Reigning MotoGP champ Marc Marquez became the most successful premier class Honda rider thanks to a victory at Phillip Island today.
The Spaniard and compatriot Maverick Viñales broke clear of the pack but last-lap drama saw the Yamaha man crash, gifting Cal Crutchlow second and hometown hero Jack Miller completed the podium.
There were surprises and drama right from the off. From fourth on the grid, Valentino Rossi got a great launch to get the holeshot into Doohan Corner, with Vinales slipping to sixthfrom pole. Then, at the Southern Loop, two heavyweights were out of the race.
Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci was pushed slightly wide by Marquez as the packed shuffled into the left-hander. A little too eager on the gas, Petrucci then highsided and was launched into Fabio Quartararo. The Frenchman was wide and almost on the grass before Petrucci slammed into the side of him, thankfully both riders were OK.
Back on track and it was The Doctor leading the way on his 400th Grand Prix start, with LCR Honda’s Apriliai’s Andrea Iannone slotting in behind the Italian as a freight train of nine riders formed at the front in the opening handful of laps.
Rossi held the lead until lap four when Crutchlow powered past the Yamaha into Doohan. Iannone then led the race as Crutchlow, Iannone, Rossi, Marquez, Viñales, Aleix Espargaro, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), Miller and Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) all battled.
The form man of the weekend was slowly picking his way through the pack though. Viñales was up to third on lap eight, second on lap nineand then the lead was his on lap ten. Knowing the polesitter had the pace to make a break, third place Marquez was in a hurry to get past Crutchlow as he shoved the Brit rwde at the top of Lukey Heights, dropping the number 35 down tofourth behind Iannone.
Immediately, Viñales and Marquez were clearing off. Crutchlow passed the Aprilia into Doohan and attempted to go with the leading duo as all three set mid 1’29s, opening a gap from the monstrous fight for fourth.
The LCR Honda Castrol man couldn’t hold the pace of Viñales and Marquez though, as the two Spaniards started to show their superiority around the Island. Crutchlow wasn’t troubling them, but the three-time Grand Prix winner also wasn’t being troubled from the men behind.
That scrap behind was between eight riders: three Ducatis, two Suzukis, two Aprilias and a Yamaha. Rookies Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) were producing the goods as that battle chopped and changed constantly.
Back at the front, it was line astern. Viñales and Marquez were on rails as the duo raced to over three seconds clear of Crutchlow with 10 laps remaining. With a handful of laps to go, using the Honda’s better grunt, Marquez was threating to lead at Doohan – but the 2019 Champion was holding back. The laps ticked down and Marquez kept shying away from a pass at Doohan, shadowing Viñales around the rest of the lap.
On the last lap, Marquez did fire past Viñales into Doohan and the lead was his. Viñales was quick around the outside in the hope of gaining the inside line at the Southern Loop, but Marquez shut the door. The last overtaking spot was the place.
Rapid over the crest of Lukey Heights, Viñales was right on the back of Marquez. But then, the Yamaha was crossed up into the braking zone of MG, which ultimately caused Viñales to crash out and Marquez was lucky not to be taken out by Viñales’ stricken YZR-M1, with the number 93 crossing the line to take victory number 55 of his MotoGP career, becoming the most successful Honda rider in the premier class, overtaking Mick Doohan’s record on the MotoGP Legend’s home circuit. Viñales’ crash bumped 2016 Australian GP winner Crutchlow into second, a sensational result for the number 35 after last year’s near-career ending crash at Phillip Island.
On the last lap, Miller found himself at the forefront of the battle for fourth after Dovi ran wide at the Southern Loop. That fight was now a battle for third hough and, on the run to the line, Miller had to fend off teammate Bagnaia for a dream home GP rostrum. Sensational scenes prevailed for Miller, the Australian fans and the Pramac garage as both riders produced a stunner – Pecco pocketing his best MotoGP result in fourth.
It was a magnificent ride from the Italian rookie having started from 15th, who beats fellow rookie Mir. The Spaniard also claimed his best premier class result in P5, the Suzuki man holding off the super impressive Iannone as ‘The Maniac’ takes his best Aprilia finish. Dovizioso crossed the line in P7 just a whisker behind Iannone, as the Team Championship between Ducati Team and Repsol Honda Team sits at just one point. Rossi slipped back to eighth in the closing stages, holding off the challenge from Rins and Espargaro for P8, P9 and P10.