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Island rewind: Rins wins 2022 race for the ages

Tuesday, 26 September 2023

Last year's Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix was a race that was well and truly worth the wait. And one where several riders, not just winner Alex Rins, had reason to celebrate …

How close was the battle for the win at the 2022 Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix? Let's put it in real-world terms.

Try this: say your mobile number out loud – and time how long it takes you to verbalise the first four digits. That was – more or less – the difference between first and seventh at Phillip Island a year ago. After 40 minutes and 50 seconds of racing, that was the miniscule margin between hoisting some podium silverware or taking a long plane ride home, lamenting fractions of a second squandered …


Phillip Island had missed out on hosting the world championship in 2020 and 2021, but last year made that wait worth it. Take the world's best bikes and riders and unleash them on a track that offers a challenge like few others after a two-year absence, and we were all quickly reminded of what we love about MotoGP™.

TICKETS: There are not one but two premier class races at this year's MotoGP™ Guru by Gryfyn Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix 2023. Purchase tickets today!

One race, three winners

Alex Rins
, of course, was the Island's biggest winner last year – Suzuki, too. The Japanese brand had dramatically announced it would be leaving the series midway through 2022, and as riders, mechanics and team personnel scrambled to find jobs a mere two years after Suzuki had won its first title in two decades with Joan Mir, you could have forgiven the team for simply going through the motions.

Rins hadn't won a race since midway through 2020, and taking victory in Australia seemed almost too good to be true as a sign-off. In the end, it somehow got better – the Spaniard won Suzuki's finale at Valencia too, the ultimate MotoGP™ mic drop.

Marc Marquez won, too. Rins may have beaten the six-time premier-class champion over the line by 0.186secs after 27 laps, but the Honda rider celebrated like he'd won the race, as he'd done at the Island in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

The reasons were both obvious and complex – the second place was his 100th MotoGP™ podium, putting him in an exclusive club of four with Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa to reach triple-figures. Perhaps even better than that was that Marquez, his battered body only allowing him to intermittently reach his best since his career-altering crash at Jerez in 2020, knew that he, rather than his machinery, wasn't the inhibiting factor in his results. It was a revelation that has only been reinforced since …

Third-placed Pecco Bagnaia? Yes, he won too. The Ducati rider was 0.224secs behind Rins at the finish and slightly chastened to trail the Spanish duo after leading into the final lap, but there were bigger fish for Bagnaia to fry.

Ever since he sunk to 91 points behind Fabio Quartararo in the championship standings after Germany in the middle of the season, Bagnaia had raced with a series lead to strive for and little to lose. Entering the Island weekend two points behind the Frenchman, Bagnaia's third – allied with Quartararo's non-score after crashing on lap 11 – saw him head to the airport with a 14-point championship lead, one he'd eventually convert into a title at Valencia.

How the race was run, and won

Quartararo's Island misery – it was his second DNF in as many MotoGP™ outings in Australia – wasn't the only hard-luck story. Jack Miller had a smile as wide as the distance from Townsville to Cowes when Turn 4 was renamed as Miller Corner earlier in the weekend; it was almost inevitable that his race would end at that same turn, harpooned by Alex Marquez's Honda on lap nine as Miller settled into a podium push from fifth. Marquez quickly put his hand up for the incident – which was both appropriate and wise, given a few hundred of Miller's closest family and friends were watching from within touching distance …

There were just four retirements in the 24-bike field, and the race was a tactical game of cat and mouse from lap one. Rins, Marc Marquez and Bagnaia were part of a seven-bike train who slowed the pace early to preserve tyre life for later, with Ducati quartet Enea Bastianini, Marco Bezzecchi, Luca Marini and Jorge Martin all in the mix. Martin – who had annihilated a circuit record that had stood for nearly a decade with a volcanic pole lap the day prior – led for the first 13 laps, and Bagnaia admitted to having the championship on his mind when he saw Quartararo's broken Yamaha in the hands of the marshals at Turn 2 just before half-distance.

As the laps counted down, it looked like the winner would come from Rins, Marquez or Bagnaia, each balancing the practicalities with the emotions that came with 25 points. Rins could sense the ideal send-off for Suzuki. Marquez's body was allowing him to fight. Bagnaia had one eye on the championship, the other on the chequered flag.

Rins sat in second in Bagnaia's wheeltracks for two laps, then attacked down the inside of the second turn on the final tour, Marquez opportunistically following him through. Rins took a tight line into the final passing spot on the track at Turn 10, a Marquez wobble helping him to escape further. Seconds later, the first seven flashed across the line, and an instant MotoGP™ classic was hailed.

Jubilation and devastation

"Last time here with the Suzuki, I have the feeling," grinned an elated Rins, who completed the full Island suite of wins to go with his 2013 Moto3™ and 2015 Moto2™ successes.

"It was not easy for us as a team to know that next year the team is not continuing in the championship," he added.

"The key was to don't give up, we never threw down the towel. This one is for all the team, for the ones who got some contracts for next year … and for the ones who didn't."

At the back of that top seven was a downcast Martin, who finished just 0.884secs from victory in a race that featured the second-closest top 10 of all time with Brad Binder (KTM, 10th) just 5.940secs behind the rapt Rins.

"On the entry to the corners I didn't have the confidence to brake harder … that's why I was 0.8 (seconds) from the victory," he said, shaking his head.

"That's what's killing me. If you are that close, then you can win …".