Phillip Island: Andrea Dovizioso is looking to make further gains on Marc Marquez’s world championship lead in Sunday’s Australian MotoGP at the demanding Phillip Island circuit where he historically struggles.
Dovizioso powered to his fifth win of the year at rainswept Motegi last weekend in a pulsating final corner duel with Marquez to reduce the world champion’s lead to 11 points with just three rounds left in the championship.
Marquez’s second place was his 100th career podium from 165 starts and he is the youngest rider at 24 to achieve the milestone.
Marquez’s consistency has made him the benchmark rider of this season’s world championship but Italy’s Dovizioso has doggedly kept in touch on his Ducati and Phillip Island looms as the pivotal race of this year’s fight for the title.
“For sure Phillip Island is one of Marquez’s favourite tracks and the situation will probably be a bit more difficult for us,” Dovizioso said.
“But last year we did a good race and so we must try and work in the best possible way throughout the weekend.
“There are now just three rounds left until the end and on paper we are not favourites for the win in Australia but we’ll be fighting as hard as ever.”
Marquez has two victories around Phillip Island – in the 125cc class in 2010 and the 2015 Australian MotoGP – along with two podium finishes and four pole positions.
Against that Dovizioso won in the 125cc class in 2004 and made the podium with a third place in the 2011 MotoGP.
Marquez has had his madcap moments around the Phillip Island track, crashing out in last year’s race while leading and already crowned world champion and he also came off his Repsol Honda bike during the 2014 race.
But the flying Spaniard has been on pole for the past three years at Phillip Island and rates the track as one of his favourites.
“I really look forward to this weekend because Phillip Island is an incredible racetrack, one of my favourites,” he said.
“It’s difficult because it’s very physical, with many hard and fast changes in direction, but I enjoy it a lot and generally I think it’s a better track for us than Motegi.”
Spain’s Maverick Vinales still has a mathematical chance of claiming the world title on his Movistar Yamaha, lying 41 points behind Marquez with three races left.
“I like the Phillip Island layout a lot and I love being here, it’s amazing,” Vinales said.
“The championship isn’t over until all the points have been distributed, so anything is still possible.”
His teammate Valentino Rossi has a phenomenal record at Phillip Island with six wins in the premier class from 2001 to 2005, and again in 2014.
The legendary Italian, in fifth place and 76 points adrift of Marquez on the world standings, resumed racing last month just three weeks after double leg fracture surgery.
“I’m in a good mood because I want to work in the best way possible with my team and fix the issues we had in Japan and do nice races again,” Rossi said.
“After the crash in Japan I’m feeling pretty good, just a little bit of pain.”
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) and Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) have both won around Phillip Island and have podium chances.