History repeated itself at Qatar. In the best possible way. As at Austria last year, as at Motegi, the race came down to the last corner between the same two riders in just the same way.
Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso had taken control in the closing stages of a close and thrilling 22 lap race, under floodlights at the 5.380km Losail circuit in the desert outside the capital Doha.
Inches behind, defending champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) wasn’t ready to give up easily.
Into the last corner, again a right-hander, he dived inside to seize the lead.
As at the previous races, Dovizioso let him go, then pulled his own line tight, cut inside him, turned on that Desmosedici horsepower, and dragged past to lead him over the line by 0.027 of a second.
“It was a perfect race – we managed in a perfect way,” said Dovi. “I got a bad start, but I was calm, recovered really slowly, and saved the tyres so I was able to push at the end. But I knew Marc would try, and it was hard.”
Marquez was laughing. “The show goes on. I knew it was a difficult track for me, and when Dovi pushed I was extra on the limit. But I arrived close at the last corner, so I try. I thought he could overtake me before the finish line, but some day I will do it.”
The small crowd was as thrilled by third place – Valentino Rossi again proved the adage that nobody should ever rule him out.
The Movistar Yamaha made a blazing start from the third row of the grid, and by the sixth of 22 laps was up to second behind pole starter and long-time race leader Johan Zarco (Monster Yamaha).
The Frenchman would lose the lead on lap 18, and drop back to eighth in a very close pack. But 39-year-old Rossi hung on to take the final podium position, just days after signing a two-year contract renewal that will keep him racing until he is 41.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) was fourth, narrowly ahead of Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda). Zarco was a couple of seconds adrift, his tyres spent, but still comfortably clear of Andrea Iannone (Ecstar Suzuki) and Jack Miller (Pramac Ducati).
Suzuki’s Alex Rins crashed out of the front group; Jorge Lorenzo also crashed the second factory Ducati, after running wide with a technical problem.
MOTO2 Race – 20 Laps
Last year’s top rookie Pecco Bagnaia (SKY VR46 Kalex) led almost from start to finish over 20 laps of Moto2 – losing the lead only briefly on the final lap as former race winner Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons Kalex) nosed ahead. But Bagnaia took him straight back on the next change of direction to win by just over one tenth,
Third-placed pole qualifier Alex Marquez (VDS Kalex) had been in the mix and was up to second when he suddenly ran wide and slowed … his rear brake visibly glowing red hot.
He managed to hang on to third, a second clear of the pursuing Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Kalex), who had outpaced the KTM pair Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder.
MOTO3 Race – 18 laps
Front-row starter Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Honda) took his second career win for a second successive race, opening this Moto3 season as he closed the last. He had to fight every inch of the way with fellow-Spaniard Aron Canet (EG Honda). A third front runner, Enea Bastianini (Leopard Honda) crashed out on the sixth of 18 laps.
The pursuit pack got bigger and bigger, with Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Honda) coming through to prevail for the final podium place, six seconds from the leaders, but just 0.045 ahead of pole starter Nico Antonelli (SIC58 Honda). There were 11 in the pack, with KTM riders John McPhee and Marco Bezzecchi crashing out in the last lap.
By Michael Scott