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  • Marc Marquez begins defence of MotoGP crown with victory at Losail
  • Valentino Rossi second after starting from row four
  • Nightmare start for Jorge Lorenzo following lap one spill
  • Bradley Smith, Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista among fallers

Marc Marquez began the defence of his MotoGP crown in dazzling style with a hard-earned victory in Qatar.

The Repsol Honda rider was involved in a gripping battle with old master Valentino Rossi in the closing stages of the race, but had enough in reserve on the final lap to hold off his Yamaha rival to take the chequered flag.

It was a phenomenal result for 21-year-old Marquez, who has barely recovered from a broken leg sustained during a dirt bike training accident.

Third place went to Dani Pedrosa on the second of the Repsol Honda machines, with Aleix Espargaro fourth on the Open Forward Yamaha.

In a drama-filled race, Movistar Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo suffered a fall while leading on the opening lap, while Stefan Bradl, Bradley Smith and Alvaro Bautista also ended up in the gravel trap.

Ducati pair Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow were fifth and sixth respectively, with rookie Scott Redding an excellent seventh on the RCV1000R Honda ahead of Nicky Hayden.

Lorenzo led into Turn 1 after a flying start from the second row ahead of British star Smith and Bradl, who powered through from row three.

Pole man Marquez was in fourth ahead of Dovizioso, while Rossi was only eighth at this stage, one place in front of Espargaro, who blew his chances of a front row start following a double spill in Qualifying 2.

Lorenzo's lead was short-lived however, as the double premier class champion lost the front end of his M1. The Spaniard's race was over and Bradl took up the reins from Marquez, who passed Smith at the end of the finish straight on lap one with Andrea Iannone on the Pramac Ducati fourth ahead of Rossi, who was making swift progress through the field.

Iannone, impressive during practice and qualifying, was ruled out after a spill on lap two as Bradl continued to lead the charge.

Bautista was making up ground on the Gresini Honda and moved into fourth from Smith, with Rossi following suit as he began to put the hammer down on the factory M1.

Rossi and Bautista became embroiled in a battle for third, with the Italian rider quickly coming out on top to make a pass stick on lap seven.

The nine-time world champion was on the move and came through to challenge Marquez and the pair traded blows as Bradl remained in the lead with Smith now fourth from Pedrosa and Bautista.

On lap nine, Bradl went down and his race was over, gifting the lead to Marquez with Rossi in hot pursuit.

The leading pair began to open a slight advantage as Pedrosa slotted into this place but more drama lay ahead, with Smith sliding out of the race on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 at Turn 2 on lap 19 before Bautista suffered the same fate two laps later.

All eyes were on young gun Marquez and the vastly experienced Rossi, with the outcome hanging in the balance as each rider took turns at the front.

On penultimate lap, the warring duo exchanged places twice but it was Marquez who exited the final turn in front to lead on the final lap.

Rossi was never quite able to move close enough to Marquez to attempt a pass, who had opted to run the hard compound Bridgestone tyres front and rear in contrast to the choice of his rivals.

Incredibly, Marquez set his fastest lap of the race on the 22nd lap to keep Rossi at bay, flashing across the line to win by 0.259s as Pedrosa came home in a safe third.

Espargaro finished fourth on the Open Forward Yamaha ahead of Dovizioso and Crutchlow, who toured over the line on his Ducati after appearing to run out of fuel.

Michael Laverty incurred a ride-through penalty on the PBM machine after jumping the start and finished 16th, one place behind team-mate Broc Parkes.

Pol Espargaro was a non-finisher on his MotoGP race debut after seemingly developing a problem with his Tech 3 Yamaha.

Qatar MotoGP:
1. Marc Marquez
2. Valentino Rossi
3. Dani Pedrosa
4. Aleix Espargaro
5. Andrea Dovizioso
6. Cal Crutchlow
7. Scott Redding
8. Nicky Hayden
9.Colin Edwards
10. Andrea Iannone
11. Hiroshi Aoyama
12. Yonny Hernandez
13.Karel Abraham
14.Danilo Petrucci
15. Broc Parkes
16. Michael Laverty
17. Mike Di Meglio
Alvaro Bautista
Bradley Smith
Pol Espargaro
Stefan Bradl
Hector Barbera
Jorge Lorenzo



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