In a day when the final world champion was crowned for 2016 – Johann Zarco in Moto2™ – Italian Andrea Dovizioso has produced a virtuoso wet-weather peformance to win the MotoGP™ race at a sodden Sepang circuit in Malaysia.
In the process, the Ducati-mounted Dovizioso became the ninth separate winner in the MotoGP™ class this year, navigating his way to succcess over Movistar Yamaha pair Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, while the likes of world champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda), Phillip Island winner Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) and Andrea Iannaone (Ducati Team) all crashed out of the lead group. Aussie Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) was eighth.
"It was very important for me to win a race this year; I’ve been trying for so long and I’ve come close on several occasions, so satisfaction for today’s result is truly immense," said Dovizioso. "I really powered to the win, because in the first half of the race I could not push too hard, but I didn’t give up, I didn’t make any mistakes and at the right time I passed both Iannone and Rossi and set my own pace.
"I am very happy about the improvements we have made this year, both in the bike and with my team, but also on a personal level. I am working hard also for next year and this win, which has come at the end of the season, is just reward for all the efforts.”
The shortened 19-lap race race came down to a battle between 'Desmo Dovi' and Rossi at the front, but with a handful of laps remaining Rossi ran wide at turn one and let his compatriot through.
Earlier, Marquez, Crutchlow and the returning Iannone – who had missed the last four races with injury – all crashed in the space of a few laps, with Marquez remounting to finish 11th.
Meanwhile, Avintia Ducati pair Hector Barbera and Loris Baz were brilliant, carving through the field to finish in fourth and fifth, ahead of Maverick Vinales (Ecstar Suzuki), Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Miller, Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati).
Miller said: "I am always looking for more but in the conditions today I can take this result, it was pretty good considering the really tricky conditions, it wasn’t easy to stay on the bike.
"All weekend I had not been comfortable with our set-up in the wet so I’m reasonably happy to bring it home in the top ten and be the first Honda rider. Now it’s off to Valencia and, hopefully, a strong finish to the season.”
Marquez moved along to 278pts, while Rossi (236) is now guaranteed to finish second in the championship after moving far enough ahead of Lorenzo (208) with one round remaining. Dovizioso is now fifth on 162pts, behind Vinales (191).
- Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati Team, 42m27.333s
- Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha, +3.115s
- Jorge Lorenzo, Movistar Yamaha, +11.924s
8. Jack Miller, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda, +32.746s
Pole position: Dovizioso, 2m11.485s = 151.7km/h
Fastest lap: Dovizioso, 2m11.950s = 151.2km/h
Championship top 3
Marquez 278 • Rossi 236 • Lorenzo 208
Zarco played his hand perfectly in the wet to win ahead of Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP).
With Zarco's main championship contenders Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) and Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40) finishing in sixth and 14th respectively, Zarco took the crown in stunning style.
“It’s great to be the first two-time Moto2™ world champion, and it’s hard not to cry at a moment like this," said Zarco. "It was a good race in wet conditions for me, as although I was not the fastest. I had a good pace and could follow Franco. Then the track began to dry out and, like yesterday in qualifying, I felt a lot better than my rivals, found my line and was able to find references.
"A lot of things went through my mind on the last three laps, and I had to be very focused, but the advantage of three seconds made me more confident – if not calmer. I want to thank the Ajo Motorsport and everyone who has supported me. I love all my family, and also my ‘motorcycle family’, and wish the best for them.
"This title has been more exciting than last year’s, because the situation was different, it was harder and I had more pressure on me. Now it’s time to celebrate with everyone and go to Valencia without pressure.”
Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team) came home in a lonely fourth ahead of home hero Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia).
Australia's Remy Gardner (Tasca Racing) Scuderia) scored points with a great ride into 13th position.
- Johann Zarco, Ajo Motorsport, 45m51.036s
- Franco Morbidelli, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS, +3.256s
- Jonas Folger, Dynavolt Intact GP, +3.689s
13. Remy Gardner, Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2, +31.793s
Pole position: Zarco, 2m18.621s = 143.9km/h
Fastest lap: Luca Marini, Forward Team, 2m21.475s = 141km/h
Championship top 3
Zarco 251 • Tom Luthi 214 • Alex Rins 203
Francesco Bagnaia (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra) took his second Moto3™ win in a major demolition derby that saw 14 riders fail to finish, including new world champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo).
Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing) was second, ahead of another rookie podium for Dutchman Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo).
Others to be swept up in the attrition included Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46 KTM),
Jorge Martin (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra), Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46 KTM), Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda), Philipp Oettl (Schedl Racing GP KTM), Joan Mir (Leopard Racing KTM) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3 Honda), leaving Bagnaia free at the front to build an incredible lead of over three seconds.
Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) then crashed at the final corner, losing out on the chance to haul in absent Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Honda) for second in the title.
Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing Honda) was fourth, ahead of teammate Andrea Locatelli.
- Francesco Bagnaia, Pull & Bear Aspar Mahindra, 29m29.351s
- Jakub Kornfeil, Drive M7 SIC Racing Team Honda, +7.108s
- Bo Bendsneyder, Red Bull KTM Ajo, +7.253s
Pole position: Brad Binder, Red Bull KTM Ajo, 2m26.268s = 136.4km/h
Fastest lap: Joan Mir, Leopard Racing KTM, 2m14.201s = 148.6km/h
Championship top 3
Binder 294 • Enea Bastianini 164 • Bagnaia 145
Final round: Valencia, Spain, November 11-13