Australian Grand Prix, Phillip Island: Raceday roundup – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Repsol Honda’s Marquez emerged triumphant from an incredible Pramac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix to record his 50th career GP victory and fifth of 2015. Marquez secured the race win in the end by just 0.249s from Jorge Lorenzo, with Andrea Iannone completing the podium ahead of championship leader Valentino Rossi who had to settle for fourth.
The 32,000 fans packed into the grandstands bore witness to one of the most exciting races in the history of the World Championship as Marquez was involved in a race-long scrap with Movistar Yamaha teammates and title rivals Lorenzo and Rossi, plus the Ducati GP15 of Iannone. The battle between these four was simply breath taking, as for once the weather did not throw a spanner in the works with the sun shining and track temperatures reaching 40˚C. It really did have everything: a myriad of overtakes, lots of contact, a championship title on the line, and even a bird strike.
At the start it was Iannone who got the drive off the line to lead into turn 1 with Lorenzo and Marquez in hot pursuit. Lorenzo would take the lead into turn 8, and in a sign of things to come there was contact between Marquez and his teammate Dani Pedrosa at turn 10 as the former defended 3rd. Iannone re-took the lead on lap 2, only to be hit by a stray seagull on the entrance to turn 4 to allow Lorenzo to move back to the front.
The lead swapped hands a number of times between these three on the opening laps. All the while Rossi, who had started from seventh on the grid, had been biding his time, before starting to move through the pack by lap 3. The ‘Doctor’ overtook the Repsol Honda of Dani Pedrosa and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow to move up to fourth on lap 4 and join in the fun at the front.
Lorenzo began to break away at the front, and by the end of lap 7 he had opened up a 1.4s gap, but just when it looked like he would disappear into the distance the chasing trio started to close. Unbelievably, despite constantly swapping places, the three started to reel in Lorenzo at the front. At the end of lap 13, Lorenzo’s lead was down to a second. At the end of lap 14 it was 0.5s, and fans were in for a treat as Marquez, Iannone and Rossi caught Lorenzo at the front with 10 laps to go.
From here on in it was anyone’s guess who would win, with Iannone using the incredible power of his GP15 to show some blistering pace on the straight. This meant each time once of the others passed the Italian; he was able wait until the Gardner straight to launch his Bologna missile back past.
Lorenzo took the lead with 7 laps to go once more, and with just two laps to go had extended this lead to one second as the others fought against each other. The best was still to come though. As the riders entered the final lap less than second separated all four, as Lorenzo led across the line from Iannone with Marquez in third and Rossi fourth.
Marquez passed Iannone in the Southern Loop to move into second and set off after Lorenzo. Rossi also came past his compatriot after contact at turn 4, before Iannone fought back into 3rd through Lukey Heights. Then at turn 10 Marquez blitzed past Lorenzo into the lead, as Rossi tried desperately to pass Iannone for the final time but failed. Marquez then managed to hold on through the final few corners to secure an amazing victory as the crowd went wild. Lorenzo took second, his tenth podium of the year, to close the gap in the standings to Rossi to just 11 points with two races remaining. Iannone completed the podium, his third of the year and first since Mugello, while Rossi’s fourth was only the second time he has missed out on the podium this season. To give you an idea of how close it was, just a second separated the four across the line. It was also Rossi’s 328th grand prix, which moves him level with Loris Capirossi at the top of the list of riders with the most World Championships starts.
Marquez’s teammate Pedrosa came out on top in the battle for fifth as he crossed the line 5 seconds behind Rossi. The winner at Motegi had enjoyed an excellent race long fight with Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, who finished in sixth and seventh respectively. Sixth equalled Viñales best MotoGP™ result from the Catalan GP as he once more impressed in what is only the Spaniard’s rookie season.
Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) won the battle of the brothers as he beat Aleix (Team Suzuki Ecstar) to 8th. Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith completed the top ten, finishing less than a second ahead of his compatriot Scott Redding on the EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda in eleventh.
LCR Honda’s Jack Miller took the Open class victory at his home grand prix by finishing in fifteenth, with Irishman Eugene Laverty (Aspar MotoGP Team) crossed the line in 19th after announcing he will be staying with his team for 2016. Laverty’s teammate Nicky Hayden was forced to retire with a technical issue and Damian Cudlin (E-Motion IodaRacing Team), who was substituting for the injured Alex De Angelis, also had to return to the pits with an issue.
Incredibly enough, there was not a single crash in the MotoGP class today, in fact, there was only one faller during the entire weekend in this category, it was Bradley Smith during FP4 on Saturday.
Paginas Amarillas HP40’s Alex Rins was simply untouchable at a sunbaked Phillip Island, taking a commanding victory by 6.663s from Speed Up Racing’s Sam Lowes to move into second in the Moto2™ World Championship standings. Forward Racing’s 18-year-old Italian Lorenzo Baldassarri (+10.408s) crossed the line in 3rd to record his first GP podium in his 50th Grand Prix start.
From the start it was AGR Team’s Axel Pons who took the lead through turn 1 from Lowes, but it didn’t take long for Rins to make his move into the lead. Once the Spaniard got in front he set about opening up a gap over Lowes and Derendinger Racing Interwetten’s Thomas Luthi who had moved up to third. While this was happening Pons received a ride-through penalty for a jump-start, which ended any hopes he had of fighting for his first race win.
Rins was controlling the race brilliantly at the front, while Lowes and Luthi became embroiled in an excellent tussle for second before the Swiss rider crashed out at turn 10 on lap 17, eventually re-joining to cross the line in 15th.
This left Lowes in a lonely second, but behind him Baldassarri was making his move through the field, passing AGR Team’s Jonas Folger for third on lap 18 before Folger was then forced to retire with a flat rear tyre with just four laps to go.
Rins (214pts) rode majestically at the front to take his second Moto2™ victory in just his rookie season, and in the process leapfrog the absent Tito Rabat (206pts) into second in the standings. Lowes crossed the line in second to record his fifth podium of 2015 with Baldassarri celebrating his first career GP podium in third.
Idemitsu Team Asia’s Takaaki Nakagami recovered from a terrible start that saw him down in 19th after the first lap to finish in fourth ahead of Xavier Simeon on the Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex. Simeon’s fifth was the Belgian’s best result since his race win at the Sachsenring.
Rins’ teammate Luis Salom crossed the line in sixth ahead of the 2015 Moto2™ World Champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) who had a relatively quiet race in seventh.
Mika Kallio (QMMF Racing Team), Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) and Randy Krummenacher (JIR Racing Team) completed the top ten.
Robin Mulhauser was also given a ride-through penalty for a jump-start, before crashing out of the race at turn 12 on the 11th lap. Sandro Cortese also crashed out of the race from 6th on lap 15, while Florian Alt retired.
Tito Rabat (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) pulled out of the weekend’s action after a heavy crash in FP2 aggravated the Spaniard’s broken radius in his left arm and he will also miss the Malaysian GP as he recovers.
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Miguel Oliveira took victory to prevent Leopard Racing’s Danny Kent from lifting the Moto3™ World Championship battle in an incredibly dramatic race at Phillip Island. Efren Vazquez and Brad Binder completed the podium as Kent was taken out from behind by Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) on lap 14, in an incident that also saw Bastianini crash and end the Italian’s slim hopes of lifting the title.
Coming into the race Kent led the standings by 56 points from Bastianini, with Oliveira’s chances of lifting the title in third looking like a distant possibility as he trailed Kent by 68 points. Kent, starting from 7th after a three-place grid penalty, looked to have the title in the bag as Bastianini had to start from 28th on the grid. But once the lights went out, the form book was thrown out of the window as the slipstream effect at the track made it impossible for anyone to break away at the front. It was a tentative game of cat and mouse with Kent and Gresini Racing Team Moto3’s Enea Bastianini knowing a mistake could gift the other the title.
All the talk before hand was about the two title rivals, but from the start it was Oliveira who led the way. Kent bided his time in the leading group, but on lap 10 he was clipped by Jorge Martin (Mapfre Team Mahindra), ran wide and dropped to 16th as a group of five led by Oliveira broke away at the front. Bastianini at this point was in 7th, 4.3s ahead of the Brit. Kent fought his way back through the pack and by lap 13 he had passed Bastianini and was once again involved in the scrap for the lead along with the Italian. Then disaster struck as Antonelli took out Kent on the exit of turn 3. The Italian clipped the back of the Leopard Racing Honda forcing Kent to highside violently and the Brit must have thought his chances of lifting the title at Phillip Island had gone up in smoke. To his surprise, Bastianini dramatically also crashed at the same corner, meaning both men were out of the race and the Italian’s title hopes were over.
This meant Kent would be crowned champion if Oliveira finished off the podium, but the Portuguese rider had other ideas. He had been battling at the front in a group that included Vazquez, his teammate Brad Binder, Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) but made his move as the group crossed the line to start the final lap. Once Oliveira was in the lead, he rode masterfully to ensure he would not be overtaken and held on in the drag to the line to take the victory by just 0.132s from Vazquez. This meant he had cut Kent’s lead in the standings to 40 points, with 50 remaining in the last two races.
Oliveira’s teammate Binder (+0.161s) completed the podium for the third time this season, beating the fourth placed Navarro to the line by just nine-thousandths of a second. Drive M7 SIC’s Jakub Kornfeil (+0.288s) recovered to finish in fifth after he ran wide on lap 7, while Romano Fenati (+1.006s) was sixth on the Sky Racing Team VR46 KTM.
Phillip Oettl (RW Racing GP), Isaac Viñales (RBA Racing Team), Alexis Masbou (SAXOPRINT RTG) and Remy Gardner (CIP) completed the top ten. It was Gardner’s first ever GP top ten finish while Maria Herrera (Husqvarna Factory Laglisse) also achieved her career best result in 11th.
Pole man John McPhee (SAXOPRINT RTG) was enjoying the best race of his career, fighting at the front during the opening stages of the race before he unfortunately crashed at turn 6 on the seventh lap, taking out Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) in the process. There were also DNF’s for Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Andrea Locatelli, Matt Barton, Jules Danilo, Juanfran Guevara, Andrea Migno and Livio Loi.
Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Fabio Quartararo was forced to pull out of the race before the start on his comeback from injury, as the pain in his ankle proved to be too much for the French rider.