It’s one of the greatest fights ever seen for the MotoGP world title – and it got the race it deserved as Marc Marquez stole a magnificent maiden premier-class victory at Phillip Island on Sunday with one of the most breathtaking last laps ever seen.
Marquez threw his Repsol Honda round the 4.448-km Bass Strait circuit in a fastest race lap of 1:29.280, an average speed of 179.3 km/h, to get past long-time leader Jorge Lorenzo’s Yamaha at Turn 10 and hold on in a thrilling sprint finish for his first points in the top class in Australia.
With Andrea Iannone’s Ducati taking the third podium place, title leader Valentino Rossi could not finish higher than fourth on the second Yamaha and saw his championship lead cut to just 11 points with two rounds remaining.
“Throughout the race I felt good,” said an elated Marquez, who was disqualified here two years ago and crashed out of the lead last year.
“There was a lot of overtaking at the start, then I pushed a little but it looked as if I was overheating the front tyre. In the last two laps I thought, OK, I will push, then I gave it 100% on the last lap. I didn’t expect to arrive to Jorge, but this victory is really nice for us.”
For Lorenzo second place was not as nice as first would have been in his pursuit of Rossi, but the 28-year-old Spaniard was gracious in defeat. “Marc made an unbelievable last lap,” he conceded. “I tried to close the door, but I just couldn’t win.”
Iannone produced one of the overtaking moves of the season with two laps to go: as Rossi forced his way past Marquez through Turn 10 the 26-year-old Italian fired the Ducati through the gap between them and into second place.
Iannone had earlier experienced another dramatic moment at Turn 10 when he had to duck his head to avoid a seagull that actually punched a hole in the bike’s fairing.
““It was an amazing race, and it is the first time I have put up a really strong fight for the whole race. And it was especially satisfying because I had a great fight with the very best riders. I want to thank Ducati for a job well done and I want to continue to improve.”
The epic fight among the front four eclipsed a number of battles down through the field, which saw Dani Pedrosa finish fifth on the second factory Honda ahead of one of the finds of recent years in Maverick Vinales on the ECSTAR Suzuki.
Sixth was Cal Crutchlow, whose LCR Honda could not sustain its early pace, ahead of the Espargaro brothers, Pol on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha beating his brother Aleix on the second Suzuki.
Britons Scott Redding (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) and Bradley Smith on the second Tech 3 Yamaha rounded out the top 10.
Top rider in the Open class was Australia’s Jack Miller on his LCR Honda in 15th, the 20-year-old’s sixth points-scoring finish of his debut season at the top level.
Ant West, deputising for Karel Abraham on the Gresini Aprilia, was 23rd and last of the classified finishers. Only Nicky Hayden’s Aspar Honda and the third Aussie, Damian Cudlin on the E-Motion Ioda ART of the injured Alex de Angelis, failed to finish.