Vinales ends Yamaha MotoGP drought with Phillip Island win
Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) ended Yamaha’s 25-race victory drought after storming to a spectacular win at the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, the Spaniard imperious in the second half of the race to eventually take his first win since Le Mans 2017 by 1.5 seconds over second place Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso.
As the lights went out it was Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) who got a lightning launch from P8 to head around the outside and lead into Turn 1, but the Italian then ran off at Turn 2 to end his charge. However, fellow Alma Pramac Racing rider Jack Miller took advantage of his teammate’s misfortunes to take the lead of his home race at Turn 4 — rinse and repeat for the Aussie from 2017.
Pole man Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) slotted in behind Miller with Iannone third, but heading into Turn 1 on Lap 2 it was all change: Marquez took over the reins of the freight train, with Dovizioso slotting into second, Iannone was third and Miller was 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.
However, close then became too close for Marquez and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) as the duo headed into the braking zone at Turn 1 on Lap 6. Zarco’s front tire came into contact with Marquez’ rear tire, causing the Frenchman to lose control and crash at roughly 185mph in a huge and scary incident. Thankfully, Zarco walked away from the incident uninjured, while his bike severely damaged the back of Marquez’s Honda and subsequently, the 2018 champion retired from the race.
This left Dovizioso leading from Miller and Iannone but then Vinales began to make his move. Starting P2, the Spaniard didn’t get a good getaway and was as low as 10th at one stage, but on Lap 8 he made what would turn out to be his race-winning overtake at Turn 4. Within a lap, he had created a 0.8-second lead.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was leading the chase before Iannone then took the baton, but the Suzuki man ran wide at Turn 4 and dropped to the back of the quartet. Alvaro Bautista (Ducati Team) was taking no prisoners on his one-off Ducati factory ride, with he and teammate Dovizioso also taking it in turns to try and reel in Vinales. But no matter who it was out of the four, no one could match the Spaniard’s superior pace — 1.9 the gap on Lap 13, which grew to four seconds by Lap 21.
The battle for first was seemingly won but the fight for P2 raged on between Rossi, the two red Desmosedicis and Iannone, with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) also joining the fray the latter stages. On Lap 23 it was the man who had dominated the weekend to get into P2: Iannone. Then, the gap to Vinales suddenly dropped below three seconds and then with two laps to go, it was 1.8 seconds. Surely Vinales wasn’t going to let this slip?
The answer was no, he wasn’t. The leader responded after being a second a lap slower to bring his YZR-M1 home in P1, 1.543s clear of Iannone, the latter beating Dovizioso in a battle for second.
A mistake with just over a lap to go on the exit of Turn 10 ended Bautista’s hopes of a podium, but P4 — his best result of the season — for the Spaniard helped Ducati close the gap to Repsol Honda in the Team championship to 38 points, with Movistar Yamaha MotoGP now just 16 points off Repsol Honda.
Rins got the better of Rossi on the final lap to claim a fourth consecutive top-five finish, Rossi settling for P6. Miller would bring his Ducati home in a solid P7 and as the leading Independent Team rider — the Australian just 6.7 seconds from the win — with Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) earning his best result of the season in P8 to take charge in the Rookie of the Year championship as Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) crashed out of a top-10 place. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was able to beat Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Bradley Smith by a whisker — 0.036s separating the duo at the line in P9 and P10 respectively — which means all six manufacturers were in the top 10 at Phillip Island.
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