Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo got the defence of his MotoGP title off to a winning start with victory in Qatar.

The three-time champion held off the challenge of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso after passing the Italian on lap nine.

Spain’s Marc Marquez came third on his Honda, while Italy’s seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi, 37, finished fourth on his Yamaha.

Britain’s Cal Crutchlow crashed his Honda on the seventh lap following a mistake on turn four.

Fellow Briton Bradley Smith, who will join Austrian manufacturer KTM in 2017, finished eighth on his Yamaha, while Scott Redding was 10th on his Ducati.

Northern Ireland’s Eugene Laverty, who equalled his best MotoGP performance in qualifying, finished 12th.

Spanish rider Lorenzo, 28, was pleased that his gamble of switching to a soft tyre following an off-the-pace warm-up lap paid off.

“To choose the right tyre was very important” he said.

“I tried the warm-up lap with a hard tyre but I did not get the best feeling.

“It was very risky to go for the soft tyre, as our main rivals Rossi and Marquez chose the hard one.

“But it turned out well, as I made the fastest lap of 1:54.9 seconds [late in the race], which was impressive.”

Qatar result:

1. Jorge Lorenzo (Spain) Yamaha 42:28.452

2. Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Ducati +2.019

3. Marc Marquez (Spain) Honda +2.287

4. Valentino Rossi (Italy) Yamaha +2.387

5. Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda +14.083

6. Maverick Vinales (Spain) Suzuki +15.423

7. Pol Espargaro (Spain) Yamaha +18.629

8. Bradley Smith (Great Britain) Yamaha +18.652

9. Hector Barbera (Spain) Ducati +21.160

10. Scott Redding (Great Britain) Ducati +24.435