Words: Mike Ryan
Photos: Russell Colvin, Michelin, MotoGP.com
Moto3 Race – Dalla Porta prevails
In dry, but overcast and windy conditions, Sunday’s first race got underway with Ramirez holding the advantage he’d secured in qualifying and leading the field for the opening couple of laps, while Dalla Porta was at the tail end of the top ten.
On lap 3, the motorcycling gods appeared to be smiling on Dalla Porta when he took the race lead and championship rival Canet crashed out at Turn 1 – his fourth crash in the past five races.
A lap later, gearbox problems for Shaw that had come up before the race even got underway saw him retire, while Chandler plugged away at the tail of the field.
In a typically tight and frenetic Moto3 affair, positions changed often, even within the space of a lap, but Dalla Porta was able to - mostly - stay at the head of the lead group. Challenges came from McPhee, Andrea Migno (Mugen Race KTM) and Toba in the opening half of the race, with the Japanese rider slipstreaming into the lead on lap 9, followed by Migno three laps later.
As low as sixth on lap 14 of 23 and with Arbolino ahead of him, Dalla Porta managed to reverse the position two laps later and retake the lead.
By this stage, the race had already claimed the likes of Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 00 Honda), Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3 Honda) and Filip Salac (Redox PruestelGP KTM); the latter the result of a bump from Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 00 Honda) that saw the Spaniard forced to serve a ‘long lap’ penalty, then another when he exceeded track limits while completing that penalty.
The star rider of the race was Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power KTM), who finished the opening lap in 23rd position, but executed some bold, daring passes as he worked his way to the head of the field to be in third by lap 7.
Three laps from the finish, Toba clipped Moto3 rookie Tom Booth-Amos (CIP Green Power KTM) at Turn 4, taking down Migno when he fell, while Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) took out Jaume Masia (Mugen Race KTM) when he crashed at Turn 11 on the last lap.
Dalla Porta manage to avoid most of the last lap craziness, and despite close attention, hung on to win the race, giving him an unassailable 72-point lead in the championship. Ramirez just pipped Arenas for second, with Arenas doing likewise to Suzuki in a finish that saw the top six covered by less than a second.
Despite being lapped in the latter stages, Chandler finished the race in last place.
“I wanted to win it from the start of the season,” Dalla Porta enthused. “Winning the championship and the race is something incredible. The race was difficult, but when I saw Aron crashed, I tried to win, because winning the championship and the race is better!”
Dalla Porta’s Moto3 championship is the first for an Italian in the 125/Moto3 class since Andrea Dovizioso in 2004.
RESULT – Moto3 Race (23 laps)
- Lorenzo DALLA PORTA (ITA) Honda 37’45.817
- Marcos RAMIREZ (ESP Honda +0.077
- Albert ARENAS (ESP) KTM +0.088
- Tatsuki SUZUKI (JPN) Honda +0.330
- John McPHEE (GBR) Honda +0.772
19. Rogan CHANDLER (NZL) KTM +1 lap
DNF. Yanni SHAW (AUS) KTM
Moto2 Race – Orange Crushes the Opposition
Phillip Island agrees with Brad Binder, as he won here in 2018 and repeated the dose again this year, leading from start to finish.
Binder secured the holeshot, with team mate and Moto2 rookie Martin slotting in to second ahead of polesitter Navarro: this trio putting a margin of almost a second on those following by the end of the opening lap.
Leading the chasers initially, Marquez was lucky not to be taken out in a Turn 4 incident on the opening lap triggered by Iker Lecuona (Monday.com American Racing KTM) that brought down both Marini and Marco Bezzecchi (Red Bulll KTM Tech 3).
Xavi Vierge (EG 00 Marc VDS Kalex) also crashed on the opening lap, while the polesitter in last year’s Moto2 race, Mattia Pasini (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2 Kalex) retired.
Aiming to keep his own championship chances alive, Luthi passed Marquez on lap 2 and slowly began to cut the margin to Navarro.
As Binder and Martin pulled away at the front, the crowd’s attention turned to the following pack, and more specifically Marquez and Gardner. While Gardner climbed to fifth place and Luthi had passed Navarro for third by lap 10, Marquez was going backwards, losing three places in the space of two laps.
Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40 Kalex), the outstanding rider from the early part of the 2019 season, along with Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) and Nagashima were all doing their bit to ensure Marquez wouldn’t secure the championship at Phillip Island, but more damage was being done by Luthi and Binder.
By lap 15, Luthi was comfortably holding down third place and Binder seemed untouchable at the front. The appearance of a few drops of rain near the finish of the race almost unsettled Binder, but he cruised to the chequered flag for his third win of the season.
“I gave my absolute best all race [and] I think it was one of the most perfect races I’ve done,” Binder said. “I expected it to be a big group and a massive fight, but four or five laps into the race I realised it was just going to be me and my team mate. On one hand it’s a bit more pressure, but on the other I felt more relaxed because it’s a lot easier to deal with one person than ten.”
Luthi was unchallenged in third behind Martin, while Marquez, stuck in the chasing pack, could finish no better than eighth. That same pack saw Gardner, Baldassarri and Manzi regularly change positions, while Lecuona also joined the fray after serving his long lap penalty. At the chequered flag, less than a second covered this group, with Gardner’s sixth place a strong result given how battered he was after his FP1 crash.
The finishing order cut Marquez’s championship lead over Luthi to 28 points with two races remaining, and despite another win from Binder at Sepang, second place to Marquez at that race was enough for him to take the Moto2 World Championship with a round in hand.
RESULT – Moto2 Race (25 laps)
- Brad BINDER (RSA) KTM 38’53.277
- Jorge MARTIN (ESP) KTM +1.968
- Tom LUTHI (SWI) Kalex +6.021
- Jorge NAVARRO (ESP) Speed Up +8.151
- Lorenzo BALDASSARRI (ITA) Kalex +8.806
- Remy GARDNER (AUS) Kalex +8.955
MotoGP Race – Fight to the Finish
With rain forecast and a flag-to-flag race a distinct possibility, the MotoGP field gridded up under grey skies, with Miller wearing specially-made leathers that were supposed to be like Ned Kelly’s armour, but instead looked like something out of medieval times!
The race got underway with a roar from the crowd when Rossi swept around the outside of Turn 1 to take the holeshot. Poleman Vinales was swamped off the line, dropping back to sixth on the opening lap, while Petrucci was out when he highsided at Turn 2, bringing down Quartararo in the process.
The biggest surprise of the opening laps was the performance of the Aprilias. At a circuit he loves, Iannone got a rocket of a start from the third row of the grid to overtake Marquez, with Aleix Espargaro inside the Top 5, too. Iannone even led the race briefly after passing Crutchlow on lap 3.
On lap 4, less than a second covered the top eight riders, but Marquez was making his moves, passing first Rossi then Iannone to slot into second behind the leading Crutchlow. Vinales was improving, too, up to third on lap 8 and second ahead of Marquez on lap 9 before taking the race lead on lap 10. On the same lap, an aggressive passing move by Marquez on Crutchlow unsettled the Brit as the 2019 World Champion set his sights on Vinales, starting a cat-and-mouse game with last year’s Phillip Island race winner that would last right through to the chequered flag.
Miller, meanwhile, was part of a pack that included Rins, Rossi, Dovizioso, Iannone and Aleix Espargaro. Later, Miller’s Pramac Racing team mate Francesco Bagnaia and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Joan Mir would join this group, too.
Midway through the 27-lap race, Vinales and Marquez were clear at the front, with Crutchlow riding a solitary third place ahead of an eight-rider pack that was alternately being led by Rins and Rossi.
Further back, Zarco was enjoying a solid debut on the LCR Honda – and no doubt enjoying being ahead of his old Red Bull KTM team mate Pol Espargaro even more. Espargaro would have the last laugh, though, but Zarco was nevertheless still in the points, while Lorenzo was circulating in last place, behind far less experienced riders like Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech 3).
As the laps wound out, Marquez was clearly managing his race, rolling off the throttle when passing opportunities presented themselves, but never letting Vinales get more than two tenths of a second ahead. On lap 20, the pressure was dialled up; Marquez closing the margin on Vinales and testing passing moves down Gardner Straight.
With wet-tyre bikes ready in pit lane for the anticipated rain, the final handful of laps saw Vinales still leading, but Marquez ready to pounce. Behind Crutchlow, Bagnaia was on track for what would be the best finish of his rookie season. Miller had something to say about that, though, passing his team mate on lap 24, followed by Dovizioso a lap later.
Waiting until the last lap to make his move, Marquez passed Vinales down the straight, taking the lead into Turn 1 and daring Vinales to counterattack. The Monster Yamaha MotoGP rider responded with a near-pass coming into Turn 2, but there were only two places Vinales could make a pass stick - Turn 4 and Turn 10. Too far back to make the move at Turn 4, it all came down to Turn 10, and when he tried to dive up the inside of Marquez, Vinales tried too hard, locking up the front end and sliding out of the race.
The win for Marquez was the 55th of his MotoGP career, making him the most successful Honda rider in the premier class, ahead of Mick Doohan, and the third most successful 500cc/MotoGP rider of all time, behind Rossi and Agostini.
With Vinales out, Crutchlow was elevated to second and Miller third as he just held off Bagnaia across the line to the delight of the crowd.
“Incredible. Incredible win today, because we weren’t the fastest on the track, Maverick was faster but I was waiting for him,” Marquez explained. “On the last lap, it was my plan to overtake on the straight and close the door. At Turn 10, I knew [Vinales] would come [so] I went in so deep, braking hard.
“Now, I‘m the rider with the [most] victories for Honda, which is something incredible.”
Crutchlow took confidence from his performance at a circuit that came close to ending his career last year, while for Miller, third place was a welcome result (celebrated with a ‘shoey’ on the podium!), even if it came by default: “Fourth looked like it was the best I could do. But, with ten laps to go, Pecco [Bagnaia] came past and he was into it. It was… extra motivation for me! He started pushing the pace, but I was able to get past him. As I came over turn nine, I saw dust and the heart rate went up 50 beats per second, because I thought ‘Now I’m third!’”
Result - MotoGP Race (27 laps)
- Marc MARQUEZ (ESP) Honda 40’43.729
- Cal CRUTCHLOW (GBR) Honda +11.413
- Jack MILLER (AUS) Ducati +14.499
- Francesco BAGNAIA (ITA) Ducati +14.554
- Joan MIR (ESP) Suzuki +14.817
- Andrea IANNONE (ITA) Aprilia +15.280
- Andrea DOVIZIOSO (ITA) Ducati +15.294
- Valentino ROSSI (ITA) Yamaha +15.841
- Alex RINS (ESP) Suzuki +16.032
- Aleix ESPARGARO (ESP) Aprilia +16.590