Spanish racing star Maverick Vinales ended Yamaha’s MotoGP win drought with a controlled victory in today’s Austalian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
Some 25 races had passed since Valentino Rossi gave Yamaha its last win, at the Dutch TT last June, but the classic Australian circuit saw both Rossi and Vinales back at the front.
There was drama at the beginning of the sixth lap when Frenchman Johann Zarco on the satellite Yamaha YZR-M1 misjudged his braking into the fast turn one and ran into the back of world champion Marc Marquez. The Frenchman was lucky to escape injury as he jumped off at around 180mph, while Marquez was able to stay upright but retired at the end of the lap as a result of damage to the rear of his Repsol Honda. With usual frontrunners Jorge Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow non starters through injury, and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso historically struggling at Phillip Island, the opportunity for a different name at the top of the podium sparked an exciting battle on the track.
Vinales, a notoriously slow starter, had dropped back from second on the grid to ninth at the end of the first lap, but by the end of lap eight of 27 he was in front and pulling away from Dovizioso, giving Ducati one of its best performances on the Island in recent years.
Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone made a late charge to half Vinales’ four second lead by the flag and take his best result of the year, with Dovizoso completing the podium.
“This is the best feeling ever,” Vinales said after the race. “We‘ve been in the dark all year, and suddenly we came into the light! I couldn‘t show my potential in the previous races, but today I could. Being first in Australia is always amazing! It‘s the best track ever, and I like to be at the front there. To win here and break this long none winning period of Yamaha is unbelievable! I was riding on the bike like I was in FP4. I got a really good feeling from the bike, so I knew I could maintain 1‘29s. That‘s what I did for most of the middle of the race. I tried to escape as far as I could, because I knew my tyre wasn‘t going to last until the end. I knew opening that gap would be difficult, I had some moments with some riders, and some shaking on the bike – I was struggling, but I still made it through anyway. It was amazing! I have to say ‘thank you’ to the team, because this weekend they worked for the win. We will try to be the best and we‘ll try to work in a good way. We don‘t want to lose the concentration, because we don‘t know what will happen in Malaysia, but for sure the level of motivation will be high after this weekend.”
Britain’s Bradley Smith equalled his best result of the year, 10tht on his KTM, with Scott Redding 13th on the Aprilia. Crutchlow broke his ankle during Friday’s practice session and will miss next weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.