In the wake of his most trying day for some time, world championship hopeful Andrea Dovizioso was bullish in his assertion that he has the pace to challenge for the podium, after a lacklustre qualifying showing at Phillip Island.

Sat second in the title standings, eleven points behind Marc Marquez, Dovizioso could do no better than eleventh in the 15-minute Q2 shootout after a fast fall when braking for the downhill turn ten robbed him of the necessary confidence to push.

By his own omission, Dovizioso’s fastest qualifying was littered with mistakes, but the 31-year old was keen to point out the positives of his weekend in Australia – namely his pace with Michelin’s medium option rear tyre.

In his eyes, only Marquez and Johann Zarco demonstrated a similar, if not better, pace. Tomorrow’s 27-lap race will be no walk in the park, he admitted, but Friday, when he placed third overall, and FP4 demonstrated a top three placing is not entirely out of reach.

“Qualifying was a consequence of the crash,” began Dovizioso, five times a winner in 2017. “If we check my pace yesterday and today in the FP4 it was quite good. The only riders that went fast were Marc, Zarco and me. All the other riders with the medium were quite slow so I think we confirm a good speed.

“But most of the riders used the soft tyre. In the qualifying I didn’t have a perfect feeling to really make a good lap time. Phillip Island has strange characteristics. You have to be so confident to take a lot of speed in the really fast corners so if you do not have the feeling it’s so easy to lose tenths [of a second] corner-by-corner. This is what happened.

“With a bad feeling I did three mistakes on my fastest lap so I was able to make a better lap time. No excuse, but for sure the reality about the pace in the race is completely different. To start on the back can be a limit. I hope it’s not like this but this is what happened.

“In the qualifying I understood a lot of things. One lap like this, everything has to be perfect. It was difficult at that time but I’m not worried about that. We have to see the conditions we can find tomorrow. It looks like we can be worse but we have to see the wind, in which way, whether it’s wet, cold…

“Also the front tyre, the soft and the medium are really on the limit. That’s why I crashed so tomorrow there are still a lot of decisions to take still from everybody about the front and especially the rear.”

The crash that upended the Italian came mid-way through FP4 when braking for the downhill MG hairpin. Dovizioso felt he was ‘on the limit’ of Michelin’s asymmetric front tyre, and suffered a similar moment at turn four moments before.

“The temperature wasn’t hot enough. It was on the limit, the medium, on the right side. It’s the limit. If you brake hard it’s so easy to lose the front. I always feel at turn four on the same lap the limit.

“At turn ten it’s uphill and downhill. At that moment you don’t load the tyre enough if the temperature is not perfect, it’s easy. The crash from Phillip Island is always like that – turn four or turn ten.”

Dovizioso’s underwhelming placing was compounded by chief rival Marquez’s pole position, achieved by the comfortable margin of 0.3s. While acknowledging the Repsol Honda rider is the clear race favourite, the Ducati man, who last qualified this poorly at Jerez in May, knows managing the rear tyre will be key to a good result.

“To fight Marc tomorrow will be very difficult. This is the reality. The nice things of our sport is everything can happen and this is the reality. I believe in that. For sure he have the best pace but we have a good pace to fight for the podium.

“It’s important to make a good start and be smooth when I’m riding; it’s so important. It’s the key to be fast on this track. But I didn’t ride in qualifying in that way.

“A lot depends on the start. If I gain a few positions already I’m not in a bad condition to fight for the podium. After you have to be very smooth so you don’t use too much the rear tyre. At the end for sure it will affect the riding style, the drop of the rear. 27 laps here for the tyre is a nightmare.”


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