SEPANG: The MotoGP championship battle will go down to the wire.
Andrea Dovizioso clinched his second win in a row at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, as overall championship leader Marc Marquez could only settle for fourth in a wet race at the Sepang Circuit.
Dovizioso took the lead from teammate Jorge Lorenzo after a mistake from the latter with four laps to go, and there was no looking back from there as he clinched a close 1-2 finish for Ducati in 44 minutes and 51.497 seconds.
Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) took an early lead in the race, but eventually came in third, almost 10 seconds behind Dovizioso.
Marquez (+17.763s) and Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, who came in fifth (+29.144s), also enjoyed a strong start, but just had no answer to the pace possessed by the Ducatis in the wet as the race progressed.
Dovizioso, who has now narrowed the gap between himself and Marquez to 21 points, said it was the perfect weekend for Ducati.
"We were so fast in every session, from the first practice in both the wet and the dry. It was a perfect weekend for us here," said the Italian, who also won in the rain here last year.
"It took some time for me to settle at the start as there was very little grip and I did not feel as confident as I did in practice.
"I believe there was a lot of rubber on the track from the previous practice sessions, as well as the Moto2 and Moto3 races which cause it (lack of grip).
"I needed to really concentrate (to avoid crashing) and I was fortunate I was not pushed hard (when in the lead)."
The 31-year-old, who has notched six race wins this season, however, downplayed his chances at the season-ending race in Valencia which will be held in a fortnight.
"Valencia will not be easy, from what we understand, Honda are strong there," added Dovizioso.
"Marc is also a very strong rider. He had a tough weekend here, but still managed fourth, that is why he is still leading the championship.
"We will be going for the win in Valencia, but either way it has been a great season, we have won six races and nobody would have expected us to be in this position in the championship now."
Zarco, who has secured both the Rookie of the Year as well as the Independent Team Rider of the Year titles, admitted that he thought he was going to win the race.
"I expected I could fight longer, but I was just losing acceleration and grip as the race went on," said the Frenchman, who went with soft tires on the rear of his bike.
"I then decided not to do anything silly and risk it.
"Still, it felt good to lead the race at the start and get my second podium finish this season."
Marquez remains the overall leader in the championship standings with 282 points, while Dovizioso and Movistar Yamaha's Maverick Vinales are second and third on 261 and 226 respectively. - With additional reporting by Khairil Iswan