Jack Miller has become the first Aussie MotoGP winner in four years with a sensational performance in the wet at Assen on June 26 — on an historic day where Takaaki Nakagami (Moto2) and Francesco Bagnaia (Moto3) were also first-time winners in the intermediate and light-weight classes.
Miller, who had already showed glimpses of wet-weather prowess in his one-and-a-half-years of MotoGP competition, this time put it all together in a majestic display which saw him lead Marc Marquez and Scott Redding over the finish line to take home his maiden victory in the premier class.
While the likes of Movistar Yamaha pair Valentino Rossi (crash) and Jorge Lorenzo (10th place) were left to lament terrible days at the office, there was merriment aplenty from Miller as he completed a long celebratory lap before continuing festivities in the pits alongside the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda team and his support network.
Miller’s victory is the first by an Australian since Casey Stoner cleaned up at Phillip Island in 2012. He also becomes the first rider on a non-factory bike to win a race since Toni Elias in Portugal a decade ago.
“I don’t often say this but I’m lost for words," said the Townsvillian. "I feel incredibly emotional right now and it is hard to describe the sensation of winning for the first time in MotoGP. I felt confident and fast in the first part of the race but it was the right call to red flag it because the conditions were getting pretty dangerous.
"The track was really slippery for part two as well but I immediately felt comfortable. I could see a few riders making mistakes but I just kept my focus and concentrated on being fast and consistent without taking any silly risks.
"Once I passed Marc I just tried to block out the fact that I was heading for my first win and keep a clear mind. Coming out of the final chicane and seeing the chequered flag was just an unbelievable feeling.
"My family and I have made a lot of sacrifices to make today happen and it feels amazing. I can’t thank Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS enough. They have given me incredible support and never stopped believing in me.
"I must also thank Honda and their management for giving me this opportunity and allowing me to show what I can do at this level. It might take a while to sink in but I am going to enjoy tonight that’s for sure!”
The 250th race of the modern MotoGP era saw Miller pass Marquez (Repsol Honda) on lap four to take the lead in tricky conditions, and he then rode a faultless last eight laps to win by nearly two seconds, with Redding (OCTO Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) an excellent third from Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) and Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing Ducati).
There were only 13 finishers in a massive rate of attrition, with others to hit the deck including Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Bradley Smith (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) and Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). Pedrosa and Smith managed to remount and finish.
Miller's victory was actually the second attempt at the race, as the opener was red-flagged after 14 laps on safety grounds as monsoon conditions enveloped the 4.5km circuit.
With the grid re-forming based on finishing positions from the first outing, Miller sat on the third row. And after an excellent start, he moved into the top three on lap two before setting his sights — and eventually dispensing with — Marquez.
Not that Marquez was too concerned, as Rossi had crashed by then and he knew that Lorenzo was in struggle town. As a result, Marquez has now extended his lead in the championship to 24pts (145 to 121) over Lorenzo, while Rossi (103) remains in third from Pedrosa (86) and Maverick Vinales (Ecstar Suzuki, 79).
Miller, who confirmed at Assen that he will remain with Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda in 2017, has now jumped up to 13th place on 33pts.
1. Jack Miller, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda, 22m17.447s
2. Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda +1.991s
3. Scott Redding, OCTO Pramac Yakhnich Ducati, +5.906s
Pole position: Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati Team, 1m43.589s = 161.7km/h
Fastest lap: Danilo Petrucci, OCTO Pramac Yakhnich Ducati, 1m48.339s = 150.9km/h
Championship top 3
Marquez 145 • Jorge Lorenzo 121 • Rossi 103
Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) returned Japan to the top step of grand prix racing when he finally converted a slew of podium finishes into a popular victory.
As rain clouds threatened throughout the race, Nakagami moved into the lead on lap nine at the expense of Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), quickly opening up a 1.5-second gap which he expertly managed.
World champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) was the man who was trying to hunt down Nakagami in the closing stages, but when the race was called two laps early because of rain there was no chance for the Frenchman to close the gap.
“The race was really enjoyable. In the beginning I was fighting with the other guys but I was relaxed," said Nakagami. "I knew that my lap times were consistent and then I overtook Morbidelli and tried my best. I managed the gap with Zarco, it wasn’t too hard but I’m happy for this. It’s the first victory for me and the team. A big thank you to everyone.”
Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) finished fourth from Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) and Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40).
Zarco and Rins are now equal first in the standings on 126pts from Lowes (121).
Australia's Remy Gardner (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) was 20th at Assen.
"It was a difficult day," said Gardner." I really just wanted to bring it home and gain some more experience and not crash it again, especially when the rain came. I made a decent start in the race and made up a few places but then got held up a bit by Mulhauser.
"I spent most of the race fighting with Vinales and it was a bit of a boring race but sometimes that's how it is and you have to move on to the next one. I'm off to Germany on Tuesday and already looking forward to being back on track at the Sachsenring."
1. Takaaki Nakagami, Idemitsu Honda Team Asia, 34m33.598s
2. Johann Zarco, Ajo Motorsport, +2.435s
3. Franco Morbidelli, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS, +5.670s
20. Remy Gardner, Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2, +41.438
Pole position: Tom Luthi, Garage Plus Interwetten, 1m37.954s = 166.9km/h
Fastest lap: Nakagami, 1m38.055s = 166.7km/h
Championship top 3
Zarco 126 • Alex Rins 126 • Sam Lowes 121
There was action from go-to-whoa in Moto3 — some of it bone-jarring — as Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) took the win from Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3) and Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46).
Just 1.153 seconds separated the top 11 after 22 laps.
Not only was it Bagnaia's first win on the world stage, but also Mahindra's which has now broken Honda and KTM's domination of the light-weight class.
Bagnaia said: I can't believe it because it was very hard to stay at the front today. I have managed to set a fast pace all weekend even though in qualifying it was difficult to set a fast lap because of the amount of slow riders on track.
"To win by just 0.018 seconds is incredible."
Despite a strong start to the race, Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46 KTM) was unable to make it happen on the last lap as the Italian was shuffled back to fourth, finishing ahead of compatriot Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda).
Championship leader Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was in the lead group, but with seven laps to go he saved a near highside and was forced to run across the gravel and grass.
He went on to finish a distant 12th, but maintains the championship lead by 44pts over Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0), who didn't compete at Assen as he recovers from a broken leg.
1. Francesco Bagnaia, Aspar Mahindra, 38m11.535s
2. Fabio Di Giannantonio, Gresini Racing Honda, +0.039s
3. Andrea Migno, Sky Racing Team VR46, KTM +0.018s
Pole position: Enea Bastianini, Gresini Racing Honda, 1m42.463s = 159.5km/h
Fastest lap: Aron Canet, Estrella Galicia, 0,0, 1m42.778s = 159km/h
Championship top 3
Brad Binder 147 • Jorge Navarro 103 • Romano Fenati 93
Next round: Sachsenring, Germany, July 15-17
Make sure you're at Phillip Island this October to see the best riders on two-wheels battle it out for glory at the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix 2016.