After winning his fifth premier class title in Japan, one would think that Marc Márquez would treat the remaining three races in the season more casually. Well, one couldn’t be more wrong.
At Phillip Island, he pushed hard through all the sessions and managed to grab pole position despite track conditions changing in the closing stages of qualifying. However, when the lights went out, it was Danilo Petrucci, who made a blistering start that saw him catapult from the third row of the grid to the race lead. Sadly, the Italian rider couldn’t maintain the lead for long as he missed his braking point and ran wide off the track. This promoted Jack Miller into the race lead to the delight of Aussie fans in the crowd. Márquez was making brisk progress after being pushed off the racing line while braking for the first corner and was up in 2nd place at this point.
Order was restored when Miller ran wide, allowing Márquez and Dovizioso to pass him easily with the Honda rider leading the charge. There was more action down the grid – a four-way battle between Andrea Iannone, Alex Rins, Johan Zarco and Valentino Rossi for 4th position. A few laps down the race, the Ducati riders bounced back as Márquez got relegated to 3rd position and Dovizioso took the lead. Zarco was making swift progress with plans to pass Márquez. He got great drive exiting the last corner and planned to use Márquez’s slipstream to pass him; but Márquez swerved left while braking late entering C1, catching the Frenchman unaware. He crashed into the rear of the Honda at close to 300kph and tumbled down the track. The impact was so severe that Márquez had to retire from the race. More importantly, though, it was miraculous that both the riders walked away from such a high-speed shunt unharmed.
In the midst of all this drama, the Yamaha duo of Rossi and Maverick Vinales were the fastest riders on the track, with the latter leading the race. It seemed that Yamaha’s woes have finally ended at Phillip Island as both the riders displayed great race pace. There was more action further down as the Ducati pair of Dovizioso and Alvaro Bautista exchanged places for 3rd position. With 12 laps remaining in the race, Vinales started checking out and extended his lead on his team-mate by over 2sec. Rossi was struggling for grip and was swamped by the Ducati duo – and soon after, by Iannone. With less than 10 laps remaining in the race, the Suzuki rider was up in 2nd place. However, in his enthusiasm to close in on Vinales, he ran wide and this mistake ended his prospects of winning the race.
Despite his best efforts, the Suzuki rider couldn’t cut Vinales’s lead and the Yamaha rider took the chequered flag to register an emotional win. The Australian race ended Yamaha’s longest winless streak (25 races) in the premiere class and gave the Japanese team its first win of the 2018 season.
As for Vinales, it was a very important victory and it will do a world of good to his confidence. The young rider faced lot of flak and criticism for being outperformed by his older teammate and the fact that his last win was in May, 2017 at the French GP. Dovizioso won the battle for the final step on the rostrum; but it was Bautista who impressed everyone by making an impressive debut with the factory Ducati outfit as a replacement to the injured Jorge Lorenzo. The penultimate race of the 2018 season will be held in Malaysia next weekend.