MotoGP: Marquez prevails against Viñales in Phillip Island thriller


Unbelievable last lap drama unfolded as Crutchlow and home hero Miller claim podiums in Australia

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) became the most successful premier class Honda rider thanks to a phenomenal victory at the Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. The Spaniard and compatriot Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) broke clear but last lap drama saw the Yamaha man crash, allowing Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) to take P2 and home hero Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) to claim a stunning P3.

There were surprises and drama right from the off. From P4 on the grid, Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) got a great launch to get the holeshot into Doohan Corner, with Viñales slipping to P6 from pole. Then, at Turn 2, two heavyweights were out of the race. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) was pushed slightly wide by Marquez as the packed shuffled into the left-hander. A little too eager on the gas, Petrucci then highsided as the Italian was launched into Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). The Frenchman was wide and almost on the grass before Petrucci slammed into the side of him, thankfully both riders were thankfully ok.

Back on track and it was The Doctor leading the way on his 400th Grand Prix start, with Crutchlow and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’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 P1 until Lap 4 when Crutchlow powered past the Yamaha into Turn 1. Iannone then spectacularly led the race as Crutchlow, Iannone, Rossi, Marquez, Viñales, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Miller and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) all battled one another in a scintillating start to the 2019 Australian GP.

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The form man of the weekend was slowly picking his way through the pack though. Viñales was up to third on Lap 8, second on Lap 9 and then the lead was his on Lap 10. 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 ride at the top of Lukey Heights, dropping the number 35 down to P4 behind Iannone. Immediately, Viñales and Marquez were clearing off. Crutchlow passed the Aprilia into Turn 1 and attempted to go with the leading duo as all three set mid 1:29s, seeing the trio unshackle themselves from the monstrous fight for fourth.

The LCR Honda Castrol man couldn’t hold the pace of Viñales and Marquez though, as the two Spaniard’s 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 Turn 1 – but the 2019 Champion was holding back. He did it to Quartararo at Misano, was another Yamaha about to get the same treatment in Australia? The laps ticked down and Marquez kept shying away from a Turn 1 pass, shadowing Viñales around the rest of the lap. Last lap time. Viñales vs Marquez, Yamaha vs Honda, Spain vs Spain. This time, Marquez did fire past Viñales into Turn 1 and the lead was his. Viñales was quick around the outside in the hope of gaining the inside line at Turn 2, but Marquez shut the door. Turn 4 approached but Viñales wasn’t close enough – Turn 10 now the only major overtaking opportunity. The race would then be settled on the drop into 10, but now how we imagined.

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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, which ultimately caused Viñales to crash out. Unreal drama on the final lap as 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 P2, 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 P4 after Dovi ran wide at Turn 2. That fight for P4 was now a battle for P3 though 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 P4. It was a magnificent ride from the Italian rookie having started from P15, 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.

Marquez reigns on the Island, but Viñales was right there and showed immaculate pace all weekend. The duo – and the rest – go again in Malaysia in less than a weeks’ time at the final flyaway of the season. The temperature off track will be scorching in Sepang, let’s hope the on-track heat will be just as good as it was at Phillip Island.

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Top 10:
1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team)
2. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) + 11.413
3. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) + 14.499
4. Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) + 14.554
5. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 14.817
6. Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 15.280
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) + 15.294
8. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 15.841
9. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 16.032
10. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 16.590

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