by Robert Jones
ANDREA Dovizioso laid down a marker in Qatar after a repeat of his incredible battle with Marc Marquez 12 months ago.
The Italian produced a performance that has become routine over the last three seasons to clinch the first MotoGP win of 2019.
Dovizioso led into turn one after pole sitter Maverick Vinales’ struggles off the start cost him just like last year, with the Yamaha rider going from first to six in two corners.
It was a Ducati front two as Jack Miller joined Dovizioso with reigning champion Marquez in third.
Miller’s stint at the sharp end came to a sudden halt on lap three as his seat came undone, making life for the Australian extremely tough. As he fell down the order, that promoted Marquez into second behind Dovizioso, the man he considers his biggest championship threat once again in 2019.
It was a calculated effort by the Spanish rider as he sat in behind Dovizioso, who was holding a respectable lap time but nothing like the potential he had in the bike as all the riders knew keeping the rear tyre in shape for the final laps was crucial.
This was about to change as both Suzuki riders had different ideas, with Alex Rins and Joan Mir showing some incredible pace mainly in the corners. Mir was soon into fourth while Rins went past Marquez and Dovizioso in quick succession to take the lead.
Dovizioso knew the Suzuki had serious pace and wasted no time in gaining the lead back. The riders settled into what was a status quo of sorts for a few laps, before the final lap and inevitable onslaught from Marquez.
The battle was down to Dovizioso and Marquez for the win in similar fashion to last year.
The front duo opened up a five tenths lead over Cal Crutchlow, who on his return from a broken ankle ultimately nicked third place over Rins, in what was an incredible ride from the Brit.
Marquez, for the first time all race, was pushing the Honda beyond its limits, and he made his move into turn 10, but Dovizioso knew the move was coming and got the cut back.
There was time for one more attack as Marquez knew the last overtake opportunity was at turn 16 as he let the brakes off and pulled a late braking move on the Ducati man.
But Dovizioso was aware of the situation and got the exit he needed onto the start finish straight, eventually finishing 23 thousands of a second ahead for a sensational victory.