Andrea Dovizioso took top honours at the opening round of the 2018 season, holding off a determined challenge by Marc Marquez to cement his place as the second most successful racer in Ducati’s history.
The Italian rider, who started from Row 2, was unable to get a good start when the lights went out and he crossed the line at the end of the opening lap in seventh place.
However, Dovizioso dug deep, consolidated his position and then began moving up into the leading group, battling with Marquez, Rossi and Zarco before taking over at the front on lap 18.
Dovizioso was unable to shake off Marquez on the Repsol Honda, the Spaniard shadowing the Italian before launching an attack at the final curve. However, Dovizioso held his nerve and was able to get through on the inside and profit from the acceleration of his Desmosedici GP18 to cross the line just 0.027s ahead of his Honda rival.
Dovizioso said: “I’m really happy with this win because we have confirmed the improvements made over the winter and I was able to manage the race well, even though I made a really bad start.
“On the first lap I had to come off the gas, otherwise I would have crashed into Rins I think, but then I began to make up places, trying not to ruin the tyres.. Towards the end, after passing Zarco, I tried to pull out a gap on Marquez and Rossi but I didn’t have any more grip and was unable to increase my lead.
“At the last curve I had to be very careful because I knew that Marquez would try and pass me, and that’s how it went. He closed the door on me even more than in Austria and Japan, but I passed him on the inside of the kerb and then took advantage of the power of my Desmosedici to stay ahead.”
The win means Dovizioso has overtaken Loris Capirossi in the list of most victorious Ducati riders in MotoGP with eight wins to his name, and is now in second place in this particular ranking behind Casey Stoner.
The race was less enjoyable for team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who crashed out with a front brake problem on Lap 12.
The Spaniard said: “It wasn’t one of the best weekends for me. I had a lot of problems and my crash was the result of a problem with the front brakes. Already on Lap 2 I realised that something wasn’t right and I tried to manage the situation, but the problem was getting worse. I thought it was an overheating problem, but when I was about to catch Iannone I wasn’t able to stop the bike and I tipped myself off to avoid worse damage. Now we have to understand what exactly happened to prevent the same problem from repeating itself in the future. It’s a pity because I was lapping with good times and I think I could have got closer to the leading group.”