The 2017 MotoGP champion will be decided in Spain at the final round of the season, after Andrea Dovizioso won the Malaysian Grand Prix and Marc Marquez finished 4th, enough to prevent the Spaniard winning his 6th world title. Dovizioso scored 12 points more than Marquez, enough to bring the deficit to the defending champion down to just 21 points.
After a downpour between the end of Moto2 and start of MotoGP, the premier class race got underway in terribly wet conditions, similar to that of 12 months before. Marquez ambitiously bounced down the inside at turn one from row 3 but ran out wide with Jorge Lorenzo, leaving Johann Zarco to lead for Tech 3 out front. By the end of lap 1, Lorenzo recovered to 2nd with Marquez 3rd. Championship challenger Dovizioso was 4th with pole-man Dani Pedrosa 5th.
On lap 5, Andrea Dovizioso made his first move. He passed Marc Marquez to take third but that was not enough: the Italian needed to take 8 points or more away from Marquez; at the time, it was a mere 3. Marquez never looked like fighting back but he maintained the pace and held onto the shirt tails of the leading three at the time.
With Zarco’s lead whittled down to virtually nothing, it was time for the Ducati of Jorge Lorenzo to move ahead. He made short work of Zarco and before long, Andrea Dovizioso followed his so-far-winless teammate, taking 2nd. This now meant that Dovi was taking 7 points off Marquez, 1 shy of the crucial 8 required. This introduced the possibility of two scenarios for the title to be kept alive: Marquez would have to drop back, which would include teammate Dani Pedrosa passing him – an unlikely scenario. The other scenario was Andrea Dovizioso passing his teammate, who, as we have already alluded to, is winless. Would Dovizioso be helped to keep the title alive by Lorenzo? The same multi-million Euro investment Jorge Lorenzo, who is the team’s number 1?
Dovizioso pushed Lorenzo all the way, with the Bologna Bullets blasting off into the distance – over three seconds clear of Johann Zarco who in turn had a massive lead over series leader Marc Marquez.
Perhaps the shock of everything was the fact that there were less riders interfering with Marquez and packing out the places in the order. Back in 2015, Rossi and Lorenzo, as close as it was come the end of the season, hardly met on circuit – either because they were too far out front from each other or there were riders separating them – Silverstone and Phillip Island examples of the latter. On Sunday, there were no signs of Rossi, who looked good in the dry. Likewise, for Petrucci, a demon in the wet – although he suffered a breakdown on the sighting lap. The Suzukis weren’t in the mix and Jack Miller was also out of the top 6. How vital will the lack of interference be at the end of 2017?
We then saw a message from Ducati’s pit crew appear on Lorenzo’s dashboard. “Suggest mapping 8” it read. Whilst we all took to Twitter to ‘suggest’ what “suggest mapping 8” meant, Jorge Lorenzo lost the front of his Ducati at the re-profiled turn 15, allowing Dovizioso to power past Lorenzo and lead across the line. Dovizioso was now in a position where he would take a whole 12 points off Marquez, enough to keep the championship alive.
Dovizioso won for a 6th time in 2017 and Ducati got their first 1-2 since Austria last season, as Lorenzo came home in 2nd – his best result on the GP17. Johann Zarco got his 2nd podium of the season, as he completed the top 3, giving Tech 3 their first taste of champagne in Malaysia.
The championship moves on and heads back to Europe, where all is to play for in what is set to be some of the most high-pressured racing of the season. Who will be the winner of an incredible championship?
Image by: MotoGP