Dovizioso holds off Marquez in Qatar to draw first blood
Andrea Dovizioso drew first blood in a prospective MotoGP title battle with Marc Marquez by triumphing at the season-opening Grand Prix of Qatar on Sunday.
Ducati rider Dovizioso pushed Marquez to the final race in Valencia in a thrilling challenge last season, but the defending champion was made to settle for second as a last-turn move down the inside under the lights at Losail International Circuit failed to stick.
Valentino Rossi, who this week signed a new two-year Movistar Yamaha contract, charged up from eighth to earn the final step on the podium, as Johann Zarco, who qualified on pole with a record lap, had the lack of race pace in his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 exposed.
Although Ducati were celebrating Dovizioso getting off to a winning start, Jorge Lorenzo - a three-time MotoGP winner in Qatar - crashed out with 10 laps remaining as his frustrations following his move from Movistar Yamaha look set to continue.
Marquez led the opening lap after Zarco ran wide on the final turn, but the Frenchman regained first place at the next corner by getting in the Repsol Honda rider's slipstream.
In a serene start to the race, Rossi was the only man making major moves, but he lost ground to Marquez and Dovizioso after attempting to go down the inside of Zarco at turn one.
With Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) closing in on the leading group, Dovizioso made his move with five laps remaining and opened up the throttle to record the fastest circuit.
Marquez looked to slide through on the inside of the final turn but Dovizioso accelerated out of the shallower line to take the chequered flag and strike the first blow.
Say CHEESE pic.twitter.com/d46mX2HDOA-- MotoGP(TM) (@MotoGP) March 18, 2018
IN THE POINTS:
1. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati): 42:34.654secs
2. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda): +0.027s
3. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha): +0.797s
4. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda): +2.881s
5. Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing): +3.821s
6. Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha):+3.888s
7. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda): +4.621s
8. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3): +7.112s
9. Andrea Iannone (Suzuki Ecstar): +12.957s
10. Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing): +14.594s
11. Tito Rabat (Real Avintia Racing): +15.181s
12. Franco Morbidelli (Marc VDS): +16.274s
13. Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team): +19.788s
14. Hafizh Syahrin (Moster Yamaha Tech 3): +20.299s
15. Karel Abraham (Angel Nieto Team): +23.287s
1. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 25 points
2. Marc Marquez (Reposl Honda) 20 pts
3. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) 16 pts
4. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) 13 pts
5. Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) 11 pts
1. Repsol Honda 29pts
2. Movistar Yamaha 26pts
3. Ducati 25pts
4. Alma Pramac Racing 17 pts
5. LCR Honda 13 pts
Having completed the first weekend of the season in the Middle East, the riders have three weeks until they return to the track at the Argentina Grand Prix.