Valentino Rossi signalled his intent in the riders' championship as he fought back from a sluggish start to win a thrilling battle at the season-opening Qatar MotoGP
On an almost perfect night at the Losail circuit - track temperature 28'C and wind speed 6mph - the 2015 MotoGP season got underway with Andrea Dovizioso starting from pole position.
The Italian, on board the new Ducati GP15, made a perfect start to lead the field through the first lap while reigning World Champion Marc Marquez had a dismal time. Having to sit up to avoid the back of Bradley Smith, which resulted in him running off the track at Turn 1, Marquez dropped to the very back of the field and was left with a massive job to do.
While Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Iannone built up a small lead over fourth-placed Yonny Hernandez, Marquez slowed worked his way forward, up to 14th place by the end of lap 2.
Lorenzo, seeing a perfect opportunity to get a march on Marquez, sliced by Dovizioso to lead into lap three with the factory Ducatis the only riders able to stick with the Yamaha.
Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, neither of whom had a great start, caught and passed Hernandez on lap 4 and 5 respectively to move up to fourth and fifth from where they began to hunt down the leading trio. Marquez was also on a charge, at times roughing up his rivals, as he climbed to eighth.
His next move was on Bradley Smith after which he made short work of Hernandez at Turn 6 before sliding up behind his Honda team. And all the while Lorenzo and Ducatis, who were joined by Rossi, built up an advantage.
Dovizioso returned to the lead on lap 9, overtaking Lorenzo at Turn 1, only for the former World Champion to come back him. That kicked off a great battle between the leading quartet as they traded positions several times as the Ducatis tried to get the advantage over the Yamahas.
With ten to go, Marquez had made his move on Pedrosa to be the leading Honda but was over four seconds behind race leader Lorenzo and 3.5s short of even joining that tussle at the front.
Back at the front, after a brief lull in the fight, Dovizioso and Lorenzo were yet again at each other, trading blows and the P1 slot, while Rossi, the only one of the leading four on the hard option front tyre, bided his time in third place.
With three to go the Italian made his move to slide into second after which he attached Dovizioso for the lead, taking it at Turn 12. The Ducati rider fought back but Rossi again took the lead, this time through the narrowest of gaps at Turn 4.
He was P1 as the final lap began but it was clear from the very first corner that Dovizioso was not giving up at all. Hunting Rossi with every breath, he was just not close enough to get the slipstream through the final corner and down the straight and Rossi claimed the win ahead by 0.174s.
The nine-time World Champion said: "I say this a lot of times but for me this is one of the best!
"My bike was fantastic. Step by step I arrived there, I did not give up. With the two Ducatis it was difficult but in some places I was very strong.
"I'm so happy for me, for my team, for Yamaha and for all the guys that are with me!"
Iannone completed the podium with Lorenzo the rider to lose out. He finished fourth with Marquez was fifth as he just didn't have the pace to challenge, some seven seconds down.
Pedrosa brought his RC213V home in sixth place ahead of Cal Crutchlow, Smith, Pol Espargaro and Hernandez.
There were three retirements on Sunday night as Alvaro Bautista, racing for Factory Aprilia Gresini, was forced into the pits after one of his brake callipers was broken as Marquez as he overtook him on lap 1. Rookie rider Jack Miller also failed to finish as did Karel Abraham.
1 Valentino ROSSI Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 42'35.717
2 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati Team 0.174
3 Andrea IANNONE Ducati Team 2.250
4 Jorge LORENZO Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 2.707
5 Marc MARQUEZ Repsol Honda Team 7.036
6 Dani PEDROSA Repsol Honda Team 10.755
7 Cal CRUTCHLOW LCR Honda 12.384
8 Bradley SMITH Monster Yamaha Tech 3 12.914
9 Pol ESPARGARO Monster Yamaha Tech 3 13.031
10 Yonny HERNANDEZ Pramac Racing 17.435
11 Aleix ESPARGARO Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 19.901
12 Danilo PETRUCCI Pramac Racing 24.432
13 Scott REDDING EG 0,0 Marc VDS 32.032
14 Maverick VIÑALES Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 33.463
15 Hector BARBERA Avintia Racing 33.625
16 Stefan BRADL Athinà Forward Racing 33.944
17 Nicky HAYDEN Aspar MotoGP Team 38.970
18 Eugene LAVERTY Aspar MotoGP Team 46.570
19 Mike DI MEGLIO Avintia Racing 59.211
20 Alex DE ANGELIS Octo IodaRacing Team 1'14.981
21 Marco MELANDRI Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1'48.143
22 Loris BAZ Athinà Forward Racing 3 Laps
Karel ABRAHAM AB Motoracing
Jack MILLER LCR Honda
Alvaro BAUTISTA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini