Suzuki back on the top step of the podium in a thriller as Bagnaia takes over the Championship lead
Alex Rins has seized victory in an Animoca Brands Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix which will go down as one of the all-time great MotoGP™ races. Not only did the Spaniard perhaps give Team Suzuki Ecstar one last win before the Hamamatsu marque sadly leaves us at season’s end, a crash for Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) gifted the World Championship leader to Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) with just two races left in 2022. Still, it could have been even worse for the Frenchman considering Bagnaia led a topsy-turvy encounter at the start of the final lap only to be passed by both Rins and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), the latter of whom scored a 100th MotoGP™ podium by finishing second at Phillip Island.
After heavy rain in the Warm Up, the skies were sunny and the circuit dry ahead of lights out for the 27-lap race. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) got the holeshot from pole position and Marquez took up second from the same position on the middle of the front row. Bagnaia, who had also qualified on the front row, did not make a good start but was back up to third after he followed Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) past Quartararo and then himself passed Espargaro.
Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) was one to watch in the early stages, emerging eighth at the end of the standing lap before passing Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) at Miller Corner (Turn 4) and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) at ‘MG’ (Turn 10), as the top two of Martin and Marc Marquez enjoyed a lead of almost one full second. Miller overtook Quartararo for fifth and Espargaro for fourth on Lap 3, then saw off the latter when he tried to reclaim that position at Southern Loop (Turn 2) on Lap 4.
Quartararo had already been relegated to seventh by Marini when it got a whole lot worse for ‘El Diablo’, who made a mistake under braking and ran off at Miller Corner on Lap 4, dropping to 22nd. Miller’s charge continued when he got by on Bagnaia, at his second attempt, for third at MG on Lap 5, but Pecco got the place back at the start of the following tour.
Meanwhile, Rins, who qualified 10th, was also on the rise and moved into the top five when he went under Espargaro at Southern Loop on Lap 6. In fact, he would gain a position at Turn 2 on three consecutive laps, getting by Miller for fourth and then Bagnaia for third, at which time the top two were still about eight tenths of a second up the road.
Miller gets taken out and Quartararo makes an even bigger mistake
For Miller, however, the tide was starting to turn as ‘Thriller’ lost fourth to Espargaro and fifth to Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) at the start of Lap 9. He was out of the race completely just two turns later at the corner which now bears his name when Alex Marquez got it all crossed up under brakes and clattered into the factory Ducati from two bikes back – a nasty-looking collision but thankfully one which both were able to walk away from.
On the other factory Ducati, Bagnaia made an unsuccessful attempt to re-pass Rins at Doohan Corner on Lap 10, by which time they had caught Martin and Marc Marquez. Rins, however, was able to put a move on MM93 for second place at Doohan Corner a lap later, as Bezzecchi kept himself in the hunt with a pass on Espargaro for fifth.
Quartararo had not long got himself back into the points-paying positions when disaster struck, the Frenchman tucking the front of his YZR-M1 at Southern Loop and crashing out of the contest on Lap 11. Up front, the lead changed for the first time when Rins went underneath Martin at Stoner Corner (Turn 3) on Lap 14, before Bagnaia vaulted from fourth to second with a double pass just down the road at Miller Corner, with Martin all the way back to fifth once Bezzecchi went down his inside at MG – after starting that lap in P1!
MUST-SEE: Quartararo is out of the Australia GP!
A Moto3™-style battle for the lead
Then Bagnaia hit the front when he passed Rins at Doohan Corner on Lap 15, and Marquez was into second with a move on the Suzuki at Miller Corner. Rins hit back at the Honda rider with a pass of his own exactly two laps later, before Martin briefly got back into the podium places when he too overtook MM93, on the run to the Hayshed (Turn 8) on Lap 18.
Rins was back in first position when he turned his GSX-RR under Bagnaia at Stoner Corner on Lap 20, by which time Bezzecchi had surged to third, ahead of Marquez and Martin. Meanwhile Espargaro had slipped to seventh after being overtaken by Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team). However, Rins was all the way back to fourth on Lap 21 when Bagnaia and Bezzecchi got him at Southern Loop, and Marquez at Miller Corner.
Rins returned to the podium places with a pass on Marquez at Stoner Corner on Lap 22, then regained second spot when he put the same move on Bezzecchi, three laps later. Meanwhile, after a battle over fourth with Martin, Marquez was back into third by overtaking Bezzecchi at Miller Corner on Lap 25, and was still within striking distance of Bagnaia too.
Marquez passed Rins for second at Southern Loop on the penultimate lap but the Suzuki rider hit back straight away at Stoner Corner, and that was how they commenced Lap 27 of 27. Rins went a corner earlier this time with a move on Bagnaia at Southern Loop and Marquez followed, with those three covered by just 0.224 seconds when they took the chequered flag. Bezzecchi got home fourth and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), who had started only 15th, took fifth after a final-lap pass of Marini at Lukey Heights (Turn 9).
Marini was therefore sixth, ahead of Martin and Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), while Aleix Espargaro faded to ninth and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) rounded out the top 10. The rest of the top 15 was Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) from Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Cal Crutchlow (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™), Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™), and Remy Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) – meaning a Championship point for the latter in his first premier class race on home soil. It was a double DNF for the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™ team after Franco Morbidelli crashed out late in the piece, making for four retirements in total.
In the World Championship, Bagnaia now leads by 14 points over Quartararo, with Aleix Espargaro another 13 back and Bastianini also still in contention at 42 points off the pace. Bagnaia has match point at the next round, the PETRONAS Grand Prix of Malaysia which takes place at the Sepang International Circuit on October 21-23.
1. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar)
2. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.186
3. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.224
4. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.534
5. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) + 0.557
6. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.688
7. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.884
8. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) + 3.141
9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) + 4.548
10. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 5.940