Just when no-one was looking in Mugello, as all eyes appeared to be on the nine times world champion, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) who had a huge following at the Italian circuit, along came an Italian rider, Andrea Dovizioso on Italian machinery and won the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley.
Promising start to the meeting for the Italian
The Ducati rider looked promising at the start of the meeting as he topped the first Free Practice session on the opening day. At a track where the team have done a lot of testing, with the Desmosedici GP 17 and with French tyre manufacturer and supplier to the MotoGP class, Michelin, the Ducatis all looked promising. Test rider for the team, Michele Pirro was demonstrating his familiarity joining Dovizioso at the top of the timesheets.
Front row start For Dovizioso
His time on the opening day was beaten ever so slightly by Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) as the British rider managed to set a flying lap which was just 0.29 seconds quicker than that of Dovizioso. When the temperatures soared on the second day Dovizioso was down in eighth by the end of FP3 but then went on to qualify for a front row start for the sixth round of the season.
Dovizioso suffering from food poisoning prior to race day
Come race day, it was overcast at the Autodromo del Mugello, and Dovizioso failed to produce a lap time during the morning. He had been suffering with food poisoning, as had several riders in the paddock and was lacking energy.
This surely did not shine through come the race. The extra time Ducati will have had in the mixed conditions prior will have helped to pay off surely. He opted for the medium compound tyre on both the front and the rear and lined up on the grid alongside the Movistar Yamaha boys ready to race.
Dovizioso battled for the lead from the start
Rossi initially led the race and Dovizioso slotted into fourth behind both pole position man, Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) and his not-so-new Ducati teammate, Jorge Lorenzo in third. The Ducati teammates used their known acceleration and top speed to thunder down the start-finish straight. Both attacked for the lead, but Dovizioso went wide when he missed the braking point on turn one of the second lap allowing Rossi to go back through.
On the third lap Dovizioso did the same, but he remained fourth as he struggled to stop and gain any positions. Ahead of him he watched on as Vinales made his way to the front as Rossi forced his way passed Lorenzo, caused the Spaniard to sit up which allowed Vinales through.
Ducati used their acceleration to gang up on Vinales
The next time round the two Ducatis ganged up on Vinales riding either side of him down the straight. Initially Vinales fended Dovizioso off and under the pressure went on to pass Rossi and take the lead, then Dovizioso passed the Italian on the fourth lap.
Rossi retaliated a lap later at the opening turn of the lap, but the following lap in the same place, Dovizioso stole second back. He then spent another nine laps chasing Vinales before he overtook Vinales using an outside line heading into turn one of the 14th lap.
Italian rider wins Italian round on Italian machinery
And that was where the Italian remained until the end of the 23 lap race. Despite the pressure he was constantly under, he crossed the line with a 1.281 lead over Vinales in second becoming the first Ducati to win at home for the manufacturer. He and Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) proved successful in bringing two Italian bikes to the podium, the first win for the 2017 evolution of the Desmosedici that has struggled otherwise so far this year, and on home turf.
Dovizioso collected 25 points in Italy and in turn gained a spot in the championship. He now sits second in the standings behind Vinales who leads with 105 points. Now on 79, Dovizioso jumped above Rossi who finished fourth, collecting 13 points so he is now third with 75 points. His win saw him become the fourth different winner of a MotoGP race so far this season; just six rounds in.
Sleepless night for Dovizioso
Describing the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley as a “triumphant day”, he admitted that it had “started badly after a sleepless night” due to the food poisoning that he had. He found that he “didn’t have much energy” however he “knew that the bike was going to be strong”. He felt this because they had “worked well throughout the weekend” and felt a lot of positive energy and support from his “fans, physiotherapist and family” which he claimed “made a big difference”.
Speaking how “despite the fact [he] wasn’t at 100%” he found that come the race he was “able to administer the race” even though he felt he “wasn’t the quickest man out there”. Instead he felt he “did a perfect strategy” and that he “moved into the right position at the right moment”.
Special win for Dovizioso and Ducati
Throughout the race he felt he “rode really smoothly” and he intended to “never force the pace excessively” which he felt ”made all the difference” especially as he sees Mugello as “a track that physically wears you out”. He found that the tyres “did not allow [him] to push too hard”. He finished by saying, “Finally we did it; winning at Mugello is really something special!”