Motorcycling: Dovizioso holds off Marquez in Japanese MotoGP thriller for 5th season win and trims lead to 11pts

Italian MotoGP rider Andrea Dovizioso (right) of Ducati Team leads Spanish MotoGP rider Marc Marquez of Repsol Honda Team in last ditch at the MotoGP race of the MotoGP Grand Prix of Japan on Oct 15, 2017.
Italian MotoGP rider Andrea Dovizioso (right) of Ducati Team leads Spanish MotoGP rider Marc Marquez of Repsol Honda Team in last ditch at the MotoGP race of the MotoGP Grand Prix of Japan on Oct 15, 2017.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

(REUTERS) - Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso breathed new life into the MotoGP championship on Sunday, edging out Marc Marquez in a ferocious duel to win a rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi.

In a white-knuckle battle in appalling conditions at the Twin Ring circuit, Dovizioso snatched the lead from championship leader Marquez in a dramatic last lap after the swashbuckling Spaniard made a rare mistake when rounding a corner.

The Italian's nerve-jangling win by 0.249 of a second trimmed the Honda rider's lead to 11 points with three races left in the season.

Danilo Petrucci finished third on a non-works Ducati, his fourth podium for the season, while Maverick Vinales' faint title hopes were all but extinguished after a disappointing ninth for Yamaha.

Spaniard Vinales heads to Phillip Island in Australia 41 points adrift of three-time MotoGP champion Marquez, who improved to 244 points in the title race.

The dogged Dovizioso was beaming, however, having completed a brilliant race from ninth on the grid and fended off the series' most fearsome competitor.

Defending champion Marquez looked to have it won after he burned past Dovizioso with three laps left but he gave up precious momentum on the final lap with a slide at Turn 8.

Thrown from his seat and all but crashing, Marquez did well to regain control but the error allowed Dovizioso enough ground to mount a final daring raid.

"The rear tyre was completely gone," the Italian said track-side after grabbing his fifth win of the season. "But he did a mistake so I was able to catch him and I did a perfect corner at Turn 10."

Marquez all but brushed Dovizioso's rear wheel as he attacked at the last corner but could find no way through.

"It was an amazing race, I mean the two guys that are fighting for the championship are fighting to the last corner," said Marquez without a trace of disappointment.

"I did a few mistakes especially at Turn 8, I lose a lot."

Suzuki savoured an encouraging weekend, with Andrew Iannone and Alex Rins finishing fourth and fifth respectively.

Three-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo fought to the front briefly in the early laps but faded to sixth for Ducati, while Italian great Valentino Rossi's forgettable weekend ended mid-race with a fall.

Alex Marquez, Marc's younger brother, won the Moto2 category for Kalex, with Honda's Romano Fenati claiming the Moto3.