#AustralianGP Saturday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
The backflip is back! Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) took a stunning maiden MotoGP™ win at the MotoGP™ Guru by Gryfyn Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, stalking his way onto the rear wheel of teammate and title contender Jorge Martinbefore making a brutal, clean and perfectly-judged move to take the lead on the very last lap. He also opened the door for a perfectly-judged lunge from Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) too, with Pecco picking Martin’s pocket and the Pramac on the soft rear tyre then finding himself mobbed by both Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) late on.
As the dust settles and some more history is made, Zarco gives away his record as the rider with the most MotoGP™ podiums without a win, Martin licks his wounds as he faces down a 27-point deficit in the Championship, Bagnaia celebrates another stylish bounce back from Q1 to the podium… and ‘Diggia’ enjoys that sweet Prosecco of a first ever premier class podium.
Before all that, Binder threatened the holeshot with a great start but Martin held firm from pole, immediately getting the hammer down as the two shot off into the lead and the shuffle began just behind. And that was that. Except this time, it wasn’t.
Martin’s strategy was clear: the number 89, an incredible four tenths clear on pole, had gambled on the soft rear hanging on as he escaped at the front and nursed it home. And the strategy was absolutely perfect until the very last handful of laps, when the Jaws music really began and Martin’s odds dropped off a cliff as the chasing group closed in.
The gap was over three seconds when it was Binder trying to keep tabs, and after an impressive start from an impressive qualifying, next came Diggia, and then Bagnaia at the head of a serious battle for fourth. The reigning Champion led Zarco, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing), Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), with elbows out all over the shop in the first third of the race.
Bit by bit as Martin edged clear in the lead, however, Binder held onto second but Diggia homed in on the KTM – and Bagnaia and Zarco started to create their own daylight to the duels behind them.
By 16 laps to go, Di Giannantonio had Binder well within a second and was only continuing to close in, but Bagnaia and Zarco had been able to go with the number 49. The gap kept see-sawing, however, with the Gresini machine homing in on the KTM and Bagnaia losing ground before another few laps would see it close back up. By nine laps to go, Di Giannantonio then made his move and pulled alongside the KTM on the Gardner straight, taking over in second.
The chase was on and the gap to Martin started to come down, but the number 49 wasn’t making the charge alone. Binder, Bagnaia AND Zarco were all locked together on the simple but difficult mission of catching the race leader, and that they started to do. But was it enough? When Binder attacked back with five laps to go, the group ran the risk of losing time in the battle but the gap was still coming down – just over two seconds across the start-finish line.
On the third to last lap, Martin’s advantage started to really tumble in tenths, with Binder still on the chase and Zarco now next in line as he’d taken over in third. Over the line with two to go it was 1.2 seconds, but Turn 4 saw another huge shuffle and another risk of losing time. But it was Zarco who went for a dress rehearsal and equally well-judged attack, snatching second place and quickly setting off after Martin.
Over the line for the last lap the number 89 had just four tenths left in hand ahead of his teammate, Bagnaia was now the bike behind Zarco and Binder had dropped to fifth. And again, it came at Turn 4. The number 5 slammed up the inside of Martin to take the lead, Bagnaia cut back in in a flash to also demote the number 89, and suddenly everything had changed: Zarco was just corners from a maiden MotoGP™ win, Bagnaia was on the verge of a huge change in momentum, and Martin was left trying to fend off Di Giannantonio and Binder.
That he could not. As Zarco crossed the finish line to take that first ever premier class win, Bagnaia took second and Di Giannantonio was more than able to grab third and his first MotoGP™ podium, with Binder ultimately also demoting Martin right on the finish line.
The battle behind was no slouch either. After elbows earlier in the race there were plenty more, with Bezzecchi slicing through to take sixth from Miller. Aleix Espargaro was even closer behind in eighth, ahead of a seriously impressive charge from the still-recovering Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™). Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) completed the top ten ahead of Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) after Top Gun was shuffled down the order in a Turn 1 shuffle, and Marc Marquez, another gambler on the soft rear tyre, ultimately finished P15.
That’s that from a historic, unique and instantly iconic Saturday Grand Prix race at Phillip Island, and it’s Johann Zarco who writes his name into the historic books with a maiden MotoGP™ win. Bagnaia proved once again he can’t be written off, but Martin showed yet more pure speed. Now we look to the skies as we wait for Sunday, with races all set to start an hour early and fingers crossed for more awesome action Down Under if the weather holds out.
Following his incredible form in Practice, Fermin Aldeguer (Beta Tools SpeedUp) did not disappoint in qualifying Down Under. The Spaniard set a new record to take pole position in the intermediate category with a scintillating 1:31.888, and joining him on the front row will be Aron Canet (Pons Wegow Los40) after the Valencian put in a stellar performance to take P2. The polesitter’s teammate Alonso Lopez, winner last year at Phillip Island, made it two Boscoscuros in the top three as Championship leader Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is set to start fifth.
Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) just missed out on a front-row start by only 0.012s as he took P4, just ahead of Acosta. The pair will be joined by Jake Dixon(Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) on the outside of Row 2 after he bagged 6th place. The third row of the grid went to rookie Sergio Garcia (Pons Wegow Los40), second in the Championship Tony Arbolino (Elf MarcVDS Racing Team), and Darryn Binder(Liqui Moly Husqvarna IntactGP) in that order, with Manuel Gonzalez (Correos Prepago Yamaha VR46 Master Camp) rounding out the top ten.
Qualifying at the MotoGP™ Guru by Gryfyn Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix went the way of Championship hopeful Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) as the Japanese rider grabbed the honours from home hero Joel Kelso (CFMoto Racing PruestelGP). The home hero made it onto the front row with his home crowd cheering him on, ahead of Stefano Nepa (Angeluss MTA Team) in third. Championship leader Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) will start from down in P13, with challenger Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3) only two places further ahead on the grid.
Winner last time out, Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) missed out on the front row by 0.105s as he’s set to head Row 2 ahead of Matteo Bertelle (Rivacold Snipers Team) and Collin Veijer (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP). Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) fronts Row 3 in seventh place as he’s joined by David Alonso (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team), who also crashed in Q2, rider ok, and Adrian Fernandez (Leopard Racing). Replacement rider Vicente Perez (BOE Motorsports) rounds out the top 10 ahead of Holgado, with Masia in P13.