Opening the season with a sensational final lap performance, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) beat Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) to the line at the Losail International Circuit by just 0.027s, with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completing the podium.
Frenchman Johann Zarco shot off pole position to take the lead into the first corner under the floodlights of Qatar, but there was nothing to split the top ten riders in the opening laps, and it looked as if any one of them could fight for the victory throughout the 22-lap thriller. With fastest laps flying in on each lap, Zarco was still able to keep hold of the lead despite facing some tense competition.
With big battles taking place behind him, the French rider kept calm at the front while Rossi made his way through the field to get into podium fighting positions by the third lap, hunting down his fellow Yamaha in the lead. Marquez was never far away from the fight, sitting in the top five as soon as the lights went out. As ten laps had been completed riders were getting into a rhythm, but you could sense action was on the horizon.
Dovizioso moved up to third position on lap 11 as he spent the start of the race working through the field, passing his countryman Rossi who slipped back to the riders fighting for fifth. A clear battle had now developed for the podium, with Dovizioso and Marquez closing in on Zarco and they were able to make their move on the 18th lap, with Zarco losing two positions into the opening corner – as Dovizisoso took the lead.
The action was not over there, with Dovizioso and Marquez pushing themselves to the final corner of the final lap – taking no prisoners. Reigning world champion Marquez made his move through turn 15 but he was unable to make it stick, and Dovizoso led into the final corner meaning he was able to slingshot his Desmosedici over the line, 0.027s ahead.
In a similar display to the Austrian and Japanese GP’s of 2017, the duo fought to the very end, but it was Dovizoso who took the first honors of 2018, the Italian now heads to Argentina as MotoGP Championship leader.
Behind the duo, Rossi fought off his rivals to secure a safe third position ahead of top independent rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL), whilst Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) made some strong moves on the closing laps to complete the top five.
Comeback king Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) crossed the line in sixth, after being down in 14th on the opening lap. Making his 200th start in the premier-class, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) took seventh position, ahead of early race leader Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), crossing the line in eighth. Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) had a lonely Qatar GP in ninth position, ahead of Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) who completed the top ten in his first race for his new team.
Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) opened the season in 11th, ahead of top rookie Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) who crossed the line in the top 12, as Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) salvaged three points from a tough weekend in 13th. Making his MotoGP debut, Malaysian Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) took a top-14 finish, ahead of Karel Abraham (Angel Nieto Team) who takes home the final point from Qatar in 15th.
It was a bad start to the season for Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who crashed out of the top six fight on the 13th lap at turn two, while Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) had a start to 2018 to forget as the Spaniard crashed out on the same lap – at turn 16. Pol Esparagaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) retired from the race on the 15th lap, with work to do before Argentina.
The paddock will now pack up and head to Argentina from April 6-8 for the second round of the MotoGP season.