We told you that last week’s Japanese MotoGP was the best race we had seen this year. It took only a move over to Australia to give us an even better race, fought bitterly to the end by the top rung of the championship board. The day ended with Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez grabbing first spot on the podium, while challenger Andrea Dovizioso couldn’t manage a decent finish coming in 13th.
The start gave us portents of the race ahead as Marquez’ leap for the lead was quickly challenged by Jack Miller on his Honda at turn 2, a lead he kept and built on for the crucial lead laps while a battle Royale raged behind him. As the second lap began, Dovizioso lost the advantage of his early sprint by going out wide, dropping right down the order to 20th, with the almost Moto3 phalanx of riders giving him no option.
The first half saw a battle rage between the riders behind Miller – Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales on their factory Yamaha’s slugging it out with Johann Zarco on his Team3 Yamaha and Marquez with Andrea Iannone of Suzuki Ecstar made the laps a guessing game, with Zarco being exceptionally aggressive, bumping into Rossi and Marquez on different laps, while also being exceptionally incisive in picking the gaps in the overtaking manoeuvres, often getting ahead on the outside.
This aggressiveness saw Zarco move into the lead with the two other Yamahas behind hime, while Miller lost his initial mojo to end the race in seventh, hanging on in shouting distance behind the lead six pack. But it was all down to the challenge mounted in the six riders that made this race so epic – with Marquez being able to take back the lead and then pull away to build confidence only with seven laps left. That did not mean that the fight had gone out behind him, Zarco seemed like he would finish second until both the other Yamahas managed to reel him in on equally daring manoeuvres – first Rossi and then Viñales managing it on the last lap.
Far behind them, Dovizioso had managed to keep the same blistering pace of the leaders but had only climbed to 11th by the last lap. But this was not to be his day as his Ducati was pipped to the finish line by both Scott Redding on his OCTO Pramac Ducati as well as Dani Pedrosa on the other Repsol Honda.
This finish gives Marquez a strong lead at 269 points, with Dovizioso now trailing by 33 points, followed by Viñales who could challenge him at 219 points.
Post race, Marquez said, “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!”