How close do you like it? Another last lap showdown sparks the Championship into gear
Opening the season with a sensational last lap performance, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) beat Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) to the line at the Losail International Circuit by just 0.027s, lighting the fuse on 2018 from the very first race. And the ‘Doctor’ Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completed the podium, putting in another Sunday stunner from Row 3 of the grid.
Frenchman Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) shot off pole position to take the lead into the first corner but there was nothing to split the top ten riders in the opening laps, and it looked as if any one of them could fight for the victory throughout the 22-lap thriller. With fastest laps flying in on each lap, Zarco was still able to keep hold of the lead.
With big battles taking place behind him, the French rider kept calm at the front whilst Rossi made his way through the field to get into podium fighting positions by the third lap, hunting down his fellow Yamaha in the lead. Marquez was never far away from the fight, sitting in the top five as soon as the lights went out. As ten laps had been completed riders were getting into a rhythm, but you could sense action was on the horizon.
Silent assassin Dovizioso moved up to third position on lap 11 as he spent the start of the race working through the field, passing his countryman Rossi who slipped back to the riders fighting for fifth. A clear battled had now developed for the podium, with Dovizioso and Marquez closing in on Zarco and they were able to make their move on the 18th lap, with Zarco losing two positions into the opening corner – as Dovizisoso took the lead.
Dovizioso and Marquez then began to break away, pushing themselves to the final corner of the final lap – taking no prisoners. Reigning world champion Marquez made his move through turn 15 but he was unable to make it stick, and Dovizoso led into the final corner meaning he was able to slingshot his Desmosedici over the line, 0.027s ahead. Another last lap showdown, and another Dovizioso victory in style.
Behind the duo, Rossi fought off his rivals to secure a safe third position ahead of top independent rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), whilst Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) made some strong moves on the closing laps to complete the top five.
Comeback king Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) crossed the line in sixth after being down in 14th on the opening lap, just ahead of Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), who made his 200th start in the premier class. Early race leader Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) crossing the line in eighth after struggling more in the latter stages, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) completing the top ten.
Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) opened the season in 11th, ahead of top rookie Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) who crossed the line in the top 12, as Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) salvaged three points from a tough weekend in 13th. Making his MotoGP™ debut, Malaysian Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) took a top 14 finish and his first points, ahead of Karel Abraham (Angel Nieto Team) who takes home the final point from Qatar in 15th.
It was a bad start to the season for Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who crashed out of the top six fight on the 13th lap at turn two, whilst Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) had a start to 2018 to forget and the Spaniard crashed out on the same lap – finding his brakes unresponsive at turn 16.
The paddock will now pack up and head to Argentina from 6th – 8th April for the second round of what is set to be a phenomenal MotoGP™ season – and the fuse is already lit.
MotoGP™ Race Results
1 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) DUCATI 42’34.654
2 – Marc Márquez (SPA) HONDA +0.027
3 – Valentino Rossi (ITA) YAMAHA+ 0.797