By Peter Cleeland
MARC Marquez, 2019 MotoGP world champion finally got the monkey off his back winning the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island on Sunday.
The Island had proven a bit of a bogey track for the Spanish champ as he had not won here in six previous starts.
Inclement weather over the weekend had robbed many of the riders of vital practice to assist them in setting up their machines in race trim. So strong was the wind on Saturday that the Qualifying Practice session for MotoGP bikes was cancelled five minutes in as the conditions were considered unsafe for the riders.
A huge field of 29 riders greeted the starter with Honda rider Lorenzo Dalla Porta getting a great start off the line to lead the race in the early stages. So close was this race throughout that the first 25 riders were separated by three seconds so there was constant slip streaming and passing manoeuvres which proved to be a highly entertaining spectacle for the 35,000 strong crowd.
Leading the championship Dalla Porta was looking to seal the title at the Island meeting despite fierce competition from his rivals. At one stage Dalla Porta was as far back as fifth place but with a well-planned strategic ride the Italian sealed the win from and sewed up the Moto 3 championship title. Marcos Ramirez took a highly creditable 2nd place from Albert Arenas in 3rd place.
The KTM team of South African rider Brad Binder and Jorge Martin quickly established dominance over the pursuing pack of riders which included Wayne Gardiner’s son Remy on a Kalex. Binder rode with calm and consistency as he lapped highly competitive times to stretch his lead. Third place man Thomas Luthi try as he might could not bridge the gap the KTM riders had established. Aussie Remy Gardiner who started from 13th position on the grid made quick progress through the field to occupy 5th place, but finally finished a very creditable 6th.
The senior race commenced with Valentino Rossi starting on the second row of the grid in his 400th GP blasting to the front of the pursuing pack. Danilo Petrucci and Fabio Quartararo came to grief on the first lap at Southern Loop in a high-speed collision. This was the second major fall for Quartararo who had fallen heavily at Siberia on Friday’s first practice session.
Rossi was on the pace for three laps before Maverick Viñales and Marc Marquez cleared out from the main group of riders. British rider Cal Crutchlow held a commanding third place while Aussie rider Jack Miller on the Ducati was involved in a six-way battle for place 4th to 10th.
Viñales led until the last lap when Marquez sailed past him on Gardiner straight. Crutchlow was safe in 3rd while Miller, Dovizioso, Rossi, Iannone, Espargaro and Bagnaiaa were engaged in a battle royal for the minor places. Trying to make up ground on Marc Marquez and pull off a last ditch passing manoeuvre Vinales at Lukey Heights lost the back end of his Yamaha and conceded second place to Brit Cal Crutchlow. Aussie Jack Miller after working his way from ninth place was rewarded with a great ride taking third place on the podium.