Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, on a Yamaha, won a spectacular Grand Prix of Qatar on Sunday as he withstood a furious onslaught from fellow Italian Andrea Dovizioso over the final laps to take the opening race of the season. 

A see-saw battle saw the the lead change hands numerous times before the 36-year-old Rossi opened up a slight gap on the final two laps and held off the charging Dovizioso on his Ducati, who was looking for his first win in MotoGP. 

It was a stunning 109th victory for the iconic Rossi and his 197th podium as Italy swept the board with Andrea Iannone, also on a Ducati, coming home third.

It was a first time Italy took the top three places since the Japanese MotoGP in 2006. 

Rossi won by 0.174sec with Iannone 2.250 back, Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo in fourth and world champion Marc Marquez well back in fifth at 7.036 after a nightmare start. 

“This was one of the best victories for me,” said Rossi with his trademark grin. 

“The bike was fantastic, I never gave up but it was a real fight with the Ducatis and the Hondas who were really strong. 

“I’m so happy for me, for the team and for Yamaha. The second part of the race was really good and I’m very happy because we had difficulties in testing and practice but my experience helped today. 

“This is a great, great victory but I had a good feeling this morning.” he added.  

Lorenzo, also on a Yamaha, was also in the hunt for victory and led midway through the race before Rossi, who began from eighth on the grid, charged to the front and went into battle with his compatriot Dovizioso. 

It came down to an all Italian battle with Rossi seizing the lead for the final time with two laps to go and just hanging on to cross the line ahead of Dovizioso, who started from pole position. 

Dovizioso, who was the 125cc world champion in 2004, was delighted with his performance despite missing out on a maiden win in the sport’s most prestigious category. 

“I’m happy to come back from what I’ve been through and it was a really tight race right until the final lap,” he said. 

“I had no more grip on my tyres so I couldn’t attack but to come second in the first race of the season is really great.” he added. 

Marquez never fully recovered from a dreadful start when he was forced off the track and left last, although the Spaniard did battle back to finish fifth.

Earlier, German rider Jonas Folger won the Moto2 season-opening race on a Kalex at the Losail circuit.

The 21-year-old — winning his first race in this category after two podium finishes in his maiden season last year — beat home two other Kalex riders in Belgium’s Xavier Simeon and Thomas Luthi of Switzerland. 

French rider Alexis Masbou won the Moto3 event as the 27-year-old — recording his second success at this level having won the Czech race last year —  edged out fellow Honda riders Enea Bastianini of Italy and Briton Danny Kent.



Results of season-opening Grand Prix of Qatar at the Losail circuit on Sunday: 


1. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha) 42min 35.717sec, 2. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) at 0.174sec, 3. Andrea Iannone (ITA/Ducati) 2.250, 4. Jorge Lorenzo (ESP/Yamaha) 2.707, 5. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 7.036, 6. Dani Pedrosa (ESP/Honda) 10.755, 7. Cal Crutchlow (GBR/Honda LCR) 12.384,

8. Bradley Smith (GBR/Yamah Tech3) 12.914, 9. Pol Espargaro (ESP/Yamaha Tech3) 13.031, 10. Yonny Hernandez (COL/Ducati Pramac) 17.435, 11. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Suzuki) 19.901, 12. Danilo Petrucci (ITA/Ducati Pramac) 24.432, 13. Scott Redding (GBR/Honda Marc VDS) 32.032, 14. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Suzuki) 33.463, 15. Hector Barbera (ESP/Ducati Avintia) 33.625



1. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha) 25 points, 2. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) 20, 3. Andrea Iannone (ITA/Ducati) 16, 4. Jorge Lorenzo (ESP/Yamaha) 13, 5. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 11,

6. Dani Pedrosa (ESP/Honda) 10, 7. Cal Crutchlow (GBR/Honda LCR) 9, 8. Bradley Smith (GBR/Yamah Tech3) 8, 9. Pol Espargaro (ESP/Yamaha Tech3) 7, 10. Yonny Hernandez (COL/Ducati Pramac) 6, 11. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Suzuki) 5, 12. Danilo Petrucci (ITA/Ducati Pramac) 4, 13. Scott Redding (GBR/Honda Marc VDS) 3, 14. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Suzuki) 2, 15. Hector Barbera (ESP/Ducati Avintia) 1



1. Jonas Folger (GER/Kalex) 40min 18.532sec, 2. Xavier Simeon (BEL/Kalex) at 5.051sec, 3. Thomas LĂĽthi (SUI/Kalex) 12.123, 4. Alex Rins (ESP/Kalex) 12.202, 5. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Kalex) 14.385, 6. Mika Kallio (FIN/Kalex) 14.413, 7. Sandro Cortese (GER/Kalex) 14.471, 8. Johann Zarco (FRA/Kalex) 18.541, 9. Louis Rossi (FRA/Tech3) 20.914, 10. Lorenzo Baldassari (ITA/Kalex) 21.336



1. Jonas Folger (GER/Kalex) 25 points, 2. Xavier Simeon (BEL/Kalex) 20, 3. Thomas LĂĽthi (SUI/Kalex) 16, 4. Alex Rins (ESP/Kalex) 13, 5. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Kalex) 11, 6. Mika Kallio (FIN/Kalex) 10, 7. Sandro Cortese (GER/Kalex) 9, 8. Johann Zarco (FRA/Kalex) 8, 9. Louis Rossi (FRA/Tech3) 7, 10. Lorenzo Baldassari (ITA/Kalex) 6



1. Alex Masbou (FRA/Honda) 38min 25.424sec, 2. Enea Bastianini (ITA/Honda) at 0.027sec, 3. Danny Kent (GBR/Honda) 0.142, 4. Efren Vazquez (ESP/Honda) 0.288, 5. John McPhee (GBR/Honda) 0.693, 6. Isaac Vinales (ESP/Husqvarna) 0.765, 7. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Honda) 0.772, 8. Niccolo Antonelli (ITA/Honda) 0.773, 9. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Mahindra) 0.909, 10. Brad Binder (RSA/KTM) 1.317



1. Alex Masbou (FRA/Honda) 25pts, 2. Enea Bastianini (ITA/Honda) 20, 3. Danny Kent (GBR/Honda) 16, 4. Efren Vazquez (ESP/Honda) 13, 5. John McPhee (GBR/Honda) 11

 Agence France-Presse

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