DOHA: Spain’s Maverick Vinales on a Yamaha won a dramatic season-opening Qatar MotoGP on Sunday, finally beating off Andrea Dovizioso after the pair swapped the lead several times over the final seven laps.
The 22-year-old Vinales, who took all the headlines in pre-season testing as well as practice in Qatar, shrugged off a poor start from pole position under the desert floodlights to win and further enhance his growing reputation.
He triumphed in a race reduced to 20 laps after rain and a wet track had delayed the start by 45 minutes and in a high-quality field which included 10 world champions.
In fact organisers were extremely lucky as the heavens again opened up immediately after the race ended in a weekend dominated by wet weather in Qatar, and which saw qualifying cancelled on Saturday because of thunderstorms.
Dovizioso on a Ducati finished a determined runner-up, while nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi took third on the second factory Yamaha despite having started in 10th place on the grid.
Defending world champion Marc Marquez, who had made it clear before the race he would be happy with a podium finish, was just edged out into fourth place on a Honda.
It is the 14th time the race has been held in Qatar, the 10th time under floodlights.
The racers now head to Argentina for the next race on April 9.
In the Moto2 race, Italy’s Franco Morbidelli, riding a Kalex, clinched a lights to flag victory.
The 22-year-old from Rome had started on pole position and took his first career win ahead of fellow Kalex riders, Thomas Luthi of Switzerland and Japan’s Takaaki Nakagami.
Spain’s Joan Mir, on a Honda, won the Moto3 event for his second career success.
The 19-year-old finished ahead of Britain’s John McPhee and Spanish compatriot Jorge Martin as Honda swept the podium.