Andrea Dovizioso has bagged his first MotoGP win in over seven years at the Sepang International Circuit, navigating his way through treacherous conditions to become the premier class’s ninth different winner in 2016. Valentino Rossi came home a distant second following an intense duel with his Italian compatriot with teammate Jorge Lorenzo crossing the line a lonely third.
The rain bucketed down just prior to the start of the race which saw a twenty minute delay and the race was shortened to nineteen laps. Many of the top riders chose the medium front and rear rain tyre. When the Malaysian Grand Prix got underway, Lorenzo got the holeshot and scorched off into the lead. However the Spaniard dropped back which allowed a six rider freight train to tag onto the back of him which included Yamaha teammate Rossi and freshly-crowned World Champion Marc Marquez.
Rossi and Andrea Iannone fought their way past Lorenzo and the pair began to exchange numerous blows while poleman Dovizioso slotted his way into third. Despite suffering a serious back injury, the “Manic Joe” battled his way past the “Doctor” and held firm at the front while the nine time World Champion sat back waiting for his overtake opportunity to arise.
Iannone used the Desmosedici GP16 top speed down the pit straight to great affect as he was able to repel Rossi’s attacks and the Ducati rider could easily retake the lead if the Yamaha rider had made his way past earlier in the lap. Dovizioso and Marquez were hanging onto their coattails in third and fourth but Cal Crutchlow and Jorge Lorenzo were steadily losing touch with the leading pack.
While Rossi and Iannone diced for the lead, Crutchlow had recovered from his loss of pace and the Australian Grand Prix winner was beginning to mount his challenge on the front four but disaster struck for the Brit, when on lap twelve he hit the deck which resulted in his race coming to a premature end. On the same lap Rossi forced his way past the idling Ducati rider who was starting to slip through the group. Dovizioso grew tired of sitting behind his teammate and lunged on him into turn seven.
Two more high profile crashes then rocked the front group, with Marquez next to taste the gravel, as the reigning champion tucked the front and slid out of turn eleven. The Spaniard rejoined in the points but the victory was now out of reach. A lap later, Iannone lost his Ducati at turn nine, losing the front-end under heavy braking.
The fight for victory was now between Rossi and “Dovi” who had a sizable gap over the deteriorating Lorenzo in third. The decisive move came at the start of lap fifteen when the Tavullia rider ran wide into turn one, allowing his compatriot into the lead and he allowed the Ducati rider to start building a gap which he would never relinquish.
Holding his nerve, Dovizioso cruised to his first MotoGP victory since Donington Park in 2009, crossing the line 3.115s ahead of second place and becoming the ninth winner in seventeen premier class race’s this season. Rossi held off his charge to take the flag in second place, finishing nine seconds ahead of teammate Lorenzo which confirmed the Italian runner-up to Marquez in the championship. The “Spartan” rounded out the top three in third to take a solid result in the wet conditions although many fallers contributed to the Spaniard making the Rostrum.
Avintia Racing Team duo of Loris Baz and Hector Barbera produced incredible performances, first Baz who used his wet weather skills to climb into fourth with five laps to go, but teammate Barbera muscled his way past in the latter stages to take his best result of the season and claim the Spanish squad’s second top-five finish of 2016.
Maverick Viñales completed a relatively quiet weekend in sixth as the Silverstone winner never seemed to get going in the wet conditions. Alvaro Bautista continued Aprilia Racing Team Gresini good form with his ninth top ten finish of the season in seventh. Jack Miller was top Honda in eighth position ahead of Pol Espargaro and Danilo Petrucci who rounded out the top ten.
Marc Marquez despite his tumble finished P11 with Eugene Laverty, Aleix Espargaro, Bradley Smith and Scott Redding taking the rest of the points.
MotoGP returns in two weeks time at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, with only big question left to be answered, will there be a tenth winner?