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Dovizioso takes Japan MotoGP victory after thrilling Marquez duel

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Andrea Dovizioso clinched his fifth win of the 2017 MotoGP season after a thrilling battle with championship rival Marc Marquez in wet conditions at Twin Ring Motegi on Sunday, closing the gap in the title race.

Dovizioso entered the race weekend trailing Marquez by 16 point at the top of the riders’ championship, and was at risk of losing more ground after only qualifying ninth, with his rival starting third on the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Dovizioso was able to pick his way up the order in heavy rain before entering battle with Marquez for the lead at just past half distance.

The pair swapped position back and forth through the closing stages, with Dovizioso moving into the lead for the final time after a moment for Marquez at Turn 8.

Marquez tried a last-corner lunge, only for Dovizioso to fend him off and take the checkered flag just two-tenths of a second ahead for one of the most dramatic wins of the season.

“When I overtook him I wanted to make a gap, but I didn’t have the rear tire. So it was just about strategy and being in the right place at the right time,” Dovizioso said.

“I saw him struggling and I was struggling, but maybe he was over the limit and he made a mistake. Already at the start of the lap I knew I would have to do everything perfect two corners before to have the chance.

“I knew Turn 11 was my break, but there were two corners remaining and I knew that anything could happen. It was so exciting to be in this race, to fight with Marc always is, and it was important for the championship.”

Danilo Petrucci completed the podium on the satellite Octo Pramac Ducati, having led early on, while Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins took P4 and P5 respectively for Suzuki.

Jorge Lorenzo’s wait for his maiden Ducati victory continued as he finished sixth ahead of Aleix Espargaro and pole-sitter Johann Zarco, with Maverick Viñales and Loris Baz completing the top 10.

Valentino Rossi crashed out of his second race back for Yamaha after breaking his leg, but was able to walk away and does not appear to have sustained any further injury.

Now trailing by just 11 points, Dovizioso will continue his pursuit of Marquez in next weekend’s Australian Grand Prix at Philip Island.

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).