Andrea Dovizioso beats Marc Marquez to win thrilling Qatar MotoGP opener
Andrea Dovizioso pipped Marc Marquez to victory in a thrilling opening race of the 2018 MotoGP season in Qatar, with Valentino Rossi completing the podium.
Pole man Johann Zarco, just as he did on his MotoGP debut 12 months ago, took the holeshot at the start, while the Honda duo of Marquez and Dani Pedrosa slotted in behind.
A small mistake at the final corner allowed Marquez to briefly take the lead, but the Tech3 rider retaliated immediately on the run into Turn 1, while Rossi moved up to third at the start of the following tour.
Zarco continued to lead for much of the first 18 laps, absorbing pressure from Marquez, Rossi and Dovizioso, who worked his way through the pack after a steady start.
Dovizioso stormed into the lead with five laps to go, using the brute force of his Ducati to swallow the satellite Yamaha rider down the pit straight. Marquez followed the Italian through despite running wide at Turn 1.
By now, Zarco's pace dropped off as his tyres ran out of grip, with Rossi easing ahead at Turn 6. Dovizioso tried to break away from the chasing Marquez and Rossi, posting a fastest lap of 1:55.242s on lap 19 in the process.
But he could not shake Marquez, who hounded him across the final lap and launched a daring raid into the final corner, just as he had done in Austria and Japan last year.
Once again, though, he ran in too hot and allowed Dovizioso to get the drive out of the corner to take his first win at Qatar in the premier class by just 0.027 seconds.
Rossi, despite a difficult winter and concerns over tyre life on the '18 YZR-M1, was just eight tenths further back in third, while Cal Crutchlow brought his LCR Honda home in fourth, ahead of Pramac's Danilo Petrucci.
Maverick Vinales was 15th in the early stages after an average start, but was lapping in the same pace as the leaders, and came through the pack in the closing stages to salvage sixth.
Pedrosa faded to seventh in the end ahead of Zarco, while Andrea Iannone was the sole Suzuki across the line in ninth after team-mate Alex Rins fell while fighting for the podium at Turn 2 on lap 13. Ducati's Jorge Lorenzo crashed out just moments later at Turn 5.
Jack Miller completed the top 10 on his Pramac debut aboard the GP17, with former Marc VDS team-mate and Ducati stablemate Tito Rabat half a second adirft in 12th, ahead of top rookie Franco Morbidelli.
Hafizh Syahrin ended his history-making debut 14th for Tech 3, with the Nieto duo of Alvaro Bautista and Karel Abraham surrounding him.
Pol Espargaro joined Rins and Lorenzo on the sidelines, the KTM rider's RC16 encountering yet another technical issue in the desert.
Qatar - Race Result
|1||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Team||25|
|2||Marc Marquez||Honda Team||0.027||20|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha MotoGP||0.797||16|
|4||Cal Crutchlow||LCR Honda||2.881||13|
|5||Danilo Petrucci||Pramac Racing||3.821||11|
|6||Maverick Vinales||Yamaha MotoGP||3.888||10|
|7||Dani Pedrosa||Honda Team||4.621||9|
|8||Johann Zarco||Yamaha Tech 3||7.112||8|
|9||Andrea Iannone||Suzuki Ecstar||12.957||7|
|10||Jack Miller||Pramac Racing||14.594||6|
|11||Tito Rabat||Avintia Racing||15.181||5|
|12||Franco Morbidelli||Marc VDS||16.274||4|
|13||Alvaro Bautista||Angel Nieto Team||19.788||3|
|14||Hafizh Syahrin||Yamaha Tech 3||20.299||2|
|15||Karel Abraham||Angel Nieto Team||23.287||1|
|16||Thomas Luthi||Marc VDS||24.189||0|
|17||Takaaki Nakagami||LCR Honda||24.554||0|
|18||Bradley Smith||KTM Racing||31.704||0|
|19||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia Racing||34.712||0|
|20||Scott Redding||Aprilia Racing||37.641||0|
|21||Xavier Simeon||Avintia Racing||46.706||0|