Sepang, Malaysia – Works Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso took his second MotoGP win at a streaming wet Sepang to become the ninth winner of 2016 - an all-time first for the blue riband class of motorcycle racing – while new world champion Marc Marquez fell off (again!) and both Yamahas battled through tyre problems to finish second and third.
South African brothers Brad and Darryn Binder had a rough day at the office, with new Moto3 world champion Brad getting skittled while leading on lap three. He remounted and battled on to come home stone last, three laps down, while younger brother Darryn survived a race of attrition to finish 10th.
Lorenzo led the way off the front row, but it was Honda’s new world champion who came up from the second row to slot in behind the Yamaha around Turn 1, while Ducati Team rider Andrea Iannone - despite still recovering from a cracked vertebra from a crash in Misano - pushed Rossi down to fourth.
By the end of lap one, however, Rossi was leading from the Ducatis of Iannone amd pole-sitter Dovizioso, Marquez and Lorenzo. Suzuki star Aleix Espargaro briefly joined the front group, who were constantly shuffling places, only to slide out at Turn 1 on lap 3. He rejoined the race, but way down and out of contention.
At the end of lap two Iannone grabbed the lead, passing Rossi in Turn 15 and using the Ducatis’ straight-line speed advantage to power ahead coming out, fending off several challenges from The Doctor while his team-mate Dovizioso held off Marquez in third and fourth and Lorenzo found himself under attack by top Honda privateer Cal Crutchlow.
Dovizioso and Marquez began closing in on the leading pair at half distance, but Lorenzo was pushed down to sixth by the on-form Crutchlow – until the Honda went down in Turn 2. Two more high-profile crashes then rocked the front group, as Marquez slid out on Turn 11 and Iannone crashed out of the lead at Turn 9 just a lap later.
That put Rossi back in front but he had the other Ducati all over him like a cheap suit – and his front tyre was starting to go off. He held Dovizioso off for another three desperately hard-fought laps, until he ran wide in Turn 1 on lap 15 and Dovizioso dived through to grab the lead.
And it was all over bar the shouting, as ‘DesmoDovi’ powered away to a commanding lead before backing off, to come home three seconds clear of Rossi, who was way ahead of his team-mate and able to concentrate on bringing his unruly Yamaha home unscathed. Lorenzo, who is not at his best in the wet, took the final podium position after a cautious beginning.
Avintia Ducati privateer team-mates Hector Barbera and Loris Baz put in a superb ride for fourth and fifth respectively with Maverick Vinales, also battling in the wet conditions, having an uncharacteristically quiet race to finish sixth.
Alvaro Bautista shone for Aprilia again with a well-deserved seventh, ahead of Assen winner Jack Miller (Honda), Pol Espargaro (Yamaha Tech 3) and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati), who rounded out the top 10, four seconds ahead of Marquez, who made up four placees after rejoining 15th to come home 11th.
The skies opened ahead of Moto2 lining up on the grid in Malaysia, with Johann Zarco facing down his first chance at the Championship from a soaked pole position – but he played his hand perfectly to take an unbelievable win, in front of more impressive podium finishes for Franco Morbidelli and wet weather specialist Jonas Folger,
Championship rivals Thomas Luthi and Alex Rins finished sixth and 14th, making Zarco the first Moto2 rider to win consecutive titles, while Tech 3 riders Xavi Vierge and Isaac Vinales upset the usual pecking order by being the only non-Kalex finishers in the top 10.
Folger got the hole shot as the spray kicked up off the start line, with Morbidelli al most immediately moving up to take the lead as Zarco slotted into third. Luthi dropped from fifth to eighth in the opening stages as the Swiss rider remained cautious in the difficult conditions, with third championship challenger Rins moving up 10 places from 23rd on the grid to 13th in an impressive early gain.
An early crash saw Sam Lowes slide out, followed by Mattia Pasini at the same corner - before front row starter Axel Pons simply gave up, unable to handle the conditions.
Morbidelli then led the field from Zarco, ahead of Folger with Xavier Simeon (Speed Up) fourth and local rider Hafizh Syahrin moving up into the top five. Luthi then had a shaky lap as he was passed by both Marquez and Lorenzo Baldassarri - but the rain then stopping and conditions improving steadily.
The front trio of Morbidelli, Zarco and Folger were locked in a game of chess at the front, as Folger kept setting the quickest laps of the three, before Zarco pounced for the lead with six laps to go, and disappeared into the distance as he tucked in and pulled away from Morbidelli.
Baldassarri came home in a lonely fourth, unable to catch the leading trio, with home track hero Syahrin getting a good pay off for his battles throughout the race as he completed the top five.
Luthi finished sixth after finding some more pace later in the race, but was unable to stop Zarco from taking the title.
An incredible ride from Alex Marquez saw the 2014 Moto3 champion move up from a difficult qualifying in 21st to fight for fourth and finally come home seventh, gaining 14 places in tough conditions.
Vierge made good on his practice showings at Sepang to ride through the field to an impressive eighth, while Luca Marini split the Tech 3 Racing Team in ninth, ahead of the second Tech 3 of Isaac Vinales.
Francesco Bagnaia (Mahindra) took his second career Grand Prix as he escaped at the front ahead of a demolition derby throughout the field, with Jakub Kornfeil (Honda) second and another podium rookie, Bo Bendsneyder (KTM) third.
The drama began early and went on to claim almost half the field; there were high rates of attrition on lap one, with Andrea Migno losing control of his KTM and making contact with Juanfran Guevara similar machine to take both out of the race. Then Jorge Martin (Mahindra) took a tumble at Turn 6, taking Nicolo Bulega (KTM), Aron Canet (Honda) and Philipp Oettl (KTM) with him – and that was just on the first lap!
On lap three local hero Adam Norrodin (Honda), new world champion Brad Binder ( KTM), Joan Mir (KTM), Lorenzo Dalla Porta (KTM) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Honda) all slid out in unbelievable unison at Turn 7, leaving Bagnaia free at the front to build an incredible lead of more than three seconds. Binder and Dalla Porta rejoined, but out of the points and lapped.
Two laps later Jorge Navarro (Honda) crashed at the final corner, and on lap six Honda team-mates crashed out on Turn 9 in separate but almost simultaneous incidents, although Antonelli was able to remount and remain in the points.
At the front, Bagnaia had nuilt a lead of four seconds with 12 laps to go, well ahead of a three-way fight for second between Kornfeil, Bendsneyder and KTM rider Gabriel Rodrigo.
Fabio Quartararo (KTM) was in a lonely sixth, with a four-way battle just behind him as local hero Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda), Andrea Locatelli (KTM), Maria Herrera (KTM) and Marcos Ramirez (Mahindra Platinum Bay Real Estate) debated sixth.
Binder came back out from the pits passing Quartararo and Rodrigo to unlap himself at least once. Dalla Porta, a lap down, moved over to let the podium fight through, with Bendsneyder taking advantage to pass Kornfeil for second, while Binder did the same to allow Quartararo back past to continue his podium charge.
Then Maria Herrera went down heavily at Turn 15 in an incident with Livio Loi (Honda) that brought out the red flags and, with well over two thirds of race distance completed, the results were taken as at the end of lap 13.
That gave Bagnaia the win by an incredible seven seconds, with Kornfeil taking seconds by virtue of his position on lap 13, and rookie Bo Bendsneyder completing the podium.
Quartararo was fourth, with Leopard Racing team-mate Locatelli further back but completing the top five. Marcos Ramirez took sixth ahead of Rodrigo, home hero Pawi and Loi, with Darryn Binder (Mahindra) 10th in another impressive ride after his fourth in Australia.