Losail, Qatar: It was a breathtaking opening, to say the least, to the MotoGP season in Qatar.
Andrea Dovizioso edged Marc Marquez in a thriller, whizzing past the world champion at the final corner of the final lap to win the VisitQatar MotoGP at Losail International Circuit on Sunday.
Dovizioso, on a Ducati, and Honda’s Marquez started from second and third positions on the grid, but with pole sitter Maverick Vinales off to a terrible start, it was clear that last year’s champion and runner up in Qatar would be the lead characters in this year’s race as well.
"I saw Marc in the last lap, struggle a lot with the rear tyre, so it was good for me to understand that and I push really hard in the last lap, but Marc never give up, he's always there - but I was able to answer because I put him really on the limit," said Dovizioso, adding that preserving his tyre was crucial.
"I don't know, it was a strange race. I didn't have really that strategy, but at that moment I thought it was the right strategy. I was managing the rear tyre because everybody was struggling, also, in the end, it was difficult to manage the tyre."
Marquez said he was happy with the result and the 20 points.
"It was exactly like last year. Exactly the same," said Marquez, who lost to the Italian in Qatar last year as well.
"I tried to push but here in the circuit when you overtake on the dirty place, you just go wide, was so difficult to keep the line. Anyway I tried, I tried to be there, I tried to push, I tried until the end. But very happy with these 20 points."
But the top two were challenged all the way to the final lap by third-placed Cal Crutchlow, also on a Honda, and Suzuki’s Alex Rins, who eventually finished fourth.
Rins started at 10th position, but he was soon challenging Dovizioso and Marquez for the top spot, with the trio trading the lead on numerous occasions.
But Rins, who was one of the most impressive performers in Qatar testing, made a big error with four laps to go and was out of the reckoning, allowing Crutchlow to move into third.
Joan Mir, also of Suzuki impressed for a while before finishing at eighth.
Meanwhile, Vinales was struggling to keep pace with the leading pack and eventually finished seventh but seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi was again impressive as he made use of his vast experience to finish fifth after starting from 14th.
But the race undoubtedly belonged to Dovizioso.
Dovi’s Ducati had a terrifying pace on the straight while Marquez was better out of the turns on his Honda and they showed their qualities in ample measures while fighting it out.
After Rins dropped out of the reckoning with four laps to go, it was obvious that the fight would be between Marquez and Dovizioso, but the manner in which they traded positions in the last couple of laps before the Italian made his grand move right at the end, was sensational.
Dovisiozo finished in 42:36.902 with Marquez just .023sec behind.
Earlier, Japan’s Kaito Toba won the Moto3 category while Australian Remy Gardner triumphed in Moto2.