Movistar Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales has won the season-opening race from Qatar, as the Spaniard got the better of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso in an intense-duel. Valentino Rossi sensationally rallied his way from 10th place on the grid to complete the final podium position in third.
After a short delay due to a shower of rain, it was Andrea Iannone who got the holeshot ahead of Johann Zarco and reigning World Champion Marc Marquez. The lead however was short lived for the Suzuki rider as Zarco forced his way past the Italian towards the end of lap one to lead the Grand Prix.
The Frenchman unbelievably led the next six laps as the Tech 3 rider used the grip advantage of the soft tyre to eek out a 1.6s gap over the main protagonists. The fairytale however came to an end for Zarco when he lost the front at the difficult turn two. This left Dovizioso out in front ahead of Marquez and Iannone.
With both Yamaha’s quietly sneaking there way back into contention and Dovizioso establishing a one second lead at the front, the pressure was all to much for Iannone, who slid out at turn five after an epic battle with Marquez. A faded Marquez who made the late switch to the soft front tyre, was disposed of by the Yamaha duo with relative ease while they continued their quest to catch Dovizioso who still had a commendable lead out front.
Vinales was able to reel in race leader Dovizioso within a matter of two laps and subsequently made his was past the Ducati rider with seven laps to go. The Yamaha rider was unable to make the move stick however as the sheer power of the GP17 always seemed to grunt its way past Vinales in the home straight.
With The “Doctor” lurking in the background, Vinales made the decisive move on the penultimate lap and he put in a personal best final lap to hold of the gallant Ducati rider and take his second premier class victory. Despite showing little pace in practice, Valentino Rossi proved age is just a number, as the Italian cruised across past the chequered flag to take his 187th career podium in the premier class.
Marc Marquez crossed the finish line in a quiet fourth, just ahead of his charging teammate Dani Pedrosa, who also got the better of the sensational Aprilia debutante Aleix Espargaro, who recovered from 15th on the grid to finish an incredible sixth.
Pramac Ducati’s Scott Redding was top satellite rider in seventh position, with Jack Miller, Alex Rins and Jonas Folger rounding the top ten. Jorge Lorenzo’s race hopes were dashed after going wide on the opening lap and dropping all the way to 16th. However the three time World Champion recovered well to finish a credible eleventh.
Loris Baz, Hector Barbera, Karel Abraham and Tito Rabat completed the point scorers. KTM Racing’s Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith finished the Austrian Manufactures maiden race just outside the points in 16th and 17th respectively. Aprilia’s Sam Lowes brought up the rear in 18th.
The MotoGP paddock returns to action in two weeks time as they head west to the Termas De Rio Hondo Circuit in Argentina.
1. Maverick Viñales
2. Andrea Dovizioso
3. Valentino Rossi
4. Marc Marquez
5. Dani Pedrosa
6. Aleix Espargaro
7. Scott Redding
8. Jack Miller
9. Alex Rins
10. Jonas Folger
11. Jorge Lorenzo
12. Loris Baz
13. Hector Barbera
14. Karel Abraham
15. Tito Rabat
16. Pol Espargaro
17. Bradley Smith
18. Sam Lowes