Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso kept himself firmly in the hunt for the 2019 MotoGP™ World Championship thanks to a superb damage limitation job of second place at the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, leaving him just eight points adrift of the rampant Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).
Dovizioso admitted it was a difficult weekend in France even going as far as saying he “wasn’t too confident” on the grid prior to the race. But a third podium of the year, and now becoming the only man to have finished inside the top four at all of the opening five rounds, means he’s in a far stronger position than in his past two title challenges in 2017 and 2018.
"We have to be happy about the situation of the championship" - @AndreaDovizioso ????️— MotoGP™ ???????? (@MotoGP) May 19, 2019
Although he isn't completely happy with his weekend, Dovi is taking the positives from Le Mans! ????#FrenchGP ???????? pic.twitter.com/RiMD1DVgaU
The 33-year-old is 33 points up on his tally, at this stage, from the 2017 season and a massive 41 points better off than he was this time last year. Plus, when you take into account the fact that Dovizioso has had a much stronger second half to the season in both 2017 and 2018, 15 points more in the second half of 2017 and 69 more in 2018, Desmo Dovi looks likely to cause the reigning World Champion some headaches this year.
The Bologna factory rider could see the positives from another podium weekend where he never really showed his full potential, finishing the combined Free Practice fifth quickest and then qualifying behind Ducati counterparts, Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), in fourth.
“At the end, second position after a difficult weekend with the weather, and on the grid I wasn’t too confident, is really good because the Championship is completely open. But, I’m not too happy because it confirms that we need something more to fight with Marc.
“We are close but it’s not enough. My speed is there but we need something more. I’m not happy because the last eight laps I was fighting with my rear tyre and that’s why Danilo caught me. He was a bit faster, so I made a strategy and it worked so I’m happy about the position, but we have to improve.”
He was forced to earn his 20-point haul after being put under some immense pressure in the closing stages by his Ducati teammate, Danilo Petrucci. The Italians swapped places on a number of occasions, with Dovi just coming out on top.
“I tried to understand his good points whilst being in front of him, which was very difficult but, at the end, it paid off. I took some risks because I was quite slow and I didn’t have the grip to make the speed, so I have to prepare the corners in an intelligent way to try to not be passed by Danilo in some corners.”
The big question on everybody’s lips at the moment is a simple one: how do you beat Marc Marquez? Only Miller has been able to get past the factory Honda man in the past four races, with the World Champion in dangerously imperious form.
Form so good that even Dovi hasn’t got any answers, at the moment, on how you stop him winning a fifth consecutive premier class crown: “I don’t know! From outside they have a bit more power, so they lose less on acceleration, and then Marc does the other parts because he’s the only rider fighting for the victory.”
After outscoring Marquez by a solitary point in the second half of the 2018 season, if Dovi can stay within touching distance over the next four rounds before the summer break, it will be well and truly game on in the fight for the 2019 MotoGP™ World Championship.