Rain or shine, Dovizioso proves he can lead the pack

Ducati daredevil: Andrea Dovizioso doing a wheelie after topping the opening practice session yesterday. Inset: Dovizioso is interviewed by a TV reporter.

RAIN or shine makes no difference to Italian daredevil Andrea Dovi-zioso.

The Ducati MotoGP rider proved that he’s adept at both wet and dry conditions by setting the fastest times in the two free practice sessions of the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix in Sepang Circuit yesterday.

He was quickest in the first practice session under dry conditions, clocking 2:00.671. In the wet afternoon session, Dovizioso again headed the time sheets by posting 2:11.640.

Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez, who can bag his fourth premier class crown at Sepang tomorrow, was fifth fastest in the first practice (2:00.950) and second to Dovizioso in the wet (2:12.166).

Spain’s Alvaro Bautista of Pull&Bear Aspar Team was second quickest overall after a last dash in the first free practice, posting 2:00.742.

He was followed by rookie of the year Frenchman Johann Zarco of Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (2:00.807).

Dovizioso endured a nightmarish ending when he came in 13th, while title rival Marquez won, at the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in Phillip Island last Sunday.

He now trails Marquez by 33 points – with only a maximum of 50 points left to fight.

Dovizioso needs to rein in Marquez by finishing in the top seven at Sepang to take the world championship title fight to the final round in Valencia, Spain, from Nov 10-12.

Dovizioso, who won here last year, was pleased to start the weekend title fight on a positive note.

Andrea Dovizioso of team Ducati interviw with media at Sepang circuit yesterday.(26/10/2017/S.S.KANESAN/The Star)
Dovizioso is interviewed by a TV reporter.

“I’m really happy because we confirmed our speed in two conditions. We’re happy about this morning.

“It was not a normal dry practice but the laptime wasn’t too bad, even if the conditions and grip weren’t so good.

“In the wet, we wanted to confirm the good things from last year and it was even better. The bike worked really well and it was so good,” said Dovizioso.

Despite struggling in dry conditions, Marquez was satisfied with how the day ended for him.

“I don’t feel so bad. It was not the best day for us, but it wasn’t so bad.

“We improved and I’m feeling good. So, we’ll try and keep the same level,” said Marquez, who has won only once here – in 2014.

“It’s difficult to understand where we are in the dry but in the wet we are not so far.

“There are two long straights and Ducati are very strong there. We will see how it goes in qualifying.”

As direct entry to second qualifying will be decided in the third practice session, Italian Valentino Rossi will be the big name praying for a dry track today.

The nine-time world champion was 12th fastest in the first practice (2:01.662) but failed to improve on it despite being sixth fastest in the afternoon (2:13.071).

“I still don’t feel comfortable with the bike because we don’t have enough rear grip. We need to improve if we want to be competitive in wet conditions,” said Rossi.

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