Lorenzo wins frenetic Australian MotoGP
The reigning world champion capitalises on Marquez's mistake to throw the championship race wide open
Ah, so much for the 2013 season ending at Phillip Island. Much was made about Marc Marquez's imminent crowning as the new world champion this weekend, and how only a disastrous result for the rookie and a win for Jorge Lorenzo would delay that possibility. Well, delayed it has been, for Lorenzo has claimed a dominant victory today at the Australian MotoGP. And the icing on the cake (if you're a Lorenzo fan) is that Marquez didn't even finish the race.
The track at Phillip Island has been re-laid recently, and although everyone's appreciated the smooth tarmac, the tyres have been generating quite a bit of heat. Bridgestone cut up the tyres used in the practice sessions and noticed that they'd been ruined a bit. Race Direction decided the race would now be 26 laps and not the full 27, and riders would have to swap bikes at least once during the race, since they could not use a set of tyres for more than 14 laps.
Later on, Bridgestone sliced through the rubber used in Qualifying, and then found out that these wouldn't even last more than 10 laps. Thus, Race Direction reduced the number of laps to 19, with one mandatory bike swap on Lap 9 or 10. The pit-lane speed-limit area leading out onto the track was extended too. All of which would come back to haunt Repsol Honda on race day.
The start was as clean as it gets, and Lorenzo lead the pack out of the first corner, but he ran wide two corners later, and was pushed into second by Dani Pedrosa, only for #99 to glide past him at the next turn. It was closely-fought, but all the attention was on the pit crews busy whirring around, readying the spare bikes.
Lorenzo led Marquez and Pedrosa till Lap 9, but in dramatic fashion, Pedrosa was the first to break off from the group and head into the-then traffic-free pit lane. The top two riders decided to battle it out for one more lap, but finally, inexperience (or was it ignorance?) caught up with Repsol Honda's new poster boy.
As Lorenzo drew into the pit lane at the end of Lap 10, to the horror of the Repsol Honda pit crew and to the delight of JL fans, Marquez decided to continue on worn tyres for one more lap. Pedrosa was back out by then, trying to drill some heat into his tyres, led by Lorenzo. Marquez came back out, only to try and get in the way of Lorenzo's Yamaha hurtling into Turn 1 at insane speeds, and there was contact. Something broke, but it didn't cause a Honda highside this time.
Pedrosa was asked to drop one position for speeding in the pit lane, and as he let Marquez pass him, the dreaded black flag fluttered next to a board displaying the number 93. There was no stopping Lorenzo after that, and he crossed the finish line nearly seven seconds before Pedrosa.
Valentino Rossi was gifted third as soon as Marquez was gone, but he had to contend with Cal Crutchlow and Alvaro Bautista as well. He kept them at bay right till the end, and took third, with Crutchlow beating Bautista to fourth. Bradley Smith put in one of his best performances so far to finish sixth, with Aspar-bound Hayden in seventh and Iannone in eighth.
It's a big blow to Marquez's dream, this, as he now leads the championship by just 18 points with two races still to go. Whether it was a communication error or sheer inexperience that undid Marquez today, we don't know. What we do know is that this is going right down to the wire, and we're loving it. Motegi should have another twist in the tale for us next week, perhaps?
1. Jorge Lorenzo
2. Dani Pedrosa
3. Valentino Rossi
4. Cal Crutchlow
5. Alvaro Bautista
6. Bradley Smith
7. Nicky Hayden
8. Andrea Iannone
9. Andrea Dovizioso
10. Randy De Puniet
11. Aleix Espargaro
12. Colin Edwards
13. Yonny Hernandez
14. Hector Barbera
15. Danilo Petrucci
16. Luca Scassa
17. Claudio Corti
18. Michael Laverty
19. Lukas Pesek
20. Hiroshi Aoyama
21. Damian Cudlin