It was Marquez who had the initial advantage as he bolted away into the distance over the first laps, putting the hammer down early and leaving the Ducati duo of Lorenzo and Dovizioso trailing him by half a second, a second, then seven tenths as the gap was a constant concertina but a sizeable gap. In clear air Marquez’s tactics seemed immediately clear, and the bigger focus over the first laps was on the two Ducati men locked together behind him – almost close enough to look like one bike at a passing glance.
Dovizioso looked threatening and feinted a number of times but the Italian didn’t make a move. With the gap at the front staying constant and Marquez no longer gaining ground, the tide then began to turn as Lorenzo slowly reeled him in. By 11 laps to go the Ducatis were right back on the tail of the Honda but Lorenzo just ran it wide at Turn 3. Using the grunt of the Borgo Panigale machine, however, the No. 99 recovered quickly to fire back into second. The lead trio remained in line, nothing between them, before Lorenzo decided to make his move.
Right on Marquez’s tail over the line and passing the reigning champion into Turn 1, Lorenzo pulled the pin and took over at the front as teammate Dovizioso ran wide and dropped off the lead duo. But that lead duo didn’t stay the same way around for long as they dueled it out, heading a bit wide at one point before Lorenzo was back ahead and the two regrouped.
With three laps to go Lorenzo went wide at Turn 3 and Marquez went through, but of course the Ducati struck back – with a brutal move at Turn 9. On the penultimate lap Marquez again attacked at Turn 3, but Lorenzo led the two over the line to begin the final lap.
Locked together, the big attack came again at Turn 3 as Marquez dived straight for the inside – but Lorenzo held his line and was able to regain the ground immediately on the exit. Pushing hard and the Repsol Honda in second squiggling around in the braking zones, Marquez looked threatening around the remainder of the final lap but the Spartan was not for being caught – taking the victory in style and denying Marquez the chance at a final lunge.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) put in an impressive performance to take fourth as top Independent Team rider to put his Spielberg demons to bed after two 15th-place finishes over the past two years. Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) was also able to bounce back after a tough race at the venue last season to complete the top five. Petrucci now leads the Independent Team standings by a single point from Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), with Crutchlow only another point back.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) put in a stunning ride through the field, with the rider from Tavullia moving through from 14th on the grid to fight off Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) in a high-caliber battle for sixth. Behind the two, Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) took eighth after mixing it at the front nearer the start – a solid result at a more difficult track for the Hamamatsu factory.
Johann Zarco took ninth as he beat with Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) to the line – with Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) for close company. The three took P9, P10 and P11 respectively.
Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) took P12 after a difficult weekend, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in 13th following an early off for the 2016 winner. Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took points for home factory KTM and put in a good race for 14th, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) completing the points as top rookie, just ahead of Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3).