep marveling at Fenati’s crazy lines. He fearlessly sweeps around the outside. It’s spectacular to watch, but it also seems to make him vulnerable. I wonder if he has to use wide sweeping lines because he’s kind of a husky kid. If he’s heavier than his competitors, maybe he’s forced to use corner speed because his bike is too slow to accelerate underneath his weight. It will be interesting to see him on bigger bikes next year.

    Moto 2 should have a lot of talent next year: Alex Marquez, Matia Pasini, Aron Canet, Jorge Navarro, Brad Binder, Joan Mir, Romano Fenati… and Sam Lowes.

    • Did Fenati catch a Moto2 ride for next year??? Missed that. Dude is a baller.

      • Old MOron

        Yup. I hope he goes even better on the bigger bikes.
        https://www.google.com/search?q=romano+fenati+2018

      • JSTNCOL

        Bruce… you’re not allowed to use the word “baller.”

        • Short for “ballerina.”

          • JSTNCOL

            Bawler on the other hand is perfectly acceptable. Rossi is a bawler, Redding is a bawler, Crutchlow.

  • Vrooom

    Dovi has a solid chance this year. He does well at what used to be called Honda tracks, and Yamaha tracks. Surprised Lorenzo got 5th, tranche 2 might have to get pretty big Bruce.

  • A factory Honda blows up – under the guy holding an IOU card for the 2017 championship – and no one gives credit to The Racing Gods? Sacrilege.

    • Old MOron

      I guess we’re a sacrilegious band of MOrons. But I don’t mind praying to the Racing Gods for a season that comes down to Valencia.

    • Or blame, as the case may be. Welcome to the conversation, Ryan.

  • Kos

    Dayem, and THIS is the one I forgot to set the DVR for?!

    Nice writeup, Bruce. I sure won’t miss the next one.

  • Rossi’s season appears over. Bummer.