MotoGP: Marquez wins last corner duel with Dovi

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Marc Marquez has taken victory at the inagural Thai Grand Prix, winning a last corner duel with Andrea Dovizioso to take his seventh win of the season and to put one hand on the championship trophy. Yamaha’s strong pace lasted throughout the race too though, with Maverick Vinales taking the final podium spot only 0.3 behind Marquez, despite a last corner lunge from teammamte Valentino Rossi. Cal Crutchlow was top Brit in seventh, while Bradley Smith won the scrap for the final point from Scott Redding.

It was Marquez who got the holeshot from pole as the lights went out, with Valentino Rossi tucked in behind his arch nemesis from second on the grid. Cal Crutchlow launched well from fifth to slot into third, before Dovizioso re-took third into turn three as the front three in qualifying held station, spearheading the field into a high-speed game of chess at Chang International Circuit.

Everyone held position before Rossi got past Marquez on the run down to turn three, the Doctor back up the sharp end and looking strong to control the pace. With tyre life a major factor in the soaring Thailand temperatures, no one wanted to force their hand. That was until lap 11, when Rossi couldn’t get his M1 firing out the first corner and the Ducati of Dovi and Honda of Marquez swept past the nine-time world champion –  and with Dovi emerging in charge of controlling the 200mph freight train.

With lap times fluctuating and a front group of eight now packed together, Johann Zarco was the man to lead Dani Pedrosa and Alex Rins up to trail Viñales in fifth. It was only a matter of time before the pin was pulled, however, and with 11 laps to go, Dovizioso upped the pace. Marquez and Rossi stayed in touching distance, with fourth placed Crutchlow slipping back down the order from fourth to seventh.

Then, however, lap times slowed again as Viñales bridged the gap to the leading trio. Pedrosa crashed out at turn five with eight laps remaining as he and Zarco got a whiff of a potential podium, the duo closing down the leaders by half a second on the previous lap, before the race then entered a critical stage at the front. Dovizioso and Marquez who started to fight it out for the lead and pull away, with Rossi then starting to lose touch as teammate Viñales moved through to get a front-row seat for another Ducati vs Honda battle. With four to go, Marquez played his first hand, but he braked deep into turn three in the attempted pass and ran wide – allowing Dovizioso back through.

The move set the scene for a breath-taking final three laps in Buriram. On the same lap, Marquez sliced his way through at turn eight, but Dovi snapped straight back at turn nine and it was déjà vu a lap later as the Repsol Honda grabbed the lead into turn eight, but there was no way through for the Ducati this time at turn eight. A pass into turn 12 was made to stick heading onto the last lap, however, before the chosen corner for a Marquez assault proved to be turn five – a great move from the six-time World Champion seeing Dovizioso unable to squeeze back under at turn six. This set us up for another final corner epic between the two.

Dovi got the run out turn 11 to brake late into the final corner and get alongside Marquez, but the Italian couldn’t quite drop anchor quick enough – with a flash of orange cutting back underneath the Italian as Marquez did exactly what he’d been victim to in Austria in 2017, Motegi that same season and Qatar at the start of 2018. The Spaniard crossed the line just ahead, and the roles were reversed in perfect symmetry.

The two did have some company, however. Viñales was just 0.270 away from the win in third as he got back on the rostrum and almost managed to capitalise on the last corner drama, with Rossi coming home fourth as he faded slightly in the latter stages. Fellow M1 and leading independent rider Zarco got the better of Rins to close out the top five, with Crutchlow ending the race seventh, finishing 0.171 ahead of Alvaro Bautista. The two Alma Pramac Racing riders completed the top ten – it was ninth for Danilo Petrucci and tenth for Jack Miller.

Andrea Iannone couldn’t repeat his Aragon heroics and took 11th, with Hafizh Syahrin taking top rookie honours that saw the Malaysian return to form in 12th in his best finish since Le Mans. Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro crossed the line 13th, the only rider to not run the hard rear tyre in the race, with Franco Morbidelli and Bradley Smith completing the points in 14th and 15th respectively.

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer