Ducati factory MotoGP rider Andrea Dovizioso won a thrilling opening race of the 2019 season out dragging World Champion Marc Marquez to the line under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
Starting from the middle of the front row, Dovizioso made full use of the new Ducati ‘holeshot’ device to take the lead at the start of the race and he was immediately put under pressure by Ducati stable-mate Jack Miller who flew through from the second row on the grid to second place, in the opening laps.
Miller’s time at the head of the grid was short lived however, when at the end of the second lap, the Australian threw away his seat padding which had come loose from his Pramac GP19. Miller eventually retired after burning his front tyre because of the seat issue.
Back at the front of the race, Dovizioso was controlling the race with Marquez and factory Suzuki’s Alex Rins swapping second place almost every lap. Dovi’s pace was comparatively slow, allowing the lead group of eight riders to all sit within a second and a half of the Italian.
Dovizioso upped the pace at the midway point and slowly the lead group of eight became a lead group of five with Marquez, Rins, Cal Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi dropping Danilo Petrucci and Maverick Vinales.
With three laps remaining, Rins ran his GSX-RR a little too hot into the first corner, giving the front two the few bike lengths they needed in order to battle for the victory.
Half way around the penultimate lap, Dovizioso ran his factory Ducati wide, allowing Marquez to go through and take the lead from him, however the Italian used the power of the GP19 to drag himself back into the lead of the race going into the first corner of the final lap.
With Marquez now pushing hard, the World Champion was pushing the front end of his RC213V extremely hard and the medium front tyre looked as if it was going to fold every corner. Despite it’s best efforts to crash and Marquez’ best efforts, he couldn’t ever get ahead of his title challenger. Going into the final corner, Marquez attempted a deep lunge, only to see Dovizioso square the corner off and out drag him to take the first victory of the season.
Behind the lead two, it was the brilliant Crutchlow who took the final spot on the podium. Still fighting back from the badly injured ankle sustained at the end of the 2018 season, the Brit fought his way past Rins on the final lap to hold put his LCR Honda on the podium.
Despite falling away in the final laps it was Rins who finished fourth ahead of Rossi who will be happy he limited the damage after starting down in fourteenth position on the grid.
Danilo Petrucci was sixth on his debut race aboard the factory Ducati just ahead of the pole sitter who suffered early in the race, sending the Spaniard back to the drawing board with the 2018 issues rearing their ugly head once again on race day.
Joan Mir capped an impressive MotoGP debut with an eighth place finish after fighting in the leading group for the opening half of the race. Taka Nakagami was ninth on his LCR Honda with Aleix Espargaro rounding out the top ten on his Aprilia.
Franco Morbidelli marked his first start with Yamaha with an eleventh place finish with top KTM rider Pol Espargaro in thirteenth. Jorge Lorenzo fought through the pain barrier to claim three World Championship points with Andrea Iannone and Johann Zarco rounding out the point scorers.
Fabio Quartararo ended in sixteenth after stalling ahead of the warm-up lap, forcing the Frenchman to start from pitlane.