MotoGP rider Maverick Vinales celebrates winning the Qatar Grand Prix for Yamaha
Vinales was delighted: “That was great.
"The track was difficult and I was taking a bit of care, but the race was coming back to me little by little and we were doing a great job – I am so happy.”
Dovizios, who had gambled on tyre choice, had no answer in the closing stages: “I was leading and was comfortable but did not push to save the tyre and then I could not stay with Maverick.”
And Rossi reckoned he would not have bet on himself finishing third: “We never give up – it is good and we take a lot from this race.”
Rain minutes before the start pushed the race back but it was nothing compared to the desert storm that had washed out the previous evening’s qualifying and after delays and discussions it was the rookie Johann Zarco riding the Tech3 Yamaha who made the early running.
He was looking comfortable, holding off the reigning three times MotoGP Champion Marc Marquez for the first quarter before he lost the front, sliding off, while Suzuki’s new boy Andrea Iannone took over out front from his former Ducati team-mate Andrea Dovizioso while pole starter Vinales was making ground fast, just ahead of his team-mate Valentino Rossi.
Iannone grabbed the lead but then tipped off at half distance with Dovizioso having the edge, though coming under increasing pressure from Vinales and his team-mate Rossi who had carved through the pack from the fourth row.
Vinales overcame Dovizioso with seven laps remaining to set up a thrilling three-way fight for victory and though the Ducati rider hit back, Vinales was not to be denied, taking the second top-flight victory of his career while Rossi surprised even himself with third.
Marquez ran fourth ahead of his team-mate Dani Pedrosa while Scott Redding was the top Brit, seventh on the Pramac Ducati, with Bradley Smith 17th, just ahead of Sam Lowes as Cal Crutchlow crashed out of contention.
John McPhee had to settle for second-best as he made his debut for the Dorna-backed British Talent Honda team in a typically hard-fought, frantic Moto3 race and the rider from Oban was left blaming himself for a late, minor error that cost him the chance of victory.
He had grabbed the lead going into the final lap but was always under pressure from the determined Joan Mir who nosed ahead to grab the win leaving McPhee to reflect: “With three corners to go I ran a little bit wide and then I had to settle for second.
"My bike was so fast and strong and I tried several times for the win.”
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McPhee had started from the fourth row of the grid but battled into contention to be in the thick of slip-streaming battles on the long straight and after losing out to the Spaniard by 0.135secs he said: “I have been given this great opportunity and want to make the most of it – I was feeling confident, stuck to the plan and it paid off for me.”
Former Moto3 title winner Danny Kent struggled into 13th place as Franco Morbidelli powered in his maiden Moto2 victory in dominant style.