In tough conditions, Andrea Dovizioso stood tall above the pack as he clinched his sixth win of the season and kept his hopes in the championship alive. The Italian led a Ducati 1-2 ahead of Jorge Lorenzo. Johann Zarco managed to hold off for the final podium position ahead of championship leader Marc Marquez who finished 17 seconds behind his title rival.
With this win, Marquez leads the Italian by 21 points ahead of the season finale in front of his home fans in Valencia in two weeks time.
In what has already been an engrossing season, the expected afternoon Malaysian tropical showers set things up for a tough battle.
Marquez rocketed off the start line and almost went into the lead before being late on the brakes and running wide into turn one.
This allowed Tech3 Yamaha rider Zarco to take the lead as Lorenzo slotted behind with Marquez third ahead of Dovizioso and pole-sitter Dani Pedrosa.
READ: Malaysian GP: Dovizioso triumphs to keep championship hopes alive
Marquez who has struggled at Sepang in the past and had a troubled run leading up to Sunday’s race couldn’t keep up with the leaders. Dovizioso made a move stick on lap four but soon ran wide in the final corner to surrender the position but immediately fought back on the next lap to move to third.
Zarco who was leading comfortably having started on the soft rear tyres started to struggle as the race went on with the medium shod Ducatis making big gains. On lap eight Lorenzo moved into the lead and Dovizioso wasted no time to move past the struggling Zarco on the same lap.
For the next seven laps, the two Ducatis pulled clear of the field but in the wrong order, which would have given Marquez the title.
Chasing his first win for Ducati, Lorenzo showed no signs of letting his teammate pass by for the title. However the former champion ran wide into the final corner of lap 16 that allowed Dovizioso to take the lead and keep his title hopes alive.
READ: Chasing history, Marquez has an off day in Malaysia
Dovizioso said, “We did a perfect weekend. We were so fast from first practice in any conditions. We are happy with the work we did with the team. We improved in the dry, practice by practice and had good pace. On the wet, we knew our bike worked very well.”
Even though the momentum is with the Italian, he will need a miracle. Heading into his home race, Marquez needs only a eleventh place to seal his fourth title.
Looking at the season finale in Valencia, Dovizioso said, “Well I didn't expect to be strong this weekend. Many weekends nobody expected us to be strong. So we just have to be positive. We just have to try to win. We know it is difficult but anything can happen. We were relaxed before this race and we will go away relaxed.”
The Italian further noted, even on a bad day, Marquez left Malaysia with a fourth place finish. It would take a brave heart to bet against the Spaniard.
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