Not even Andrea Dovizioso, championship challenger, and winner of the previous race saw a fourth victory of the 2017 coming, as the Italian admitted to feeling "a little surprised" the wake of yet another assured, measured MotoGP showing on Sunday at Silverstone.

Dovizioso freely admitted he had expected Honda riders Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow to dominate the afternoon’s events after morning warm-up, in which he set the eighth fastest time, seven tenths of a second off title leader Marquez.

But the 31-year old found himself in the early running amid a pulsating four-way fight for second place. As the laps went by, the Ducati man soon found himself gaining in strength, as he rode within his means to preserve his rear tyre for a final push.

And it was a series of decisive moves, carrying him to second on lap twelve, before claiming the lead at Valentino Rossi’s expense three laps from the flag that ultimately proved decisive. A narrow win by just 0.114s from a hard-charging Maverick Viñales was enough to re-take the lead for the first time in the season’s second half.

“I put myself in the right positions at the right moments,” said Dovizioso soon after re-assuming the championship lead. “That was the key.” Four wins in a year is the Italian’s biggest haul since that 125cc title 13 years ago.

“I’m a little bit surprised but before the race I had a good feeling after the warm-up, but not to win the race,” said Dovizioso, who now sits nine points clear of Marquez in the title race. “I expected Honda really competitive but it didn’t happen. During the race, we had to ride in a completely different way than to the practice.

“That changed most of the race, most of the time. I was very comfortable in most of the race. I was able to save the tyre like I saw Maverick and Marc. I was with them, and we did the same things.

“That gave me the possibility to arrive at the end of the race with better grip. In some corners I lose a lot but in some corners I was able to improve because I saw how they made those corners.

“With that grip I was able to overtake the riders quite easy and put myself in the right positions, at the right moment – that was the key of the race, because I wasn’t faster than the competitor. But I was in the right positions at the right moment, and that was the key.”

Pressed on his thoughts on this absorbing title fight, in which five riders are still separated by just 35 points with 150 left to play, Dovizioso described his second win at the British Grand Prix as evidence that he, at the very least, “have the chance to fight” for the premier class crown.

“Well, what happened today was something special for us. About the championship, we are there. We are leading but apart from that, we show to everybody we have a chance to fight for the championship.

“I know it’s really long, the championship and the competitors are really strong riders and bikes. Until the end it will be open 100 percent. But we won four races in different ways. It means we have a different base and we work well during the weekends.

“Also, when we are not the fastest we stay calm and we continue working like today. We go into the race with a good feeling and try and get the maximum. Today the maximum, I have a chance to fight for the victory, I didn’t expect it, and I was able to take that possibility.

“I’m really happy with how the team works. The bike has positives and negatives but I was able to play with the bike and use the positives and manage the negatives. It gave me the possibilities to stay with them.”

And would he say the Ducati GP17 is MotoGP’s most balanced bike, now that it has scored as many wins (four) as Honda and Yamaha in 2017? “It’s difficult to say no at this moment,” came the reply. “From Italy our balance is really good. Also, when we didn’t make the podium at Assen we were the fastest before the end of the race before it started to rain.

“It looks like with the new rules and the tyres we have this year we have a really good balance – maybe the best one. It’s difficult to say. The last four races, Marc was really, really, really fast. But every race it’s very difficult to say. But I’m happy.”

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