Valentino Rossi clinched his 70th Moto GP victory in the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday after overcoming a thrilling race-long battle to finish ahead of the Ducati duo of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone.
The nine-time world champion started the race in eighth position, but made his way through the field to pass Dovizioso for the lead with three laps remaining.
Rossi then fended his compatriot off to cross the line with an advantage of just 0.174 seconds at the Losail Circuit, making a perfect start to the 2015 season for Yamaha.
Dovizioso had started from pole position and spent most of the race fighting with Rossi’s teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, for the lead.
However, the Spaniard dropped back after a problem with the padding in his helmet meant that he could only see out of one eye, allowing Iannone to get up onto the podium.
The biggest surprise of the race in Qatar was the failure of either Honda rider to finish on the podium. Two-time world champion Marc Marquez qualified third, but after running wide at turn one and dropping to the back of the field, he stood little chance of fighting for the race win.
The 22-year-old could only finish fifth at the flag, but there was worse news for Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, who was hampered by an arm injury that may risk his racing career. He finished the race in sixth place.
For Rossi, victory capped off a superb weekend for Italy in motorsport. Following Ferrari’s first Formula 1 race win in two years, an all-Italian podium in Qatar was very poignant indeed, especially given the recent domination of the Spanish riders in the premier motorcycle series.
The next Moto GP race takes place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on April 12.