Dovizioso pulls away from Rossi for Malaysia win

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

An­drea Dovizioso won his first Mo­toGP race in seven years yes­ter­day, pulling away from leg­end Valentino Rossi late in the Malaysia Grand Prix to take the check­ered flag for Du­cati.

Start­ing from pole po­si­tion, the Ital­ian fell back early as he and a num­ber of riders strug­gled on the rain-soaked Sepang In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit. But Dovizioso steadily reeled in his com­pa­triot Rossi, tak­ing the lead back with six laps to go and quickly open­ing up a gap as Rossi was slowed by tyre is­sues. Dovizioso, 30, fin­ished 3.115secs ahead of Rossi for his maiden win of the sea­son and first since 2009.

Rossi, how­ever, clinched sec­ond place in the 2016 world cham­pi­onship over his Yamaha team­mate and ri­val Jorge Lorenzo of Spain. Lorenzo, who will switch to Du­cati next year, fin­ished third on Sun­day. Honda’s Marc Mar­quez had al­ready wrapped up the world cham­pi­onship two weeks ear­lier in Ja­pan.

Dovizioso called yes­ter­day’s win the big­gest of his ca­reer. “It’s re­ally nice to come to this mo­ment. In these con­di­tions I strug­gled a lot in the race and had some prob­lems, but I re­ally wanted it,” he said.

CRASH COURSE

The race be­gan af­ter a short de­lay be­cause of a trop­i­cal down­pour dous­ing the track.

Riders this week com­plained that the track, newly re-paved this year, was drain­ing un­evenly af­ter rain, cre­at­ing al­ter­nat­ing wet and dry patches. Much of the race was a grip­ping duel be­tween Rossi and Dovizioso’s Du­cati team­mate An­drea Ian­none, who was re­turn­ing to the track for the first time since suf­fer­ing a ver­te­brae frac­ture in a crash in early Septem­ber.

The lead re­peat­edly changed hands be­tween Rossi and Ian­none over the first 10 laps as they ag­gres­sively dived un­der each other with inches to spare on Sepang’s tight curves.

But Ian­none cracked, crash­ing out with seven laps left. One of three riders to crash, Ian­none was un­in­jured but did not re­turn.

Dovizioso pounced, over­tak­ing Rossi and quickly stretch­ing a siz­able lead as Rossi slowed when the tyres his team chose be­gan to prove un­suit­able on the in­creas­ingly dry track.

“I was op­ti­mistic for the vic­tory,” said Rossi, 37, nine-time world cham­pion.

“But with less water I started to suf­fer very much with the tyres, es­pe­cially the front.”

With one eye on sec­ond place in the world cham­pi­onship, Rossi said he didn’t want to crash out and “throw away 20 points.” “It’s a shame be­cause we would have liked to win but its good to get sec­ond place in the cham­pi­onship.”

“When you have a chance to close these things, you have to try.” Rossi has had great suc­cess at Sepang in the past but has not won on the track since 2010, which also was the last year he won the world ti­tle. Be­sides Ian­none, Bri­tish rider Cal Crutchlow crashed, as did Mar­quez.

Mar­quez got back on the track and fin­ished 11th. Mar­quez slid off the track the pre­vi­ous week­end in Aus­tralia when he was in con­trol of the race, which Crutchlow even­tu­ally won.

The crash-happy tone on the slick track was set ear­lier in the day dur­ing the Moto3 cat­e­gory, a ver­i­ta­ble de­mo­li­tion derby marked a series of col­li­sions and wipe-outs. France’s Jo­hann Zarco won in Moto2 to be­come the first man to re­peat since the cham­pi­onship was in­tro­duced in 2010.

He be­came the first French rider to win more than one cham­pi­onship in Grand Prix Racing, ac­cord­ing to Mo­toGP. — AFP

SEPANG: Du­cati Team’s Ital­ian rider An­drea Dovizioso (L) cel­e­brates on the podium af­ter win­ning the 2016 Malaysian Mo­toGP at the Sepang In­ter­na­tional cir­cuit yes­ter­day. —AFP

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