Buriram, October 8: Breathtaking is the word that perfectly encapsulates the first-ever PTT Thailand Grand Prix in which Marc Marquez of Repsol Honda Team emerged victorious to take another giant leap towards the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.
The battle in Buriram went down to the wire between the Spaniard and runner up Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati Team, with Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Maverick Vinales claiming a valiant comeback podium in third.
It was Marquez who got the holeshot from pole as the lights went out, with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) tucked in behind his arch rival from P2 on the grid.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) launched well from P5 to slot into third, before Dovizioso re-took P3 into Turn 3 as the front three in qualifying held station, spearheading the field into a high-speed game of chess at Chang International Circuit.
Ducati moves up
Everyone held position before Rossi got past Marquez on the run down to Turn 3, 'The Doctor' back up the sharp end and looking strong to control the pace.
With tyre life a major factor in the soaring Thailand temperatures, no one wanted to force their hand.
That was until Lap 11, when Rossi couldn't get his M1 firing out the first corner and the Ducati of Dovi and Honda of Marquez swept past the nine-time world champion - and the number 04 emerging in charge of controlling the 200mph freight train.
Bridging the gap
Then, however, laptimes slowed again as Vinales bridged the gap to the leading trio.
Pedrosa crashed out at Turn 5 with eight laps remaining as he and Zarco got a whiff of a potential podium, the duo closing down the leaders by half a second on the previous lap, before the race then entered a critical stage at the front.
Dovi got the run out Turn 11 to brake late into the final corner and get alongside Marquez, but the Italian couldn't quite drop anchor quick enough - with a flash of orange cutting back underneath the Italian as Marquez did exactly what he had been victim to in Austria in 2017, Motegi that same season and Qatar at the start of 2018.
The Spaniard crossed the line just ahead, and the roles were reversed in perfect symmetry.
A seventh win of the season draws Marquez level with the compatriot Jorge Lorenzo of Ducati Team, who had to miss the race, on 68 Grand Prix wins, while it also gives him a magnificent chance to wrap the title up at Honda's home round - Motegi.
The 2017 Japanese GP was the scene of another iconic Marquez vs Dovizioso tussle...will we be treated to another sensational spectacle in two weeks' time?
Find out at the Twin Ring Motegi from October 19 to 21.
(With inputs from Dorna Sports)