Rossi wound back the years with a racing masterclass on the YZR-M1 to deny Dovizioso a fairy-tale triumph on the GP15 machine to begin his 20th year of Grand Prix racing in the best possible way.
The Italian star’s victory was all the more sweeter given that defending champion Marc Marquez never made it onto the podium after running off the track at the first turn, eventually finishing the 22-lap race in fifth place on the Repsol Honda.
A jubilant Rossi, now 36-years-old, said his victory compared with previous premier class nail-biters against Loris Capirossi and Jorge Lorenzo, hailing his win as ‘like the old times’.
Rossi, who also suggested he could continue racing at the top level until he was 40-years-old, said: “It was unbelievable and I think one of the best races of my career; for sure one of the best battles of the last lap.
“I remember at this level maybe with [Loris] Capirossi always with the Ducati or with Jorge [Lorenzo] at Montmelo, or one time with Capirossi at Sepang – like the old times, no?
“I don’t really remember very well the last lap, I just remember I was close to crashing two or three times! From this morning we improved a lot the setting of the bike and we worked well for the race,” Rossi added.
“We started to lose too much time at the start, maybe I was sleeping but after a good start I was in front of Andrea [Iannone] but after three corners I don’t know what happened.
“I overtook the riders who were a bit more slow and after I arrived with Dani [Pedrosa]. I overtook Dani and then when I overtook [Yonny] Hernandez my next lap alone I did a 1m 55.2, so I say ‘wow, not so bad – I can do’.”
Rossi also witnessed Marquez’s misfortune at the first corner and was keen to take full advantage to bag a valuable 25 points at the season-opening night race.
“Also at the first corner I saw Marquez go wide and I knew it was a special moment because it was a good chance to win. After a difficult moment when I was behind Andrea [Iannone] and I wasn’t able to overtake, I saw on the board that Marquez arrive,” he said.
“I tried to concentrate and I tried to pass Andrea and from that moment my bike was very balanced for the end; lap after lap I saw Jorge and also Dovi were more in trouble than me.
“In that moment I thought about the way to do the strategy; I never made a mistake and also there were places on the race track where I was very strong and I tried to push.”
The outright pace of the Ducati on the straight raised the prospect that Rossi would be outgunned on the dash to the line but he pulled enough of an advantage to hold the edge on a sizzling last lap.
“Yes [thought Ducati would come past on run to line] but I knew that if I was able to overtake Andrea soon, I could make a small advantage because in the last part, section three, section four – except the last corner – I was very strong,” Rossi said.
“In the last corner, I did not hear the noise of the Ducati, I exited very well and I could enjoy the moment before the line.
“I feel good, I have good motivation and I like my job because it is also my passion, like all the guys here. For me, if you live a good life, good training, you can ride at the top until 40-years-old. What makes the difference is more the motivation and the concentration,” he added.
“So I am so happy because Marc is behind, which is very important for the championship, but this year I think there will be six instead of four, because the two Ducatis are very strong and they are riding in a good way, so it will be very interesting.”