(Reuters) - Honda’s Marc Marquez took another significant stride towards his sixth MotoGP title by seizing victory in a last-lap duel at the San Marino Grand Prix on Sunday after missing out in his previous two races.
The Spaniard went 93 points clear at the top of the standings with six races remaining after denying French Petronas Yamaha rookie Fabio Quartararo a first top-flight victory at Misano’s Marco Simoncelli circuit.
Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales finished third after starting on pole position.
Marquez’s closest rival Andrea Dovizioso, on a Ducati, was sixth on home territory.
The championship now looks as good as over with Marquez powering ahead on 275 points to the Italian’s 182, with Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci third on 151 and Suzuki’s Alex Rins on 149.
Quartararo had lined up third on the grid, with Marquez fifth, but the race became a battle between the two with the Frenchman leading from lap three of 27 and soaking up the pressure before the champion swept past.
Quartararo fought back but was outfoxed by Marquez, who passed him twice on the last lap.
“I knew that it wasn’t necessary to win, because I saw that Rins was out and Dovi far (behind),” said the jubilant winner, who celebrated wildly with his team after parking his bike at the finish.
“But honestly speaking, yesterday was the extra motivation — the extra push — for the race.
“I just tried to stay there (with Quartararo)...and then I said I will try (to pass) on the last lap. It’s really nice to win here in Italy but even nicer to have a 93 points (lead) in the championship.”
Marquez, a seven times champion in all classes, had clashed with Valentino Rossi in qualifying when the pair nearly collided.
The incident wrecked both of their laps, at a circuit where the overwhelming majority of the crowd were supporting the Italian great who grew up nearby. They were summoned to see stewards, who decided to take no further action.
The win was Marquez’s seventh of the season but first since the Czech Grand Prix on Aug. 4. The Spaniard had finished the last two races as runner-up and was determined not to make it three in a row.
“It was a tough race,” said Quartararo. “I gave my 100% but Marc had the experience on the last lap. But today is the first time we have a fight with Marc, we finished really close to the victory.
“I can say that was the best moment of my career fighting with a seven times world champion.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London; editing by Clare Fallon and Emelia Sithole-Matarise