Dovizioso wins in Malaysia to keep championship alive
Andrea Dovizioso has given himself a chance to win the MotoGP World Championship in the final race of the season with victory in Malaysia as Marc Marquez finished fourth.
Dovizioso led Jorge Lorenzo to a factory Ducati one-two and cut Marquez’s championship lead from 33 points to 21, with 25 on offer to the winner in Valencia.
A shower prior to race start saw the entire field take wet tyres, with light rain still falling when the lights went out.
Dani Pedrosa made what appeared to be a satisfactory enough start from pole but team-mate Marquez came from the third row to throw his Repsol Honda down the inside at Turn 1.
It was Johann Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha), however, who emerged with the lead from Pedrosa and Marquez.
In a frenetic standing lap, Zarco led Lorenzo across the control line by well over a second, with Marquez third, Dovizioso fourth, and Pedrosa having already been disposed to fifth.
Lorenzo was gradually closing the lead but it was the battle for third which was most intriguing, with Dovizioso pressuring Marquez.
The Italian made his first move at Turn 14 on Lap 4 but ran wide at the next corner and Marquez jammed bike #93 back up the inside.
Dovizioso passed Marquez for good on the next lap and the two Ducatis set after Zarco, both usurping #5 on Lap 9.
With Dovizioso second and Marquez fourth, the Spaniard’s live championship lead was a title-winning 26 points.
Zarco and Marquez began to struggle for rear grip, the latter losing ground to the top three, and the fate of the championship lay in an intra-team battle between the red bikes.
The gap between Lorenzo and Marquez trended downwards until the former made a crucial error on Lap 16.
Lorenzo, who appeared to not have any inclination towards helping his team-mate, ran wide at Turn 15 and nearly fell off bike #99, allowing Dovizioso to ride past up the main straight.
Despite initially looking to go with Dovizioso, Lorenzo gradually lost touch with #04, but the return of the rain still made for a nervous final few laps.
Dovizioso nevertheless held his nerve to take a critical sixth win of the season, ahead of Lorenzo and Zarco.
“A perfect weekend for me,” remarked Dovizioso.
“(A big) thank you to the team because this is the way to work during the weekend.”
Marquez appeared content to settle for a solid haul of points which keep him a strong a favourite to win a fourth premier class title, having not had the pace to match Zarco.
Pedrosa took a similarly lonely fifth, while Danilo Petrucci rode a remarkable race to sixth, having started from pit lane on his Pramac Ducati after mechanical problems prior to going to the starting grid.
The Movistar Yamahas were again uncompetitive in wet conditions, with Valentino Rossi finishing seventh and Maverick Viñales ninth.
Jack Miller made steady progress from as low as 13th to finish eighth, and Pol Espargaro rounded out the top 10.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) picked up the last world championship point in 15th, one position ahead of Tech 3 Yamaha replacement rider Michael van der Mark on his MotoGP debut.
In Moto2, Franco Morbidelli was already champion by the time the race started after Thomas Luthi, who broke his left ankle in a nasty qualifying crash, was declared unfit to race.
Miguel Oliveira won the race and Morbidelli finished third, but Remy Gardner crashed out.
Marquez will now set his sights on finishing no worse than 11th in Valencia (November 10-12), to guarantee that he is crowned champion.
Race results: Malaysian Grand Prix
|1||04||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||44’51.497|
|2||99||Jorge LORENZO||SPA||Ducati Team||Ducati||+0.743|
|3||5||Johann ZARCO||FRA||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||+9.738|
|4||93||Marc MARQUEZ||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||+17.763|
|5||26||Dani PEDROSA||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||+29.144|
|6||9||Danilo PETRUCCI||ITA||OCTO Pramac Racing||Ducati||+30.380|
|7||46||Valentino ROSSI||ITA||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||+30.769|
|8||43||Jack MILLER||AUS||EG 0,0 Marc VDS||Honda||+35.238|
|9||25||Maverick VIÑALES||SPA||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||+38.053|
|10||44||Pol ESPARGARO||SPA||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||+39.847|
|11||19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||SPA||Pull&Bear Aspar Team||Ducati||+42.559|
|12||38||Bradley SMITH||GBR||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||+44.602|
|13||45||Scott REDDING||GBR||OCTO Pramac Racing||Ducati||+48.696|
|14||8||Hector BARBERA||SPA||Reale Avintia Racing||Ducati||+50.058|
|15||35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||GBR||LCR Honda||Honda||+50.705|
|16||60||Michael VAN DER MARK||NED||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||+56.397|
|17||29||Andrea IANNONE||ITA||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||+58.391|
|18||53||Tito RABAT||SPA||EG 0,0 Marc VDS||Honda||+1’25.571|
|DNF||22||Sam LOWES||GBR||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||11 Laps|
|DNF||17||Karel ABRAHAM||CZE||Pull&Bear Aspar Team||Ducati||12 Laps|
|DNF||76||Loris BAZ||FRA||Reale Avintia Racing||Ducati||15 Laps|
|DNF||42||Alex RINS||SPA||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||0 Lap|
Championship points: After Round 17
|28||Michael VAN DER MARK||NED||0|