Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi took the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix to another level today, with a charge through the field from 15th on the grid to a stunning second place. Teammate Jorge Lorenzo overcame the challenges thrown at him this weekend by pushing hard from 12th on the grid and brought his YZR-M1 over the line in sixth place.
Rossi made a good start to the race at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit as he jumped two places to 13th on the opening lap. Overtaking Scott Redding and Maverick Viñales, the Doctor fought his way past Nicky Hayden as he continued to battle his way to the front of the field. Having climbed up to eighth, he was trailing teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who he quickly overtook on lap three and then the pair smoothly pulled ahead of Danilo Petrucci.
Rossi gradually closed down the 0.4s margin to tack onto the back of Andrea Dovizioso and Pol Espargaró’s bikes. He then put the hammer down and set a provisional fastest lap of 1’29.795s, leaving behind his two rivals a lap later. He kept pushing in fourth place, trying to bridge the 0.4s gap to Aleix Espargarò and a podium finish.
As Rossi wrestled his way past Aleix Espargaró, drama struck as Marc Marquez crashed out of the lead on lap nine, handing the Italian second place.
The fight for the win was now between the nine-time World Champion and Cal Crutchlow, who was a little more than two seconds ahead of him. The Doctor was eager to hunt down the Briton, but the chase to the front of the field in the early stages of the race had taken its toll on his soft front tyre. Rossi decided to focus on maintaining his position after a small mistake on the brakes and cruised to a stunning second place, +4.218s from the front.
Lorenzo had a superb start from twelfth on the grid and quickly stormed to ninth in the opening laps. The Mallorcan was fully aware that his teammate and Viñales would be soon joining him at the front of the pack and hurried to deal with Stefan Bradl and Jack Miller two laps into the race for seventh place. A lap later Lorenzo was forced to let Rossi and Viñales through and followed them past Petrucci, but was unable to keep up with their pace.
With Marquez crashing at the front, the remaining second half of the race was a lonely ride for Lorenzo in sixth place, with a significant gap to both the bike in front and the back of him. Lorenzo focused on keeping the heat in his tyres to bring home some solid points and crossed the line +20.125s from the front.
Thanks to his stunning ride today, Rossi stays in second place in the championship with 216 points. He thereby increases the advantage over his teammate Lorenzo to 24 points, whose sixth place sees his points total raised to 192.
Rossi: Cal was too fast
“This morning we discovered that we had a good pace in good conditions and step by step I came back. At the beginning of the race, the first lap was very funny and I tried and hoped to go to Cal, but he was too fast and too strong. The first ten laps I enjoyed a lot. Cal was also my target and I thought that I could beat him because this morning I was a bit stronger. When I saw Marquez crash I thought I might be able to win and tried but unfortunately Cal was too fast. He is always very fast in Phillip Island and interprets this track in the maximum way. For me the second half of the race was more difficult and I couldn’t make a move, but this race is what we needed after the mistake in Motegi and the bad day we had yesterday, which I think was the most frustrating day of the season. It was a very positive day for the team and Yamaha and it’s been a positive race. Congratulations to Cal and thank you to all my team, to all the guys who did a great job.”
Lorenzo: The grip level drop on the rear tyre was huge
“The temperatures were the same as during the warm-up and we gave more or less the same performance and I made the same lap times, a 1’30.4s. The grip level drop on the rear has been huge, from the beginning I didn’t have grip, but that’s the way it is. As soon as the track has less grip, we struggle more and the problems we have with the bike double or triple. In Malaysia we shouldn’t have a problem with the cold, or grip as the track is new. It should have more grip than last year so I really look forward to a better result.”
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko