Andrea Dovizioso has kept the MotoGP world championship battle alive with victory in the rain at Motegi after seeing off Marc Marquez on the final lap to cut his lead to 11 points with three races remaining.
The factory Ducati rider gathered momentum battling Marquez to reel in team-mate Jorge Lorenzo and Danilo Petrucci to jump into the lead which set-up an intense race climax in Japan between the two main title contenders.
Despite building a lead of almost one second on Marquez, the defending MotoGP champion slashed his advantage with three laps to go while pushing on the limit and endured a heart-in-mouth moment on the final lap at turn eight.
That loss of momentum gave Dovizioso his opportunity to pounce by powering alongside the Repsol Honda on the back straight before getting past on the brakes at turn 11, before holding his nerve in a final corner fight to see Marquez drift wide.
Behind the top two, Petrucci grabbed third place while Andrea Iannone outmuscled Suzuki team-mate Alex Rins for fourth. That left Lorenzo in sixth in front of Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro and Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco.
Maverick Vinales saw his chances of the MotoGP title effectively ended struggling home in ninth place as Avintia Ducati’s Loris Baz completed the top ten. Valentino Rossi suffered a painful off in the opening laps to round out a miserable Japanese round for the Italian.
Japanese MotoGP race results:
1. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (GP17) 47m 14.236s
2. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda (RC213V) 47m 14.485s
3. Danilo Petrucci ITA Octo Pramac (GP17) 47m 24.793s
4. Andrea Iannone ITA Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 47m 33.081s
5. Alex Rins ESP Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR)* 47m 37.218s
6. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Ducati Team (GP17) 47m 38.700s
7. Aleix Espargaro ESP Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 47m 42.246s
8. Johann Zarco FRA Monster Yamaha Tech3 (YZR-M1)* 47m 43.711s
9. Maverick Viñales ESP Movistar Yamaha (YZR-M1) 47m 50.811s
10. Loris Baz FRA Reale Avintia (GP15) 48m 2.742s
11. Pol Espargaro ESP Red Bull KTM Factory (RC16) 48m 10.593s
12. Katsuyuki Nakasuga JPN Yamaha Factory (YZR-M1) 48m 14.417s
13. Sam Lowes GBR Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP)* 48m 15.216s
14. Hector Barbera ESP Reale Avintia (GP16) 48m 17.354s
15. Tito Rabat ESP EG 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) 48m 17.750s
16. Scott Redding GBR Octo Pramac (GP16) 48m 18.398s
17. Bradley Smith GBR Red Bull KTM Factory (RC16) 48m 20.507s
18. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN EG 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) 48m 27.486s
Alvaro Bautista ESP Pull&Bear Aspar (GP16) DNF
Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda (RC213V) DNF
Karel Abraham CZE Pull&Bear Aspar (GP15) DNF
Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) DNF
Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha (YZR-M1) DNF
Kohta Nozane JPN Monster Yamaha Tech3 (YZR-M1) DNF