MotoGP rider Andrea Dovizioso at Melbourne Park.Andrea Dovizioso’s slim world championship hopes ended when he slid off the Japanese MotoGP circuit, but the Ducati star is eyeing a strong finish to set up a title tilt in 2019.
Spanish Repsol Honda star Marc Marquez claimed his seventh world title – his fifth in the premier class – when he took the chequered flag first in Japan last week.
Dovizioso is second in world championship standings on his factory Ducati heading into the n MotoGP at Phillip Island with three races remaining.
But a sizeable gap between he and leader Marquez has blown out to an insurmountable 102 points.
With Marquez in dominant form, the Italian veteran insists his focus shifted to next season a while ago.
“We were not thinking about the championship (even) when the championship was still open because the gap was too big,” Dovizioso said.
“So we are riding on the track to develop the bike for next year.
“When the championship is over you have to make the result but constantly improve the situation to try to be more ready next year.
“It’s what we have done and it’s the reason why from the beginning of the season to now we have improved a lot.
“And we will continue because we want to fight next year.”
The famed island circuit hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the 32-year-old who has managed just one podium finish – a third placing in 2011 – in 10 visits.
He finished a distant 13th last year, but with the gains made in the Ducati’s set-up in recent races, Dovizioso is treating a grand prix at his bogey track as a timely test.
“This is one of or the worst tracks for us,” he said with a wry smile.
“But it’s good to have this race now because we came from a really good result with good speed (in Japan) and it will be a good test for us to understand how much we have improved from last year.
“Last year we did a really bad result so I’m happy to be here. It’s not a good track for my style and it’s not a good track for the bike, but I think this year we can be much more competitive.”
Local hope Jack Miller is 13th in world title standings after he also crashed out in Japan after starting from the front row of the grid in third.