This year’s MotoGP championship will go down to the wire after reigning world champion Marc Marquez scored a stunning win at the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
The Spanish Repsol Honda star snatched the lead from Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo during an epic final lap to register his first win in Australia.
Behind that pair, Italian Andrea Iannone (Ducati) slipped past countryman Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) to grab the last spot on the podium and relegate the championship leader to fourth.
Lorenzo trailed Rossi by 18 points going into the Australian grand prix but that gap is now just 11 points with two races – in Malaysia and Spain – left on the MotoGP calendar.
The Spaniard looked set to edge even closer to Rossi as he clung to a lead late in the engrossing race but couldn’t hold off a final assault from Marquez, who posted the fastest lap of the day to take the chequered flag.
“My plan on the last two laps was to try to push a little bit more … but it was difficult to manage and honestly I didn’t believe that I would arrive to Jorge,” Marquez said.
“But I pushed 100 per cent on the last lap and in the end it is a great win for me, for Honda.
“After a difficult season it’s always great to (finish) on top.”
It was a fitting result for Marquez, who set a blistering pace from the outset, to be quickest in practice and then qualifying to start from pole position on Sunday.
The victory was his sixth of the season and the 50th of his career and came while he battled ongoing discomfort from a broken bone in his left hand that he suffered in the lead-up to last week’s Japanese GP.
Lorenzo admitted he felt Marquez’s Honda had the edge around the challenging circuit and was satisfied with the result.
“The mission of this grand prix is done,” Lorenzo said.
“Here with the rear tyre that spins so much it’s always difficult to have grip in the corners, so this result was very good.
“For sure, we fly very happy from this race.”
Iannone’s Ducati showed impressive straight-line speed and he led early before he was involved in a frightening incident on the second lap when a seagull smashed into his helmet.
“The seagull waited for me for the kiss,” Iannone said
“It was difficult but it was better for him to fly up before I arrive because if he didn’t it would keep him near the front tyre.”
Local hope Jack Miller started in 15th and was unable to improve on that position in his first home MotoGP.
Fellow Australians Anthony West and Damian Cudlin didn’t enjoy a good day on their home circuit, with West finishing in last place on his AB Motoracing Honda, while IodaRacing’s Cudlin retired.
American veteran Nicky Hayden, in his last race before switching to World Superbikes, was the only other rider who failed to finish the race on his Aspar Honda.