It was a double celebration for Honda at Indianapolis, with Marc Marquez not only continuing his ominous return to form, but his victory over long-time leader Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi (both Movistar Yamaha) brought up the company's 700th grand prix victory.
Earlier in the day, Belgian Livio Loi scored Honda's 699th win in a chaotic Moto3 race — not championship leader Danny Kent as expected — but the genesis of the milestone began way back in 1961 when Australia's very own Tom Phillis greeted the chequered flag in a 125cc race en route to world championship success.
Marquez, who started from pole position, was overtaken at the start of the 27-kap race by Lorenzo, who was clearly in the groove on his factory Yamaha. Marquez realised that as well and knew that he wasn't going to pull away, so he sat behind Lorenzo until he made his move at turn one with four laps to go. He then held the upperhand for the balance of the race to bring up his fifth win in a row at Indianapolis — two in Moto2 and the last three in MotoGP.
“The race went very well, but we were pretty much on the limit," said Marquez. "The truth is that Jorge improved a lot during the race, and I didn’t think there would be so many laps in the 1:32s. Even towards the end of the race we did a 1’32.6, which is very fast!
"We used the strategy of attacking at the end, when there were three laps remaining, and I think it was ideal for taking victory at this circuit. I’m also very proud to have taken Honda’s 700th victory! This is a very special moment for all the team and I dedicate it to all of Honda."
Lorenzo said it "could have been worse and it could have been better". He continued: "Second place in MotoGP is always a very good result because these are the best riders in the world, so to fight for the win and lead for so many laps during the race is difficult.
"I pushed a lot from the start in every corner and I probably lost more energy than Marc, who was following me. When he attacked I really didn't have enough energy and I wasn't fresh enough to make an attack on him, so I recovered 4pts on Vale and lost 5pts to Marc, but he's still quite far behind in the championship. I think we should celebrate this result after a difficult weekend and my crash from this morning."
At one stage during the race, with Rossi in fourth and Lorenzo leading, the gap between the teammates looked like being reduced to just 1pt ahead of this Sunday's round at Brno, but with Marquez managing to hit the lead and Rossi taking over third spot from Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) a complete knife edge was averted. Rossi has moved along to 195pts from Lorenzo (186), with Marquez zipping past Andrea Iannone (Ducati) into third position, 47pts behind Lorenzo.
Rossi and Pedrosa went hard at it, with the Italian first moving into third with 10 laps to go before they exchanged spots another couple pf times. Eventually Rossi got the upperhand to keep his unbroken podium finishing run intact.
Iannone was fifth, just in front of a fast-finishing Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), followed by Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Cal Crutchlow (CWM LCR Honda), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) and Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Racing Ducati).
Crutchlow and Dovizioso both had to fight through the pack after being run wide just after the start, while Australia's Jack Miller (CMW LCR Honda) crashed on lap seven after being as high as 12th from a season-best starting position of 16th.
“It was a disappointing way to end a reasonable weekend, because we were pretty happy with how the bike was working but I ended up having a few problems during the race," said Miller. "It wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be.
“We can’t do anything about it now though, we just need to look forward to getting to Brno and working through the problems that we had in the race here.”
Miller was the only DNF.
1. Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, 41m55.371s
2. Jorge Lorenzo, Movistar Yamaha +0.688s
3. Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha, +5.966s
DNF. Jack Miller, CWM LCR Honda, +20 laps
Pole position: Marquez, 1:31.884 = 163.3km/h
Fastest lap and new record: Marquez, 1:21.530 = 162km/h
Championship top 3
Rossi 195 • Lorenzo 186 • Marquez 139
Paginas Amarillas HP40’s rookie Alex Rins took his first win in a stellar season — the fourth youngest winner in the class — and moved into second place in the championship behind Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport).
Rins won from Zarco and Franco Morbidelli (Italtrans Racing Team) in a race that was declared wet but on a drying track. The majority of riders decided to start on slicks and it was a fascinating first few laps, but once things had settled down there was an incredible battle at the front between Rins, world champion Tito Rabat (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), Zarco and Dominique Aegerter (Technomag Racing Interwetten).
On the second last lap Rins scored some breathing space after Zarco ran wide, taking Aegerter with him. It was Rins' ninth GP victory, the first eight coming in the Moto3 class.
“I’m very proud of myself and my team as we’ve worked hard since Friday," said Rins. "It was very difficult because in the beginning the asphalt was wet. But anyway, when I saw that Morbidelli and Zarco pass me, I started to go strong, I change my mentality and I went for him. I finished first in the end and I’m very happy.”
Aegerter was fourth from world champion Rabat and Tom Luthi (Derendinger Racing Interwetten), with Australia's Ant West (QMMF Racing) in 13th.
1. Alex Rins, Paginas Amarillas HP40, 41m18.866s
2. Johann Zarco, Ajo Motorsport, +0.482s
3. Franco Morbidelli, Italtrans Racing Team, +0.888s
13. Anthony West, QMMF Racing, +17.106s
Pole position: Rins, 1:36.549 = 155.4km/h
Fastest lap: Morbidelli, 1:37.498 = 153.9km/h
Championship top 3
Zarco 199 • Rins 128 • Tito Rabat 125
How much would have this trifecta been worth to a savvy punter: Livio Loi first from John McPhee and Philipp Oettl?
That's what transpired at Indianapolis as Loi took his first Moto3 win as rain played a major part in proceedings. The form book was thrown out of the window before the race began as a heavy shower meant that it was declared wet. All of the riders lined up on the grid on grooved tyres before Loi and McPhee, as well as a few others, decided to switch to slicks before the race, with Loi the only rider to make the decision in time to start from his original grid position while the others had to start from pit lane.
It played into Loi's hands perfectly, and he eventually won by nearly 39 seconds on the RW Racing Honda. McPhee (Saxoprint RTG Honda) was in turn well in front of Oettl (Schedl GP Racing KTM).
Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Isaac Vinales (RBA Racing Team KTM) were fourth and fifth, with championship leader and polesitter Danny Kent (Leopard Racing Honda) way back in 21st position and out of the points.
That allowed sixth-placed Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Team Honda) to trim Kent's lead to a still formidable 56pts.
Australia's Remy Gardner (CIP Mahindra), after his most impressive practice and qualifying performance all year, finished in 17th. Gardner said: “After been in the top 15 during the whole weekend it's hard to see yourself out of the points but I think that my performance has been very good and places me in the main group of the class.
"The race was very demanding because the changes of the track conditions but I managed to be fast in any case and this is very important for the future”.
1. Livio Loi, RW Racing GP, 40m50.747s
2. John McPhee, Saxoprint RTG +37.860s
3. Philipp Oettl, Schedl GP Racing, +57.781s
17. Remy Gardner, CIP, +1 lap
Pole position: Danny Kent, 1:40.703 = 149km/h
Fastest lap: Kent, 1:41.449 = 147.9km/h
Championship top 3
Kent 190 • Bastianini 134 • Miguel Oliveira 112