Dovizioso beats Márquez in Motegi thriller
15 October 2017 – Andrea Dovizioso beat title rival Marc Márquez to victory in wet conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix after an enthralling race-long battle between the pair, which was only settled at the final corner.
The duo broke clear of the chasing pack in heavy rain at Motegi and swapped positions on several occasions, before Dovizioso took the lead into Turn 11 on the last of the 24 laps.
Márquez threw his Honda up the inside into the final right-hand turn – in a carbon copy of their Austria battle – but Dovizioso used the cutback to recapture the lead, crossing the line 0.249s clear.
Dovizioso and Márquez had scrapped for third place during the opening phases, as rain plagued Motegi once more, having affected practice and qualifying.
Márquez initially surged into the lead from the front row, but ceded position to Jorge Lorenzo and Danilo Petrucci, who put his Pramac machine two seconds clear as he escaped the squabbling.
Márquez kept Dovizioso, who had made gains from ninth on the grid, at bay as the pair both cleared Lorenzo, before they reeled in Petrucci, passing the Italian midway through proceedings.
Dovizioso trailed Márquez and eventually made his move into Turn 5 on lap 19, and edged eight-tenths clear, before Márquez regrouped and planned his fightback.
The lead exchanged hands several times on lap 22 as Márquez completed a block pass into Turn 3, only for Dovizioso to breeze past on the run through Turn 6.
However, Dovizioso's advantage lasted mere seconds as Márquez muscled his way through into the left-hander at Turn 9, and tried to build an insurmountable advantage.
Márquez began the last lap half a second ahead but a moment through Turn 8 – forcing him to sit up – handed an opportunity to Dovizioso, who drew closer, and made a strong exit from Turn 10.
Dovizioso drew level with Márquez and out-braked the Repsol Honda rider into Turn 11 – at the end of the back straight – to capture the lead, as Márquez slotted into second position.
Márquez, though, was not yet done; he latched onto the rear of the Ducati and made a lunge into the last turn, as he ducked to the inside in a last-ditch attempt to snatch victory.
In a similar outcome to their Austria battle, Dovizioso gave his rival space and, as Márquez's line left him wide and compromised, used the cutback to cross the line just two-tenths ahead.
Dovizioso's fifth victory of the campaign means he has cut Márquez's title advantage to 11 points with just three races remaining.
Petrucci slipped away from the battle for victory but nonetheless captured another podium with a fine ride to third position.
Suzuki put in comfortably its best performance of the season as Andrea Iannone and Álex Rins made gains to record fourth and fifth respectively.
Lorenzo, having enjoyed a brief spell in the lead early on, tumbled down towards the foot of the top 10, before making a late recovery, crossing the line in sixth spot.
Aleix Espargaró was seventh for Aprilia, while pole-sitter Johann Zarco battled the Suzuki riders for fourth, though slipped to eighth in the closing stages.
Maverick Viñales' title prospects were dealt another serious blow as he claimed a low-key ninth, while Valentino Rossi's hopes are over after he crashed out, though he was able to walk away uninjured.
Loris Baz rounded out the top 10 for Avintia, with KTM's Pol Espargaró in 11th place, as Yamaha wildcard rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga bagged 12th.
Aprilia's Sam Lowes made late progress to record his best MotoGP result in 13th position, leaving Avintia's Héctor Barberá and Marc VDS' Tito Rabat to complete the points-paying places.
Scott Redding's weekend-long struggles resulted in a lowly 16th, while Bradley Smith was unable to maintain his grid place as he dropped down the standings.
Smith came home 17th, ahead only of Marc VDS stand-in Hiroshi Aoyama, substituting for the injured Jack Miller.
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa skirted around the fringes of the top 10 before pulling into the pits with four laps remaining.
Neither Aspar rider reached the flag, with Álvaro Bautista and Karel Abraham crashing, while LCR Honda's Cal Crutchlow fell twice, firstly at Turn 7, and then at Turn 11.
Tech 3 debutant Kohta Nozane, filling in for the unwell Jonas Folger, completed only a handful of laps until he crashed out of proceedings.
1. Marc Márquez - 244 points
2. Andrea Dovizioso - 233 points
3. Maverick Viñales - 203 points
The next round of the season takes place at Phillip Island from October 20 to 22