Marc Marquez put one hand on the 2017 MotoGP world title with another masterful win in Australia, while title rival Andrea Dovizioso struggled to 11th at a Phillip Island track that flummoxed the Ducatis.
The scenic southern circuit played host to the best MotoGP race of the season, with eight riders fighting in the leading group for the majority of the race. With the Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro crashing out early on, surprisingly the only retirement of the whole race, the battle for the win looked like being played out between the Hondas of Marquez, early race leader Jack Miller and 2016 victor Cal Crutchlow and the Yamahas of Maverick Vinales, Valentino Rossi and Johann Zarco, with the Suzukis of Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins giving their best showing of the year. Rossi, Vinales, Zarco and Miller all took turns at the head of the race but, with eight of the 27 laps to go, it was Marquez who made his move to pull away and take his sixth win of the season and extend his lead to 33 points over Dovizioso, who struggled home in 12th place.
“It was such an amazing race, I think we put on a fantastic show for the fans! I’m very happy, as I knew that today was important,” said Marquez. “Dovi was struggling a little this weekend, while I was feeling really good on the bike and had to make the best of it. When the race started I was thinking I had to stay calm and manage the tyres, but then Zarco hit me and I realized it was going to be a battle. I was in a group of fighters. I knew I had to push and defend, but also to attack. So I just tried to control the situation and then, with around eight laps to go, I just gave it my all. I pushed really hard for three or four laps and that was it. I’m happy with the win of course, but even more with going to Malaysia with a 33 point advantage!”
Conspicuous in their absence in the lead group were any Ducatis, with the Italian bikes battling outside of the top 10. Dovizioso had arrived in Australia on the back of an epic win in Japan and looking to overcome an 11 point deficit to Marquez at the top of the championship. In the end, the flowing Phillip Island circuit did not suit the characteristics of the Italian V4. Dovizioso found himself out of the points for much of the race after running off track early on but fought through to 11th., only to suffer the ignominy of being passed by Scott Redding and Dani Pedrosa on the run to the line.
“Today’s race was a big disappointment and we really lost a lot of points in the championship,” said a rueful Dovizioso. “For sure my mistake in the early stages of the race complicated things and maybe even the choice of rear tyre was not the best one, but on this track our bike is still struggling a lot. This year we’ve managed to improve many aspects and be competitive throughout the season but when you come to tracks like this, where you don’t brake very much and where there are lots of long fast corners, some of our limits are magnified: in fact here at Phillip Island none of the Ducati were very quick. Pity, because at this point of the season it would have been better to be closer to Marquez in the standings, but now we have to think of Malaysia, where quite simply we’ll have to give it our all.”
It was generally a good day for the British riders in Australia. Crutchlow was unable to replicate his epic 2016 win but came home a strong fifth. Bradley Smith equalled his best result of the season in 10th, with the new KTMs looking stronger than ever, while Redding was first Ducati home in 11th. Sam Lowes was 19th on his Aprilia.
The result means that Marquez can now tie up the championship win in Malaysia this coming weekend.