Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso claimed victory in the first MotoGP race of the new season as he took the chequered flag at the Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Italian managed to hold off the challenge of world champion Marc Marquez in a thrilling finish, while Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi completed the podium as he came home in third place.
The race in Qatar made history. It was the first MotoGP sunset race, as noted by journalist Mat Oxley:
Mat Oxley @matoxley
First sunset race in GP history coming up next?
Marquez got off to a great start and looked to go up the inside and snatch the lead, but pole-sitter Johann Zarco managed to hold his position. Marquez did take advantage of a Zarco mistake later in the first lap to move in front, but the Frenchman was quick to slipstream past him and retake the lead.
Behind the leading two, Rossi was moving through the pack. The Italian started down in eighth place but was quickly past Dani Pedrosa and into third, as shown by MotoGP:
Here comes The Doctor! @ValeYellow46 is up to 3rd! ? #QatarGP https://t.co/VTy1PElyEv
Marquez was next, and Rossi reeled him in before sliding past to take second place with Zarco maintaining the lead. Rossi had a few looks but was willing to be patient before making his move. However, with the two fighting for first place, Marquez took advantage to slingshot back into second with 12 laps to go. MotoGP showed how the action unfolded at the front of the race:
Rossi makes his move for the lead…but to no avail! And through comes Marquez! ? #QatarGP https://t.co/srrMtEDv3p
Meanwhile, Dovizioso had suffered a poor start but was working his way up the standings, and he also went past Rossi. The two changed positions a couple of times before Dovizioso made it stick and held his place.
While the action was unfolding behind him, Zarco was looking composed and in control out in front, and the track was also claiming some victims. Alex Rins was the first rider to crash out, and he was swiftly followed by Jorge Lorenzo.
With seven laps still to go, the race was still wide-open with any of the seven in the leading pack capable of claiming victory. Dovizioso’s speed meant he was looking a real threat as he passed Marquez again for second and then into first. Marquez and Rossi then followed as Zarco slipped down to fourth.
Elsewhere on the track, Maverick Vinales was the fastest man despite being down in eighth place. MotoGP writer Simon Patterson was impressed with how he turned his race around:
Simon Patterson @denkmit
Impressive turnaround for @maverickmack25 – he’s now eighth and closing down the leading pack. Should have the pace to catch them, too #QatarGP
Dovizioso responded by posting the fastest lap of the race as the action heated up, but he could not shake off Marquez. The two headed into the final lap with little to choose between them. Marquez had a go at the final corner as he went for the inside, but Dovizioso was quicker on the power to edge over the finish line just in front.
Patterson showed the final standings:
Simon Patterson @denkmit
What a finish! Looks like we’re just kicking off where we left last year as Dovi and Marquez go head to head in the final corner (again!) #QatarGP https://t.co/nYboIrHUCI
It was a thrilling battle between the two men, with the race following straight on from last season as Marquez and Dovizioso continued their rivalry. This time, it was Dovizioso who came out on top, and he may feel the win is overdue having finished second on this track for the last three years in a row.