Andrea Dovizioso wins Malaysian GP, keeps MotoGP title race alive vs Marc Marquez | other sports | Hindustan Times
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Andrea Dovizioso wins Malaysian GP, keeps MotoGP title race alive vs Marc Marquez

In a wet race, Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati beat teammate Jorge Lorenzo to win the MotoGP Malaysian Grand Prix, while championship leader Marc Marquez finished fourth. The Repsol Honda rider, however, still commands a 21-point lead over the Dovizioso.

other sports Updated: Oct 29, 2017 22:44 IST
Leslie Xavier
Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso (C) celebrates his victory with second-placed Jorge Lorenzo (L) and third-placed Johann Zarco (R) on the podium after winning the Malaysia MotoGP at the Sepang International Circuit on Sunday.
Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso (C) celebrates his victory with second-placed Jorge Lorenzo (L) and third-placed Johann Zarco (R) on the podium after winning the Malaysia MotoGP at the Sepang International Circuit on Sunday.(AFP)

The 2017 MotoGP world championship title race is very much alive! Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati, with his victory at the Malaysian GP on Sunday, has ensured it even though it is more a mathematical equation than a shootout of equal footing for the crown at the final Grand Prix of the season in Valencia, a fortnight away.

In a wet race -- something Marc Marquez, the championship front-runner, and Repsol Honda were dreading the whole weekend -- Dovizioso beat Ducati teammate Jorge Lorenzo to take the chequered flag at Sepang Circuit, with Johann Zarco of France (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) finishing third.

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Marquez, who struggled through the weekend, had a “good” race by his Sepang record, and finished fourth, ahead of teammate and pole-setter Dani Pedrosa.

As things stand, Marquez, with 282 points, has a 21 point lead in the title race over Dovizioso (261). With a maximum of 25 points up for grabs in Valencia on November 12, Dovizioso, who keeps reiterating that he has nothing to lose, will go all out like he did in Malaysia. Marquez, racing at home, would also want to win the title in style even though a 11th place finish is good enough for him to retain the crown.

Realistically speaking, Ducati have a near improbable, if not impossible, task at hand.

“Yes, it would be tough but then all races are tough,” said a philosophical Dovizioso. “In Malaysia, we kept improving over the weekend, especially in dry conditions. In the rain, we were always fast but today, at the race, I did struggle for grip in the initial part. If you noticed, I picked up the pace in the second half but then things were always tough. So we will do our best bit in Valencia and let’s see.”

READ | Moto GP: Marc Marquez crashes, Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa takes pole at Sepang

Morbidelli Moto2 Champ

Earlier, Italian Franco Morbidelli, riding a Kalex, sealed the Moto2 world title with a third place finish, even as it started drizzling at the track.

Morbidelli’s title rival, Thomas Luthi of Switzerland, had pulled out of the race after a crash on Saturday, handing the title to the Italian even before the race Sunday. But Morbidelli didn’t want to win it as a hand out, he revealed after the race.

“I wanted to with with at least a podium here. So I went all out, except for the last lap that is, when things got tricky as it started raining,” said Morbidelli. “I told myself that ‘let’s enjoy the moment’, and put my focus on ensuring I executed a good wheelie at the chequered flag.”

Miguel Oliveira won the Moto2 race of the Malaysian GP, beating Brad Binder and Morbidelli to the chequered flag. The world champion didn’t nail the wheelie but he sealed the Moto2 title, and soon after he finished celebrating at the podium, the sky opened.

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Grip Matters

To be fair, all the MotoGP big boys, and not just the Honda riders, were wary of a wet track. However Marquez’s crew were more worried as they were struggling to keep the rubber side down even on a dry track.

The Spaniard’s struggle through practice and qualifying sessions, however, seemed a distant past, as he made a brilliant start to climb from seventh to third position, even as Dovizioso fell behind. The early leader was Zarco, who was running on soft compound wet-weather tyres in the rear and medium in the front, which provided him additional traction.

Meanwhile, a dogfight began at the back as Dovizioso started pushing Marquez. That battle, beautiful as it was with both riders running on medium tyres, was short-lived. The Italian went past Marquez in the third lap after exchanging lead a couple of times.

Marquez, in fact, almost took out Dovizioso on turn 15, a tricky corner at Sepang.

Meanwhile, Lorenzo overtook Zarco, who was now struggling as his rear soft tyres started showing signs of wear. In the ninth lap, Dovizioso passed Zarco.

READ | MotoGP: Andrea Dovizioso, Sepang ghosts stand between Marc Marquez and world title

Marquez, on the other hand, had a dance with his bike in the 12th lap as his Honda almost went from under him. Grip was clearly an issue for the 24-year-old three-time world champion.

He realised it too and better logic prevailed as he eased on the throttle a little bit in the latter part of the race, settling into the fourth spot -- the points inching him that much closer to the title.

Now, Dovi was pushing his teammate Lorenzo as a win, nothing less, was required for him to keep the title race alive. After a few laps of sliding into and out of corners, on lap 17, at the tricky turn 15 to be exact, Lorenzo went wide and Dovizioso didn’t need a second invitation.

Was it team orders, one thought. Lorenzo ended that speculation when he said he would have loved to beat Dovi but there was no grip left for him in the latter stages. “If I had tried something on him in the last two laps I would have crashed for sure,” said the former world champion from Spain.

Meanwhile, in the Moto3 race which kick-started Sunday’s action, newly-crowned world champ, Joan Mir of Spain (Leopard Racing, Honda), who sealed his title in the previous round at Phillip Island (Australia), caught up with Jorge Martin and Enea Bastinini in the final lap, before pulling away from them to win his tenth race of the season.