Breath taking Australian MotoGP race, full of fairing bashing action!
Marc Márquez is a step closer to taking the 2017 MotoGP title after winning an incredible Australian MotoGP race at Phillip Island.
Marc Márquez, Repsol Honda Team, took his sixth win of the year in a scintillating Phillip Island showdown, breaking away from an eight-rider fight in the last part of the race to take the win.
After a tough race for title rival Andrea Dovizioso, Factory Ducati Team, as the Italian suffered an early run-off in the race, it leaves Marquez 33 points clear in the standings with only two rounds to go.
Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha, just got second as he emerged top of a three rider fight to the flag, only 0.05 of a second between them, with team mate Maverick Viñales taking third.
Marc Márquez, defending champion finished 1.8 seconds in front of nine times World Champion, Valentino Rossi. The Repsol Honda rider extended his championship lead with the win as Andrea Dovizioso could only manage13th. He struggled on the Ducati, taking only three points after the Italian had closed the gap to Marquez following his amazing victory at Motegi.
Australian Jack Miller still recovering from his fractured leg, gave the Australian fans lots to cheer about with a great spirited ride as he lead the race for the first four laps. The Marc VDS team Honda rider still finished a credible seventh as his rear tyre lost grip.
Action got under way on Friday with the free practice sessions.
In FP1 Marquez, Zarco and Miller topped the time sheets in that order.
Ever improving Aleix Espargaró on the Aprilia, Marquez and Dovizioso were the top three in FP2.
Saturday, mixed weather conditions were what the riders had to deal with, as free practice 3 got underway, it started with a wet track. Both Ducati team mates came off their bikes. Andrea Dovizioso had an unfortunate crash when putting in a fast lap, which shook his confidence, seemingly for the rest of the weekend. Then Jorge Lorenzo came off, hurting his ankle. (See video clip below) Yamaha's wet weather problems continued to cause Rossi and Vinales wows in the wet, only managing to take 12th and 13th. Marquez, Zarco and Pol Espargaró, on the improving KTM, the top three in the session.
Take a look at Doviziosos' and Lorenzos' crashes here
Frantic, Fast and Furious Qualifying.
Qualifying 1, a drying track saw Valentino Rossi and Britain's Bradley Smith promoted to Q2. with surprises for Lorenzo and Petrucci who both struggled with the changing surface.
Q1 results: 1 Valentino Rossi. 2 Bradley Smith, 3 Álex Rins, 4 Tito Rabat, 5 Karel Abraham, 6 Jorge Lorenzo, 7 Loris Baz, 8 Danilo Petrucci.
Qualifying 2 was a last minute dash. It looked like Johann Zarco was going to take his third pole of the season, until the last minutes of Q2, when Maverick Viñales put a superb lap on his Factory Yamaha. He thought he'd done enough, but in the dying seconds Marc Márquez pushed to the absolute limit, sliding his Honda, speedway style on some of the turns, to take pole, his forth at Phillip Island. Factory Suzuki's Andrea Iannone took a credible 4th as he returns to form on the Suzuki. Auzzie Jack Miller qualified an excellent fifth in his home grand prix.
Jack Miller was surprised by his fast pace, with the Auzzie equalling his best ever qualifying in MotoGP, just 23 days after fracturing his right tibia.
Miller was fifth in the 15-minute Q2 shootout after getting a tow from Marc Márquez early on. The 22-year old was building and building all weekend, during which he was in the top ten. He played down the injury, jokingly saying he should break his leg more often! And that his leg is improving day by day.
MICHELIN AUSTRALIAN MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX
MotoGP Qualifying No. 2
Action packed Race with race-long battles
The grid formed up, tension mounted, the red lights came on for several seconds, then went out - the race was go!
Into Doohans' turn 1, it was Marquez who forced his way in front, but he couldn't hold it into Turn 2 as a sensational pass by Jack Miller on his Marc VDS Honda, saw the Queenslander take the lead - and incredibly he pulled away.
Aussie Jack Miller led his home MotoGP race with Marquez giving chase. Yamahas Maverick Viñales took third followed by Rossi, Iannone, Zarco, Crutchlow and Pol Espargaró. The chase was on.
Second in the championship title race, Andrea Dovizioso made a massive mistake at turn 1 on the second lap and ran very wide, dropping down the order to 20th position on his Ducati GP17 and the Italian left himself with a mountain to climb.
Zarco collided with Marquez at the hairpin as he attempted to make a pass up the inside for third. Marquez dropped to fourth as a result as Rossi took full advantage, while Zarco slipped back to sixth behind Aleix Espargaró on his Gresini Aprilia.
Miller was away at the front pulling a 3 second lead, as the following seven riders were all in close company, dicing on every turn. The crowd witnessed a great many race battles. Soon the marauding pack set upon Miller, like hungry lions in for the kill!
Amazingly 37 year old Valentino Rossi pushed his way through from seventh on the grid to second. The race was on for the Italian, as a seven-rider train at the front closed in on Miller in the lead. The Yamaha pair, Rossi and Vinales, were the first to get by Miller.
Rossi then took control at the front and lead for several laps and the following group of Vinales, Marquez, Iannone, Zarco and Crutchlow began to fight it out. Rossi took the lead down the main straight at the start of lap six, with Vinales also drafting past Miller before passing Rossi at turn 2 to hit the front a few laps later.
It was all change again as Rossi re-took the lead on the brakes at the hairpin, while Marquez was now into third ahead of Vinales , Miller, Zarco, Espargaro, Crutchlow and Iannone, all battling to get ahead.
Marquez and Zarco both passed Vinales on lap seven as Rossi set the pace, while Espargaro lost sixth place after a big spill at the fast turn 1 on the following lap.
Throughout the race, the lead changed many many times as the first eight riders swapped places on every turn, often colliding as they forced their way past each other. Paint was exchanged and black tyre rubber left on riders leathers as this battle royale progressed.
It was battle after battle, Rossi versus Marquez, Rossi versus Zarco, Rossi versus Vinales, Zarco versus Iannone, Zarco versus Vinales, Zarco versus Marquez, Vinales versus Marquez, (you get the idea!) in one of the most hard-fought and aggressive melees of the season, decade or even the history of MotoGP, the passes came thick and fast - including a move for Zarco around the outside on Doohan corner - as rubber was left on the track, riders leathers and paint, like battle scars, in one of the most incredible fights in history.
With 11 laps to go, Valentino Rossi went wide at the hairpin letting Zarco and Marquez past. Miller also got past Rossi as now a six way battle developed, with Vinales, Zarco and Iannone ahead of Crutchlow right behind the leaders.
Rossi and his fighting spirit hit back to take the lead again, first passing Marquez before diving under Zarco on the brakes at turn 4.
Rossi and Marques battled for the lead, Marc forcing his way into non existent gaps, and Rossi fighting back. This went on for a few laps until Marquez managed to pull ahead. With five laps to go Marquez turned up the heat and tried to pull away. Still the battle raged on behind. Zarco hitting Rossi at Honda corner as he tried to take second. Marquez pushed as hard as he could to open up a lead as the hot battle for the podium was between Rossi, Zarco and Vinales.
Rossi was pushed back to third, as Zarco forced his way past, leaving a gap for Vinales to follow through. Vinales clashed with Zarco but came off worse and Zarco pushed Vinales wide letting Rossi through.
It looked as if Zarco was going to take second, but Rossi and Vinales had other ideas. All three were so close together, it looked like they were joined at some point! Any of them could have taken second, However, wisdom and experience showed, Rossi managed to find his way past.
Blocking the other two, with some of the tightest lines ever ridden around the Island on the final lap, Rossi got second by millimetres, - all three were practically side by side over the line. Right behind the nine-time World Champion, it was Vinales who out accelerated the Frenchman, only just taking third by a fraction in front of Zarco, on his Tech 3 Yamaha. Ending Vinales title hopes. Zarco's fourth wins him Rookie of the Year title.
It was Rossi's 17th podium in 21 visits to Phillip Island. Still recovering from a broken leg, Rossi returned to the podium at Phillip Island for the first time since Silverstone with such a determined ride to second place and showed without question that he still has it in him to put up a good fight.
Suzuki's Andrea Iannone fought a heroic battle with Rossi, Zarco and Vinales, only to run very wide, losing touch with them as his tyres lost grip.
Britain's Cal Crutchlow on his LCR Honda managed to catch him and took fifth ahead of the Italian, with home hero Jack Miller getting seventh. Next was much improved Álex Rins on his Team Suzuki Ecstar. Ninth was Pol Espargaró just beating Bradley Smith, giving the Factory Red Bull KTM Racing team another double delight with top ten results.
Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso now is the only championship challenger, he suffered throughout the race, and to add insult to injury, both Scott Redding, on his Octo Pramac Racing Ducati, and Dani Pedrosa, Factory Repsol Honda, snatched 11th and 12th from him, slip streaming him on the Gardener straight to beat Dovizioso to the line.
Next past the flag were Czech Karel Abraham on his Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati and Jorge Lorenzo Factory Ducati Team, who had been struggling with his injury and his tyres throughout the race, they completed the points scorers.
Hi-lites of the race can be watched here
Post race Rider interviews
After the race, I caught up with second place man Valentino Rossi and this is what he told me
"I enjoyed the race very much. This track is unbelievable and it was a great race! All the riders in front were very aggressive, so you need to be more 'stupid', more aggressive, than they are. It was a great battle with Zarco, Iannone, Marquez and Vinales. I wanted to try the maximum to be on the podium. In the end I'm in second place and I'm very happy. I want to say thanks to all my team, they always work very hard, and thanks to all of Yamaha.
"It was a great race, starting from the beginning with [Jack] Miller and [Aleix] Espargaro, I had a good pace. After I have to fight, especially with Zarco and after a while Iannone - I think the two worst riders for fight!
"I remember also I have to fight with Iannone in 2015 and he beat me on the last lap, so I try the maximum and also with Zarco. With Marquez it was a great race and I enjoy a lot. I am so happy because we were competitive and we worked well.
"I was, like everybody, lucky because there were good conditions and you can see for sure the best race of the season. All the people that wake up at five o'clock in Europe will be happy,
"I did the right choice for the tyres and I think at the end I have the potential to stay with Marquez until the end because I was fast, but one moment I think I am in the perfect position, Iannone arrived in the hairpin like crazy and Marquez go.
"Anyway, it was difficult to win but I'm so happy and it's important for me because I come from a difficult period after a broken leg and it is also important for Yamaha and all our group. "
I asked Valentino what he thought about the increase of contact in MotoGP now, he said
"It's like this, especially in the last period, the level of aggressiveness and contact during the race is raised a lot, especially when the young riders arrive from Moto2. Also Zarco is always very, very aggressive, so you can get angry but it changes nothing,
"This is the game and if you want to play it is like this. It's a bit more dangerous, but this is the way and if not, you have to stay at home. Now you must fight, or go home!
I asked him what he thought to Andrea Doviziosos chances of winning the title now after today's result. He said
"Today it's a big problem for Dovi because now the advantage is too big and just two races"
There's a rumour in the paddock that Zarco may get a full Factory Yamaha for next year, so I asked his thoughts on it. Valentino said
"I don't know if it's a good idea for Zarco to have our bike! Yes, it can be, yes, but I don't know if it's a good idea!"
Team-mate Maverick Viñales added
"I think to have a third rider can be more experience and Johann is riding really well in the last part of the season and it's interesting. But as Valentino say, I think he gets a little bit confused. It's OK, I think we can work and I hope we can have one more bike to work even harder. "
What jubilant race winner Marc Márquez had to say
"It was such an amazing race, I think we put on a fantastic show for the fans! I'm very happy, as I knew that today was important. Dovi was struggling a little this weekend, while I was feeling really good on the bike and had to make the best of it.
"When the race started I was thinking I had to stay calm and manage the tyres, but then Zarco hit me and I realized it was going to be a battle. I was in a group of fighters. I knew I had to push and defend, but also to attack.
"So I just tried to control the situation and then, with around eight laps to go, I just gave it my all. I pushed really hard for three or four laps and that was it.
"I'm happy with the win of course, but even more with going to Malaysia with a 33 point advantage!
"I took a lot of risks during the season and now it is time to be more patient. Also today in a few parts of the race but now, honestly, it is time to enjoy this victory,
"From tomorrow I will start to think about Malaysia but with that advantage, it is big, but not enough. You need to be patient, like a little bit in 2016.
"I take a lot of risks during the season on the tests, on the free practice, and now we need to approach maybe a little bit differently the next races.
"We know that Malaysia was a difficult circuit in the pre-season but now it is a completely different bike so we will see there, but try to give our maximum and try to control yourself a little bit in the race,
"Now it's time to breathe, but also be quiet, because [the gap is] 33 points and I'm feeling really good with the bike and confident. Now is not the time to do stupid things and from tomorrow I will sit with my team and try to plan well and organise well for the last two races. "
In Third, Maverick Viñales told me
"I had planned on attacking with five laps to go. On the previous lap, I had already overtaken Johann and tried to overtake Valentino at the last part of the straight, but I went wide. I had a moment with Johann on the outside and then went towards Andrea. I lost my race there, but in the end I recovered really well. I started to overtake the other riders fast and, honestly, I was quite far back from where I needed to be in the last corner, but the bike accelerated really well and I even thought I could pass Valentino. In the end he was a bit too far ahead, but I'm still really happy. The team was working really well and especially this morning in the rain I felt great and that's a good starting point for Malaysia. There are a lot of positives to take from this weekend, especially on the soft tyre. The championship challenge is gone, this is not good news, but we already knew all season it was going to be difficult, especially during the second part. We have to try to be strong, as always, and try to be on the podium again in Malaysia. I want to recover some points to Andrea, which is important. We're going to try to make the bike work and try to have one of our strongest weekends".
Fourth man, Johann Zarco had this to say
"It was an amazing race today in Australia and I am so happy that I could fight for the victory but Marquez broke away at the end, yet I still managed to lead the Grand Prix. After the tricky start, where I had to close the throttle to avoid touching someone, I lost a lot of positions. However, I was strong and I then overtook many riders and it was an amazing feeling. I had some moments on the track that I thought I would never live in my life! so it was very good to take this experience. I could also analyse my rivals and see how they were so fast. On the last lap, I was running in 3rd and trying to get 2nd, and I attempted to overtake Rossi at the final corner on the acceleration. I changed my line to pass him and instead of 2nd, I finished 4th. It's a big shame to miss out on the podium but I need to enjoy what I achieved today.
"I lived some moments I've never lived before. Fighting at this speed is so incredible Amazing. A good feeling to be able to fight, to overtake,
"I didn't start well, then when Miller overtook me I had to close the gas because we could touch.
"I wanted to be back with the top guys. I felt I could do it, so I had to fight and overtake. Then I was leading the race, tried to go away but managing the traction on this track is quite difficult when you are in first position and then I was fighting again.
"They overtook me and there were some hard moments with Marquez. It's part of racing. It was like a Moto3 race, but we are 100km/h more! You need to live this emotion to believe it.
I asked him about the contact with Marquez at the hairpin, Zarco explained:
"Maverick overtook him in Turn 4 and I was almost at the same speed so I came into the corner, but Marquez we know is strong on corner entry. It was not possible for me to slow down more and I had to touch him.
"But he was clever because when he felt that something is wrong from the rear of his bike, he picked up the bike and he saved it.
"So it was hot but then he did the same to Valentino and Iannone did the same to me into Siberia, Corner 6. And then even Crutchlow touched me on the knee. But we are all fighters and we must keep fighting.
"I tried to get second place because I was feeling good behind Rossi. He is so strong on the brakes, closing the line well and you can see he has the experience. So I tried to have better acceleration by changing the line in the last corner, but instead of second I had fourth.
"But not to worry. After this kind of fight and kind of day I can just enjoy and take this fantastic moment. To be disappointed about the final result would be the wrong way to analyse the race. 1. 8s from the winner, nearly second place, no way to be disappointed!"
"It is an emotion to be fighting at over 300km/h, you can fight on other circuits but here I think you are really not many times under 200km/h. It's incredible and I want to call my coach and see the race with him!
"It was a good choice for me and today - the bike and me - were able to fight for victory. Marquez went away because he could manage even better, but we were ready to fight for victory. "
Asked what he had learned in his duels with multiple MotoGP champions Marquez and Rossi, Zarco said
"I saw it before, but I had confirmation again that they are in a different planet these guys, because they can fight and analyse so many things at this speed and it's quite incredible. I didn't expect to be strong and comfortable like today in Australia. So I need to come in Malaysia and go for the same target. Fight with the top guys and, if I feel good, think about victory. So that's a good point for the confidence. "
Second in the championship, a very disappointed Andrea Dovizioso told me this
"Today's race was a big disappointment and we really lost a lot of points in the championship. For sure my mistake in the early stages of the race complicated things and maybe even the choice of rear tyre was not the best one, but on this track our bike is still struggling a lot. This year we've managed to improve many aspects and be competitive throughout the season but when you come to tracks like this, where you don't brake very much and where there are lots of long fast corners, some of our limits are magnified: in fact here at Phillip Island none of the Ducati were very quick. Pity, because at this point of the season it would have been better to be closer to Marquez in the standings, but now we have to think of Malaysia, where quite simply we'll have to give it our all. "
Home hero Jack Miller, finished a superb seventh at Phillip Island told me this
"It was great feeling to be leading my home race at Phillip Island but maybe going hard early hurt me later in the race with rear grip when I had to switch engine maps. It would have been nice to be able to push a bit harder at the end of the race but it was a solid weekend considering my injury, starting fifth and finishing seventh in front of my home fans, I'm happy with that. "
Fellow Aussie, Broc Parkes, riding Jonas Folgers Monster Tech3 Yamaha, finished 22nd. He told me this
"I just did not have the rear grip from the start. Maybe it was because I didn't have a lot of track time this weekend so I struggled a little bit. In the race, I thought I could stay with the Ducati's and Lowes but unfortunately, I dropped back from them. However, it was hard to come back and I rode on my own for a while. I wanted to do better but I'm happy to have completed my home Grand Prix and to have ridden here in front of everyone. A big thank you to Herve Poncharal, Team manager, and the entire Monster Yamaha Tech3 team for giving me this opportunity".
MICHELIN AUSTRALIAN MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX
MotoGP Race Result 2017
Fastest Lap: Lap: 2 Johann Zarco 1'29. 572 178. 7 Km/h
MotoGP World Standings 2017 after the Australian MotoGP
Qualifying, Race Result and Championship tables, of the official MotoGP website: www.motogp.com
2017 Moto3 World Championship.
In Moto3, Joan Mir takes victory number nine of the year and wins the 2017 Moto3 World Championship.
Joan Mir, Leopard Racing Team, is the World Champion after winning his ninth race of the season in the Australian GP, equalling another record on the way to taking the crown in a closely fought race that was Red Flagged as the rain started to pour down.
- Roland Potter