MotoGP: Viñales ends Yamaha's losing streak
25 races since their last win - taken by Valentino Rossi at the TT Circuit Assen last season - Yamaha were back on the top step at the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix as Maverick Viñales brought an end to their losing streak in imperious style. His first win since Le Mans 2017 saw him take the flag 1.5 seconds clear of second place Andrea Iannone with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso taking his first podium for the Borgo Panigale factory at Phillip Island.
As the lights went out it was Danilo Petrucci who got a lightning launch from eighth to head around the outside and lead into turn one, but the Italian then ran off at turn two to end his charge. However, fellow Alma Pramac Racing rider Jack Miller took advantage to take the lead of his home Grand Prix at turn four – a repeat of 2017 for the Aussie.
Pole man Marc Marquez in behind Miller with Iannone third, but heading into turn one on lap two it was all change: Marquez took over the reins of the freight train, with Dovi slotting into second, Iannone third and Miller pushed back to fourth. The swapping and changing at the front begun with the fast and sweeping Phillip Island circuit keeping the riders in close pursuit of each other.
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Close then became too close for Marquez and Johann Zarco, however, as the duo headed into the braking zone at turn one on lap six and Zarco hit the back of the Repsol Honda, causing the Frenchman to lose control and crash at 200mph. Zarco’s bike also severely damaged the back of Marquez’ Honda and the 2018 champion retired from the race. Thankfully, Zarco walked away from the incident uninjured.
This left Dovi leading from Miller and Iannone but then Viñales began to make his move. Starting second, the Spaniard didn’t get a good getaway and was as low as tenth at one stage, but on lap eight he made what would turn out to be his race-winning overtake at turn four. Maverick then took off in true Top Gun style and within a lap had created a 0.8 second lead.
The Yamaha rider was in the groove and looked like he was on rails around the Island. Valentino Rossi was leading the chase before Iannone then took the baton, but the Suzuki man ran wide at turn four and dropped to the back of the quartet. Alvaro Bautista was taking no prisoners on his one-off Ducati factory ride, with he and teammate Dovi also taking it in turns to try and reel in Viñales. But no matter who it was out of the four, no one could match the Spaniard’s superior pace – the gap was 1.9 seconds on lap 13, and grew to four seconds by lap 21.
Rins got the better of Rossi on the final lap to claim a fourth consecutive top five finish; the Doctor forced to settle for sixth after heading wide on the last lap. Miller would bring his Ducati home in a solid seventh and as the leading independent rider - the Australian just 6.7 seconds from the win - with Franco Morbidelli earning his best result in the premier class so far in eighth to take charge in the rookie of the year fight. Hafizh Syahrin crashed out of the top on lap 19 at turn four. Aleix Espargaro was able to beat Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Bradley Smith by a whisker in two great results – with 0.036 separating the duo at the line in ninth and tenth respectively despite the Spaniard getting hit in the hand by some debris following the Zarco-Marquez incident.
11th was Karel Abraham in the Czech rider’s best result of the season, with Petrucci recovering to 12th at the flag. Scott Redding, Takaaki Nakagami and Xavier Simeon completed to points in P13, P14 and P15 respectively – the latter earning his first point-scoring finish of the season.