The latest eleventh part of our mid-season review sees us come to the end of the top ten in the championship standings, and another brace of Ducatis. We take a look at Andrea Dovizioso's rough year, and the consistency of Eugene Laverty:
9th: Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati, 59 points
If it wasn't for bad luck, Andrea Dovizioso wouldn't have any luck at all. Of the nine races so far this year, Dovizioso has finished just five, and one of them, only by pushing his bike across the line.
Dovizioso's run of bad luck started in Argentina, where he ended up being taken out two corners from the finish line by his teammate Andrea Iannone. Given Iannone's reputation, that hardly counts as a surprise, but one week later, Dovizioso found himself on the floor again, this time wiped out by Dani Pedrosa. That is virtually unheard of – at least since Estoril in 2006 – and Pedrosa immediately showed he is a man of honor by rushing over to check on the Italian after losing the front and hitting Dovizioso's bike. Compare and contrast the behavior of Iannone at both Argentina and Barcelona.
Another race, another nightmare. This time, it was the turn of the bike to let Dovizioso down. A failed water pump spewed water onto the rear tire of the Italian's Ducati, forcing him to retire for the third race in a row. A crash at Le Mans made it four in a row, though this time, Dovizioso himself was to blame. He asked too much of his front tire (despite using 2° less lean angle that lap), and down he went. He added one more crash of his own at Assen, when he crashed out of a strong position in the restarted wet race.
Dovizioso's tough season belies some fairly impressive performances. Of the four races the factory Ducati rider has finished normally, two have seen him climb the podium, while a third saw him finish in a very respectable fifth place. It makes you wonder where the Italian would be if fate hadn't kept intervening.
Dovizioso has been one of the riders to suffer most with the switch to Michelin tires. The Italian was the latest of the late brakers, the last man to squeeze the lever on the way into the corner, and keeping it hard on all the way to the apex. The Michelins make it much tougher to deploy that strategy, and so Dovizioso has had to work hard to adapt. The move away from the Desmosedici GP14.2 had already handicapped him in that regard: the GP15 and GP16 have sacrificed corner entry to help the bike turn better, leaving Dovizioso declawed.
The Italian is made of stern stuff, as he showed by pushing his bike across the line in Argentina, after being unceremoniously decanted into the gravel by Iannone. That grit, together with work ethic and intelligence is what ensured Dovizioso kept his seat in the factory Ducati team for next year. He will need grit and determination to get through the second half of the season, but above all, he will need just a little bit of luck. He's owed some.
10th: Eugene Laverty, Ducati , 53 points
Eugene Laverty took a calculated risk when he came to MotoGP at the start of 2015. The plan was simple: spend a year on a bike that was poor (Laverty was under no illusions that the RC213V-RS would be competitive) gambling on having a much sharper tool for 2016.
The gamble has paid off only partially. The Ducati Desmosedici GP14.2 Laverty has at his disposal this year is a much stronger bike than last year's Honda, but the Aspar team's financial troubles have meant resources have dwindled. That has also meant top mechanics leaving, to be replaced with much less experienced ones. Fortunately for Laverty and teammate Yonny Hernandez, Aspar have finally secured a new title sponsor for the remainder of the season in Spanish clothing brand Pull&Bear. That should ease the situation, and perhaps even bring them some help.
A better bike has allowed Laverty to show something of what he is capable of. The Irishman has posted some excellent results, best of all being a fourth place finish in Argentina. It was a place he was gifted, after Hector Barbera went wide in the last corner and pushed Pol Espargaro off line, but Laverty had been right on their tails when it happened, allowing him to benefit from it. He has had a couple of top ten finishes, at Assen and Jerez, both notable for the intelligence applied to secure the result.
That intelligence shines through in the consistency he has shown all year. He is one of only three riders to have finished every race this year, along with Marc Márquez and Hector Barbera. That consistency puts him tenth in the championship, ahead of the factory Suzuki of Aleix Espargaro, the two factory Aprilias, all of the satellite Hondas and Bradley Smith. Given the bike he has at his disposal, Laverty is punching well above his weight. Compare and contrast his results with those of his teammate, Yonny Hernandez.
Those results will probably not reap him any rewards in MotoGP, however. All the signs are that Laverty will be accepting a ride in World Superbikes, aboard a factory-backed Aprilia RSV4 in the Milwaukee SMR team. Laverty may deserve to stay in MotoGP, but the chances of being on truly competitive machinery are slim. A return to WorldSBK will give him a chance to start winning again.
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