MotoGP 2019 Phillip Island
The Australian Grand Prix with Boris
Now that was one crazy sumbitch of a race, huh? Thank you, Phillip Island. You’ve delivered yet again. It’s no wonder the racers hold you in awe.
But of course, when the Island delivers, it sometimes also removes. Like when appalling winds removed what remained of Free Practice on Saturday. First the winds removed Jack Miller’s pit board from the hands of one of his crew and blew it onto the main straight.
Then they removed Oliveira at the end of the main straight and deposited him the gravel.
It all got kinda desperate after that and a stop-work meeting was called which saw the riders troop into one of the sheds out the back where it was decided they would call it a day.
Three things happened after the meeting.
Paolo Simoncelli had a wee meltdown and questioned why the smaller classes weren’t important enough to also stop practicing.
The fluffer classes (ie. All those dedicated ASBK blokes, which was not that many, who turned up to have a points-free race on the MotoGP undercard) had all their races cancelled. This is what happens when millions of dollars are at stake.
And finally, Jack Miller was the only rider who wanted to carry on, shrugging his shoulders and saying people should just ride to the conditions.
Anyway, FP4 and Qualifying resumed early Sunday morning, and come race time, Maverick Vinales looked to be the man to beat. He sat on pole, followed by Fabulous, Marquez, and a resurgent Rossi. Petrucci was next, and Crutchlow finished up the second row.
Miller was all the way back in ninth behind Iannone, who was probably wondering why everyone was riding so slowly.
When the lights went out I virtually soiled myself.
Rossi, the old warhorse, sling-shotted his way around the outside of everyone and sailed into the lead into Southern Loop. By all that I hold holy, which is not all that much, was The Doctor going to win his 400th Grand Prix?
Well, no. He kinda went backwards after that, but Phillip Island delivered a thrillingly crazy race which even saw Iannone lead at one stage. Clearly, the Maniac had been inspired to greater efforts by his near-death experience with a kangaroo on Friday, and was feeling somewhat immortal.
Fabulous was swamped at the start and was running wide a bit into Turn Two, which upset Petrucci, who high-sided himself into the back of Fabulous’s bike, and they both went down. Quartararo may need to add an extra crutch to his single unit next week.
Vinales was all business. He is clearly in a late purple patch this season, and probably shopping himself around a bit for 2021. He eventually hammered his way into the lead, followed closely by Marquez and a confused Crutchlow, who also led for a few laps. Rossi sat around in fourth for a while, but eventually faded and finished eighth. I had stopped yelling by that stage.
Miller was hard on the heels of Crutchlow and probably wondering what the hell Peco Bagnaia was doing so close to him. And then in front of him. It took a bit of effort for Jack to get past Peco.
Jack later said that Bagnaia’s riding style very much suited the Island, and he expects a strong performance from him at Sepang as well.
As the race entered its final stages, Marquez was shadowing Maverick, and it all started to get a bit déjà vu.
Marquez passed him and on the final lap, Maverick decided that would just not stand.
He tucked in behind the world champion and as they arced over Lukey Heights and prepared to drop into MG, Vinales set himself up to come down the inside of Marquez at the bottom of the hill.
Except his tyre had another idea altogether and the gladiator went down, gifting Marquez the victory, Crutchlow second and Jack third.
I think it’s debatable Vinales would have won even if he’d made the pass into MG stick. Had he succeeded there, Marquez could well have sat on his rear wheel, slipstreamed him through Turn 12 and onto the straight and then pipped him over the line. As it was, Vinales’s Hail Mary effort was heroically praiseworthy. The championship may be won, but the racing sure ain’t done.
Another strong point of interest on the weekend was Zarco and how he would do on the Honda. Not that great, as it turned out. He even apologised to his team, but Honda really had no expectations of the Frenchman. HRC has promised him nothing, and he finished 13th, ahead of Abraham and Syahrin.
And ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, who came stone motherless last, 66-seconds behind the winner.
My sources tell me Jorge will be parting company with Honda very shortly, and the announcement will probably be made either at Sepang or Valencia. For the past month, it’s been a weird kind of stand-off. Jorge wants out, some say, but he will not break his contract. Honda wants him gone, but doesn’t want to pay him out or admit it got it wrong hiring him in the first place.
Puig probably stays awake at night wondering how he can get rid of him. I understand it has reached critical mass, and we may well not see Number 99 next year. Which, quite frankly, is a great shame. A five-time world champion to leave in such ignominy is rather heart-breaking. But then, MotoGP is a very cruel sport.
Next week, it is Sepang’s turn to host the circus. This is Petronas country. Fabulous will want to impress here, and it’s a cinch Maverick hasn’t finished showing off.
I reckon it will be a cracker.
|DNF||Maverick VIÑALES||Yamaha||1 Lap|
|DNF||Mika KALLIO||KTM||3 Laps|
|DNF||Tito RABAT||Ducati||24 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|DNF||Fabio QUARTARARO||Yamaha||0 Lap|
|DNF||Danilo PETRUCCI||Ducati||0 Lap|