Defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo began his campaign for a fourth title by claiming victory in the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday.
The 28-year-old Spaniard, who started on pole, won the floodlit race in the Gulf for a third time, with Andrea Dovizioso on a Ducati taking second, 2.019sec behind, and Marc Marquez on a Honda in third at 2.287sec off the pace.
Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi was fourth on the second factory Yamaha with whom he had signed a new two-year deal on Saturday.
For Lorenzo, it was a 62nd career win and 41st in the elite class, coming at the circuit where he made his debut in 2008.
Lorenzo had lost first place at the end of the opening lap to Ducati’s Andrea Iannone but the unpredictable Italian’s race ended on the sixth lap when he crashed out spectacularly at turn 13 at the Losail track.
That briefly allowed Ducati teammate Dovizioso to snatch the lead but with 14 laps of the 22-lap race to go, Lorenzo charged through to take back the lead which he never relinquished.
Two-time world champion Marquez slipped past Dovizioso with four laps left but the Italian pulled off a spectacular pass on the penultimate lap to make sure of second spot.
Lorenzo, who won the 2015 world title at the season finale in Valencia, said his last-minute decision to switch tyres from hard to soft was key to victory.
Switzerland’s Thomas Luthi, riding a Kalex, won the Moto2 race for his 11th career triumph.
Luthi, who was 125cc world champion in 2005, finished ahead of Spain’s Luis Salom, also on a Kalex, and Italy’s Simone Corsi on board a Speed Up machine.
Niccolo Antonelli on a Honda won the Moto3 category. The 20-year-old Italian came in first just a fraction of a second ahead of South Africa’s Brad Binder on a KTM.
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