Not many riders emerge on top after a last-lap scrap with Marc Marquez but Andrea Dovizioso has outsmarted the Honda rider twice this season to remain firmly in contention for the MotoGP title.

Dovizioso concedes that Marquez is perhaps the most difficult rider to defeat when it comes down to a winner-takes-all battle, but the 31-year-old says his capacity to think through his strategy in a focused way gave him the decisive advantage in Austria and again in the wet on Sunday at Motegi in Japan.

Dovizioso took full advantage when Marquez made a mistake on the last lap to take the lead and then defended his line ahead of the inevitable last-corner lunge by the reigning champion, which mirrored the final moments of the race in Austria.

“I think he is so strong and maybe the best rider for fighting and playing with other riders for sure,” Dovi said.

“I think also the bike helps him a little bit to play, but I think he is the best about that. My side, I’m so focused when I am doing something and in that case I thought the right things to do. It’s nice, but the goal is the championship and this is sweet, but it is not enough.

“When you fight with Marc the heartbeat is over 200 at any time because he is for sure the best rider to play with other riders. You know that and also you know he is really good to prepare the overtaking. The important thing is to be focused in the right moment.”

Dovizioso’s emergence as a serious title challenger this season has taken many by surprise but the experienced Italian says his race craft has always been a major characteristic of his Grand Prix career.

“Yes, every time you learn but like what I did this year – a lot of good results – surprised a lot of persons and also this battle surprised a lot of persons. But I’m not too surprised like all the people because in the past, this was my characteristic, my style – I didn’t change this,” said Dovizioso.

“The difference now is fighting for the championship but for sure everybody learns and becomes more mature. You can approach everything in a little bit better way, but the way I race this year is not too different – there is small things and together with a good bike you can arrive at this result, but I am not so different from the past.”

Recounting Marquez’s big moment on the last lap, Dovizioso said the Honda rider also had a near-miss at turn 7 before his feet came off the pegs at the next corner.

“He almost crashed in turn 7 and slowed down a little bit but turn 8 was worse because he was already on acceleration. I didn’t expect this mistake but I knew he was on the limit because the grip of our bike was very bad at that time.

“Our tyre was finished and it was spinning on the straight. I think we have more power than Honda and when you finish the tyre the spin is more, so it was very difficult for me to manage,” he said.

“From outside, from the TV, it doesn’t look like the reality and for sure I took less risks than Marc, less risk than some other riders; but what you can see is not the reality. The way I move, it looks like I am comfortable and I don’t take risks, but it is not like this.

“For sure during the race, in the middle of the race, I wasn’t fast like Marc and Danilo [Petrucci] but I didn’t give up; I had to take some risks to try to stay with them. But I have a good balance on the bike and I understood before the race where I had to be better, and in the way I had to be better in the race.”

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