Dovizioso grabs Qatar win after thrilling last-lap battle with Márquez
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Andrea Dovizioso won a pulsating opening race of the 2019 MotoGP championship, winning for Ducati ahead of reigning champion Marc Márquez, with Cal Crutchlow finishing a spirited third.
Even before the race start under the lights in Qatar there was plenty of drama in qualifying. Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales claimed pole as Jorge Lorenzo crashed early on, meaning the new Honda rider would start 15th – one place behind seven-time MotoGP champ Valentino Rossi.
In the race, pole-sitter Viñales ended up back in sixth at the end of lap one, allowing Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso to lead from Jack Miller's satellite Ducati before the Australian fell out of contention with mechanical gremlins, leaving Honda’s Marc Márquez to take up second followed by Cal Crutchlow.
As the pack settled, the Suzuki of Álex Rins seemed suited to the cool evening conditions, and the Spaniard passed Crutchlow and Márquez and took the battle for the lead to Dovizioso, proving a match on the corners, but no match for the top speed of the Ducati.
With five laps remaining, the top four bikes were within one second, Crutchlow slotted into third. With three laps to go Márquez took the lead and hustled Dovizioso all the way around the final lap Márquez attempted a bold block pass on the final corner, but Dovizioso just had enough grip and power to take a dramatic win.
Top 5: Qatar motorcycle Grand Prix 2019
- Andrea Dovizioso – Ducati
- Marc Márquez – Honda
- Cal Crutchlow – Honda
- Álex Rins – Suzuki
- Valentino Rossi – Yamaha
1. Dovizioso executed a Ducati masterclass
Ducati’s Dovizioso rode a supremely measured and mature race to fend off intense pressure firstly from the Suzuki of Álex Rins, and in the second half of the race from Honda’s Marc Márquez.
The Italian managed his rear tyre wear superbly to get the most from the superior grip and top-end speed of his Ducati to maintain control out in front for most of the Grand Prix.
Dovizioso needed all his 11 years of MotoGP experience to fend off a desperate block pass on the final corner from Márquez, playing a waiting game take the win in the desert and surely stake his claim as a championship contender.
2. Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo endured a race to forget
With 10 MotoGP titles between them, both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were barely seen by the TV cameras as they both attempted to recover from lowly grid positions and salvage something.
In his first Grand Prix with Honda, Lorenzo stated he was "in pain everywhere" following a practice crash and a more serious off in qualifying, compounding the fact he's still struggling from a wrist injury sustained in the winter and he finished 13th in Qatar.
Similarly, MotoGP's GOAT Rossi endured a frustrating qualifying session and started down in 14th, his frustration heightened by the fact his Yamaha team-mate Maverick Viñales took pole.
Seven-time MotoGP champion Rossi eventually came home a decent fifth, two places ahead of his pole-sitting team-mate as the leaders backed the pack up somewhat. He heads to the next race in Argentina with a decent points haul.
3. Suzuki are looking good in 2019
If the opening race of the 2019 MotoGP season is anything to go by, Suzuki will be challenging for wins with both riders, Álex Rins and Moto3 champion and MotoGP rookie Joan Mir.
From a starting position of 10th on the grid, Rins took the lead with 15 laps remaining and looked like a potential winner before slotting in behind the leading duo of Dovizioso and Lorenzo as team-mate Mir looked quick and confident, running as high as third in the early stages.
Rins managed to lead in the latter stages of the race and waved goodbye to a podium spot as he ran wide at the first corner with a couple of laps remaining, allowing Crutchlow to take third. Suzuki’s new boy Mir eventually come home in eighth, but this performance bodes well for the blue bikes.
4. It was a memorable MotoGP debut for Fabio Quartararo
The teenage sensation had a pretty dramatic debut MotoGP weekend. The French Team Petronas SRT rider went from hero to almost zero as he stalled his bike on the grid and started from the pitlane, meaning his excellent qualifying effort of fifth counted for nothing.
Visibly angry and with the adrenaline pumping, the hotly-tipped rookie hit the track, and instead of chucking it into the gravel, channeled his frustration excellently and set about clocking up some great lap times and keeping up with the pack.
Quartararo did more than keep up, and the 19-year-old passed Lorenzo with 10 laps remaining, ending up a superb 16th, just behind compatriot Johann Zarco on the Red Bull Racing KTM.
5. Cal Crutchlow is a very, very tough guy
British Honda LCR rider Cal Crutchlow was laid up all over the winter with a broken ankle sustained at the 2018 Australian Grand Prix in back in October and struggled to get fit for the opening round in Qatar.
The three-time MotoGP winner proved the aches and pains were no problem in qualifying and managed to start the race sixth and was within sight of the front three throughout the entire race.
Crutchlow kept pace with the very rapid Suzuki of Rins and managed his tyres superbly to follow the Honda of Márquez home and take a 17th podium to make all the physio, all the operations and all the pain seem that little bit more worthwhile.