Reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez bagged his 12th win of the season at Sepang but was made to work for it by Valentino Rossi for almost the whole race before the Italian’s tyres went away with four laps to go and the Spaniard was able to pull a two-second gap at the chequered flag to take his first victory in five races.
Marquez had to recover from a first corner rub with Jorge Lorenzo which put him wide and down the order but he bounced straight back to pass Aleix Espargaro and Bradley and commence his charge to the front.
Dani Pedrosa and Lorenzo, along with Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso, led early doors with the Movistar Yamaha man first passing the Ducati rider for second and then moving past Pedrosa into the penultimate corner to lead the race at the start of lap two.
It was disaster, however, for Pedrosa as he went down while trail braking on the bumps into the last corner on lap two. He re-mounted and got back into a point-scoring position before lobbing it, and his hopes of second in the title chase, again with eight laps to run.
Marquez made his way past Dovizioso and it became a three-way dice for the lead with Lorenzo running the hard compund front tyre against the mediums of Rossi and Marquez while all three were on the medium rear.
There was nothing to split the three, although after the race Lorenzo complained off not being able to hold on due to a tank protector being removed. Rossi was all over his team-mate and eventually passed with 11 laps to go and Marquez tried to follow.
Lorenzo held on for one more corner but an error pushed him wide into the last corner and Marquez was through. Rossi had gapped Lorenzo to the tune of 0.7s but Marquez crossed it quickly and then, Rossi made the same mistake as Lorenzo and Marquez took the lead with ten left.
He was never headed again and although Rossi held on to him for six laps as Lorenzo dropped back, Marquez gave a final kick and stayed in the 2’01s bracket while the Yamahas were in the mid-2’02s. Lorenzo did make some time back on Rossi but it wasn’t enough.
Dovizioso looked safe in fourth place but his pace dropped into the 2’09s late on and that allowed both Stefan Bradl and Bradley Smith to jump into the fight for fourth place. Smith had the pace over the German but he just ran out of laps and a move into the last corner on the last lap just didn’t work.
The Monster Yamaha man has taken advantage of his team-mate Pol Espargaro’s broken foot and closed in on the fight for sixth place in the title chase and is now only seven points behind the Spaniard with one race left.
Espargaro fought to sixth place, just ahead of Yonnny Hernandez who finished top Ducati, with Doviziso plummeting to eighth on the last couple of laps. Hector Barbera was ninth and Britain’s Scott Redding completing the top ten and finishing top production Honda after an uncharacteristic crash from Nicky Hayden.
Michael Laverty grabbed 12th place, one ahead of PBM team-mate Broc Parkes, for his second points-score in a row while Cal Crutchlow’s challenge ended with a breakdown with 16 laps to go.