Dovizioso takes MotoGP victory in Malaysia, becomes ninth winner of 2016

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Andrea Dovizioso picked up his second MotoGP victory in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix to become the ninth different winner of the 2016 season, setting a new record for the premier class of motorcycle racing.

Dovizioso scored the fifth pole position of his MotoGP career on Saturday at the Sepang International Circuit, but dropped back to third on the first lap as Valentino Rossi hit the front of the pack for Yamaha on a drenched track.

Rossi was joined at the sharp end of the field by Dovizioso’s Ducati teammate, Andrea Iannone, who took the lead on lap two as he went in pursuit of his second win of the year.

Dovizioso was left with world champion Marc Marquez and Australian Grand Prix winner Cal Crutchlow for company, only for both to fall by the wayside. Crutchlow slid out of the race at Turn 2 to relieve some of the pressure on Dovizioso, before Marquez fell at Turn 11. The Spaniard was able to get back up, but his win hopes were over.

By this point, Dovizioso had reeled in the leading duo of Iannone and Rossi, who swapped positions with eight laps remaining. Iannone’s win hopes were ended one lap later when he also crashed out, handing second place to Dovizioso.

Putting the straight-line speed advantage of the Ducati Desmosedici GP16 bike to good use, Dovizioso was able to close right up on Rossi before capitalizing on an error made by the nine-time world champion. Rossi ran wide at Turn 1, allowing Dovizioso to move into a lead he would not relinquish.

Some seven years after his first win in MotoGP at the 2009 British Grand Prix, Dovizioso crossed the line to claim victory in Malaysia with an advantage of three seconds at the checkered flag over Rossi.

In doing so, the Italian rider became the ninth different rider to win a race in 2016, marking a new record for MotoGP.

Jorge Lorenzo rounded out the podium on the second factory Yamaha bike, having hit the front on lap one before making an error. Hector Barbera and Loris Baz made the most of the conditions to finish fourth and fifth respectively, while Maverick Vinales ended the race sixth.

Alvaro Bautista finished seventh for Aprilia ahead of Jack Miller and Pol Espargaro, while Ducati satellite rider Danilo Petrucci rounded out the top 10. Marquez ultimately finished 11th after a rough weekend blighted by illness.

The final round of the 2016 MotoGP season takes place in Valencia, Spain on November 13.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.