Cal Crutchlow has secured his second ever MotoGP win after the Brit dominated the field to take a stunning victory at the Phillip Island Circuit. The LCR Honda rider was left clear in front when World Champion Marc Marquez crashed out of a comfortable lead with ten laps to go. Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi came home a distant second with Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales battling back from a poor grid position to a successive third position.
Clear blue skies greeted the riders as they took to the grid for the start of the Australian Grand Prix. With very little dry track time this weekend, the 27 lap marathon was going to be a voyage into the unknown for all the riders with many choosing different tyre combinations.
It was Pol Espargaro who got the holeshot from third on the grid, blasting past the sluggish Marquez and leading coming out of turn two. However the Repsol Honda rider reasserted himself in the lead almost instantly, fighting of the gallant Espargaro through lucky heights and into turn ten. Once in the lead the Spaniard looked unstoppable as he opened up a three second lead over the helpless Espargaro brothers and the now charging Crutchlow. Jorge Lorenzo got the best start of the frontrunners who were towards the middle of the grid, the “Spartan” making his way from P12 to ninth after the opening lap.
Meanwhile, the battle for second got interesting as Crutchlow slipped is way past Aleix Espargaro, who was giving the Brit stiff competition but eventually gave in to the pressure as the LCR Honda rider started his mini comeback in an attempt to reel back in the cruising Marquez.
Disaster struck for the Cervera man as while comfortably leading he slid out of the race at Honda corner, the bike digging into the gravel and flying through the air. This was almost similar to the crash Marquez suffered in 2014 when he was also cruising to race victory. Crutchlow now found himself with a gift wrapped lead and a two second gap over his nearest rivals. This is Marquez’s first DNF of the season.
While all this was going on, Valentino Rossi, who had started from P15 on the grid was quietly scything his way through the field and the Yamaha rider was soon setting the timing screens alights with consecutive fast laps. With the gap to Crutchlow hovering around two seconds it seemed as if the Italian was beginning to hone in on the battling Brit. However Crutchlow wasn’t going to be caught without a fight and he began to up his pace to try and hold off the charging Tavullia rider.
Rossi, nevertheless had no answer to Crutchlow’s blistering pace with the gap extending out to four seconds after only five laps. A mistake from the Doctor at the infamous turn 4 put an end to his victory hopes but he still had to keep his concentration high as he was beginning to come under fire from the chasing Aleix Espargaro, Andrea Dovizioso and Maverick Vinales.
At the finish, Crutchlow held his nerve to finish 4.2s clear of Rossi and he now becomes the first British rider to win two premier class races in a season, an accolade first held by the legendary Barry Sheene who took three victory’s in the 1979 season.
While the trio behind were chopping and changing positions, Rossi had recovered his composure to extend his advantage over third place and eventually secure his eighth podium of the season, a remarkable achievement considering the lack of pace he had shown throughout the weekend.
In the three way fight for third, the two Suzuki’s were locked in battle with Andrea Dovizioso, their tussles being the highlight of the second half of the race. For many laps it seemed as if the Ducati would just blast past the considerably slower Suzuki on the main straight with the blue machine fighting its way back on the southern loop every time. The infamous turn four eventually claimed another victim, this time it being Aleix as he lost his machine with five laps to go leaving teammate Vinales to battle out the final Podium spot with Dovizioso.
Vinales used his teammate’s misfortune to good effect, comfortably pulling away from Dovizioso in the closing laps to secure the final podium spot for Suzuki. After a storming start Pol Espargaro took a credible result in fifth position ahead of the laboring Jorge Lorenzo, who was unable to make avail of his good start.
Scott Redding and Bradley Smith completed gritty rides in seventh and eighth with Danilo Petrucci and local hero Jack Miller rounding out the Top 10 after predictably dropping back through the field in the dry conditions.
Aprilia duo of Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista finished P11 and P12 respectively. Yonny Hernandez, Eugene Laverty and Mike Jones rounded out the rest of the point scorers as they completed the top 15.
Tito Rabat and late crash Nicky Hayden just missed on on points in P16 and P17. Avintia riders Hector Barbera and Loris Baz failed to finish with Barbera suffering a late spill and Baz was suffering with an electrical problem.
Next up for MotoGP is the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia and with a new track surface and mixed conditions forcasted, another chapter could be written on what has been an incredible 2016 season.