Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso gave a riding masterclass in tricky conditions at the Sepang International Circuit, winning his sixth of the season to keep the title battle alive going into the final round at Valencia.
Dovizioso, who started from third place on the grid, didn’t get a perfect start and had to battle with Honda’s Dani Pedrosa on the opening lap. The Italian then caught and passed title rival Marc Marquez on Lap 5, before setting after the leading duo made up of Zarco and Lorenzo.
Dovizioso passed the impressive French rookie on Lap 9, and began stalking his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who was himself looking to take his maiden Ducati win.
The paddock went into overdrive as Dovizioso closed the gap – would team orders prevail? Would Ducati order Lorenzo to pull aside? Would Lorenzo follow that order if it was given?
With 6 laps to go, Ducati played its hand and Lorenzo received a dashboard message from his team stating “Suggested Mapping: Mapping 8”. Many took this to be a coded instruction to let Dovizioso by. It didn’t matter. Just a lap later the Spaniard had a major moment at the final corner, losing the front and saving the bike on his knee as he ran wide, enabling Dovizioso to dive up the inside and take the lead.
The deed was done. Lorenzo effectively rode shotgun behind his team-mate and followed his team-mate home for the runner-up slot. Zarco crossed the line in third, with Marquez in fourth. The result sees the Italian trail the Spaniard by 21 points ahead of the finale in Valencia.
Dovizioso said: “It was a truly perfect weekend: we were quick in every session, both in the dry and in the wet, and today in the rain we dominated. Here at Sepang Jorge and I really had a bike advantage, because our Desmosedici was very fast, and we managed to administer the gap in the best possible way even though track conditions were very difficult because there wasn’t much grip. I’m very pleased for the win which keeps my hopes alive for the title, and even though I know it will be very difficult at Valencia because it’s a track where Marquez always goes well, we’ll be going to Spain with confidence to try and bring home the victory.”
Lorenzo said: “It was a great race that showed the progress we made throughout the weekend. I was really at ease on the bike, and even though I’d have preferred a dry race, when I saw it was raining I changed my mentality and tried to keep focussed, in order to avoid a mistake like Misano. I pushed hard but in the last few laps I was in a bit of crisis with the tyres, especially the front, and had a few scary moments in some corners.
“It wasn’t the right time to do anything stupid and when I almost crashed at Turn 15 and Andrea passed me I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to fight for the win. I know exactly how important a world title is for Ducati, Dovizioso has had a fantastic season and deserves to fight for the championship right down to the last race. In this weekend Andrea has always been faster and I’m pleased for the team for this first 1-2 win of the season, because it means we’re working really well.”