Round 16 – Australian Grand Prix
As MotoGP arrives back in Australia there is a lot on the line after some amazing twists of fate on both Saturday and Sunday at Mandalika.
On Saturday Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) continued his stunning run, taking the Championship lead for the first time as he won his fourth Sprint on the bounce and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) struggled to eighth after failing to make it out of Q1.
But on Sunday, while leading by a country mile Martin’s run came undone after a small mistake saw him go off line and onto a dirty part of the circuit which resulted in him going down at the next corner. He watched on from the fence as his newly acquired championship lead disappeared in front of his very eyes.
Bagnaia had already been on quite some mission to slice through the pack. With Martin’s crash, third became second and then the Italian attacked Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) to take the lead and win. A great performance from Pecco after some had already started to write him off.
Last year, Bagnaia was on the podium and took the Championship lead that would lead to his first premier class crown on this very turf. Martin, after some hot pace early on, was only seventh… but the top seven were covered by eight-tenths.
Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), meanwhile, ain’t out of it yet either. It’s a long shot, but the Italian soldiered on at Mandalika despite that recent collarbone surgery, and in Australia last year was very, very fast – as was team-mate Luca Marini. Despite their injuries both have won races at recent rounds and have been showing great speed, Marini scoring pole and the Sprint Race victory in Indonesia last time out.
Can Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) join that fight at the front? Has Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP) got more impressive form after his best finish yet? What about his team-mate Alex Marquez who is still on the road to recovery after fracturing his ribs? And what can we expect from Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) as he gets back in the groove? Eight Ducatis will be roaring down that Gardner Straight and that will be some sight to behold.
If you listed the venues you’d expect Maverick Vinales to threaten at the front, Phillip Island would definitely feature. Coming off the back of a great performance in Indonesia too, Vinales really could be one to watch.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing), meanwhile, arrives from bad luck and a strange tyre choice in Indonesia that brought him undone after showing blistering pace earlier in the weekend.
Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team) would also like a little luck back after a bit of a shunting from former team-mate Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) at Mandalika.
Raul Fernandez’ (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team), meanwhile, needs to rediscover that upward trajectory after a much tougher time of it in Indonesia. He’d been on a run of top ten finishes but couldn’t quite muster that pace in Indonesia.
Also having a much tougher time of it in Indonesia after some real steps forward of late was Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). Two DNFs and nothing much to show from the weekend will have Marc as hungry as ever at a circuit which has been a happy hunting ground for the Repsol Honda rider.
LCR Honda Castrol rider Alex Rins was back in the top ten at Mandalika for the first time since his broken leg. That’s impressive enough, and he played a masterpiece at Phillip Island last season.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) will want to learn a few of those secrets on the other side of the garage, and Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team) will be looking to improve further as he finds some late season form.
Speaking of a return to the front, and in this case just tenths off the win, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) completed the closest podium of the year so far in Indonesia. He qualified well, had a good Sprint and then seriously impressed in the Grand Prix race, scything through the gap to home in on the win and very nearly take it.
For teammate Franco Morbidelli it’s a slightly opposite arrival as he suffered some issues at Mandalika and was ultimately a few laps down. Still, on Sunday his fastest lap was only a tenth off Quartararo.
Finally, KTM and GASGAS. At GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 it’s all about finding much better fortunes for both Augusto Fernandez and Pol Espargaro who after some decent form hit some troubled waters in Indonesia.
Better fortune is something also sought by Binder after a slightly adventurous Mandalika. On Saturday, he got taken out by Aleix Espargaro and on Sunday, he clashed with Marini, and then Oliveira in two uncharacteristic incidents, each of which earned him a Long Lap penalty. After a crash in Japan too, Binder will want a tidier weekend to consolidate his fourth place in the championship standings.
Last and by no means least, home hero Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) will be ready to get his elbows out at Phillip Island. The Australian is having a year of ups and downs in his new adventure with KTM, but there have been plenty of the former and he’ll want to make home turf count for another. The tight and technical Turn 4 now officially bears his name as we arrive for another showdown too, and fans are guaranteed a Thriller from Miller as he rides for them and some home glory…
MotoGP Championship Points
With a top five on the grid covered by less than a tenth in Indonesia, it was no surprise that missing out on the front row was no ominous sign for Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo). Once the lights went out Acosta was off like a shot, and once in the lead he pulled away to a dominant victory. That advantage is now 65 points at the top of the table and similar rides at the next two rounds will see him wrap up the title early…
Aron Canet (Pons Wegow Los40) and Fermin Aldeguer (Beta Tools Speed Up) will want to be back on that podium and get in Acosta’s way, however, and Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) and Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) will want to play their part…
Moto2 Championship Points
|22||VD GOORBERGH Zonta||17|
As he crossed the line at Mandalika, Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) probably thought it had been quite a tough day at the office. But in reality, the Championship leader only increased his advantage as Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) had crashed on the Warm Up lap and didn’t recover to points, and Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3) had not one, but two Long Lap penalties – one of which sent him down the order by way of a time penalty after the flag.
All said and done, Masia started the weekend a handful of points clear and is now 16 points ahead of Holgado – and that’s a whole podium’s worth.
Last year at Phillip Island, Sasaki was just off the podium and Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) second as the two escaped in a smaller leading group, which could be good news for them on our return. The veterans will also be hoping that first time winner in Indonesia Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI), and podium finishers David Alonso (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) and David Muñoz (BOE Motorsports), feel the pinch of less experience back on the Island…
Meanwhile for local hero Joel Kelso it will be a great chance to show his skilss in front of a supportive home crowd after a lurgy held him back at Mandalika.
Moto3 Championship Points
|8||RUEDA José Antonio||111|
Australian Grand Prix Schedule
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2023 MotoGP Calendar
|17||Oct-22||Australia, Phillip Island|