Ducati's Dovizioso storms to victory at a wet Sepang
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) took his second ever victory at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, as he navigated the torrential conditions of Sepang to emerge as the ninth winner of 2016: an all time first for the MotoGP World Championship to write another chapter in the ever-changing history books of the premier class. After dueling for the lead earlier in the race, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) came home P2, with teammate Jorge Lorenzo completing the podium. Lorenzo got the best start off the front row, but it was Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) from Row 2 who moved through the furthest – up to second around Turn 1 - with Lorenzo ahead and the frontrunners shuffling. With Rossi pushed down to P4, the front group of the Movistar Yamahas, Ducati Team and Marquez were joined in the fight at the front by Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro – before the Spaniard then slid out at Turn 1; able to rejoin but down the order.
Rossi fought his way back into the lead before Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) struck to take P1 – despite still recovering from a cracked vertebra from a crash in Misano – and the Maniac held firm. Teammate Dovizioso was holding off Marquez in third and fourth, with Jorge Lorenzo stalked by Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) just behind. A duel broke out at the front between Rossi and Iannone, with the Maniac true to form and hitting back as the Doctor attacked, before a Turn 15 move saw Iannone take back the lead and power out of the corner ahead – with the speed of the Desmosedici GP16 unthreatened on the main straight.
Dovizioso and Marquez were far from out of the fight, with both moving back to gain on the Italian duo in the lead. Lorenzo was the rider finding himself out of podium contention as he fell down to sixth, moving back into the top five as Phillip Island winner Crutchlow then fell at Turn 2 – the first shot of melodrama in the Malaysian GP. Two more high profile crashes then rocked the front group, as reigning World Champion Marquez lost his Honda at Turn 11 and slid out – rejoining in the points but out of contention for the victory – followed by early superstar Andrea Iannone at Turn 9, who was unable to rejoin but walked away unscathed.
Dovizioso vs Rossi: Italy vs Italy: Yamaha vs Ducati became the duel at the front – and Rossi was beginning to suffer with the front tyre. With a handful of laps remaining, the rider from Tavullia ran wide at Turn 1 and left his compatriot able to get through, with ‘DesmoDovi’ needing no further invitation to start building a gap. Keeping it calm and on the road, the number four Ducati crossed the line an incredible margin clear by the penultimate lap, before letting that advantage eke away on his way to the flag – keeping everything minimal risk. Rossi kept his YZR M1 upright in second, as Lorenzo took a solid result in the wet to complete the podium, with the caution that at the start saw the Mallorcan overtaken then converted into a good haul of points as he kept it on the road.
Dovizioso's spectacular win, as well as marking the ninth different victor of the year, is his second premier class victory - the first being Donington Park in 2009 - and the second win this season for the Borgo Panigale factory, after a long drought since 2010. Loris Baz and Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) were the unsung heroes further back on track as the drama ahead stole the spotlight, with Baz showing incredible wet weather pace once again, into fourth with five laps to go. Barbera then overtook his teammate, with the two crossing the line to complete the top five in another Brno-esque triumph for the team.
Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) had an uncharacteristically quiet race as the Silverstone winner struggled slightly in the wet conditions, nevertheless taking a solid P6 and good haul of points. Alvaro Bautista shone for Aprilia Racing Team Gresini once again in Malaysia with a well-deserved seventh place for the Noale factory, ahead of Assen winner Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich), who completed the top ten. World Champion Marc Marquez – despite his crash – crossed the line eleventh to retain Phillip Island as his only DNF in a stunning year on his scorecard.