I did say I would need Valium for the Australian round of the MotoGP championship, didn’t I?

I’m like one of them gypsy fortune-tellers sometimes…

Say what you want about the spectator facilities at Phillip Island (and I have, at length), that racetrack tends to throw up some of the most magnificent motorcycle racing the world has ever or will ever see.

And that’s exactly what happened.

MotoGP 2017 - Phillip Island
MotoGP 2017 – Phillip Island

It was a race which, as Crutchlow observed after finally beating Iannone to the line for fifth, “Is what MotoGP is all about.”

Cal might not know much, but he sure does get that.


QUALIFYING

Qualifying and practice was subject to the usual weather vagaries of the island. It was sunny, it was windy, it was wet, it was damp, it was dry, it was sort of dry…it was what it says on the Phillip Island box, ie. “You don’t like the weather? Wait five minutes”.

Michael Blair won a wet ASBK race in the MotoGP Support races at Phillip Island - Image by TBG
Michael Blair won a wet ASBK race in the MotoGP Support races at Phillip Island – Image by TBG

And when they lined up on the grid, it looked like the championship, as far as Dovizioso was concerned sitting way back in eleventh, was going to be Marquez’s to lose. Dovi makes no secret of not liking the track all that much and it showed.

Marc was on pole, again. Beside him sat Vinales, who looked like he had found some of the form he’d been missing since the start of the season, while Zarco sat ominously in third, three-tenths of a second shy of Marquez’s time, and a scant two-tenths ahead of Iannone, who appeared to have finally found the Suzuki’s sweet spot, and was perched in fourth. Miller had obviously been incentivised by his recently broken leg and an ebullient home crowd was sitting in fifth, just ahead of KTM’s Asparagus brother.

Australian GP 2017 - Phillip Island - Image by AJRN
Andrea Iannone – Australian GP 2017 – Phillip Island – Image by AJRN

Rossi was sixth, and Aprilia’s Asparagus completed Row Three along with a confused-looking Brad Smith.

Lorenzo, who’d had a very fast get-off in Practice and who’d been seen limping along on crutches because his knee had been turned into porridge, was back in 16th, having been out-gunned by Rabat, Rins and young Abraham – a bloke who actually doesn’t even get paid to race.

Qualifying Results

  1. MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA Repsol Honda Team 1’28.386
  2. VINALES Maverick 25 SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 0.333
  3. ZARCO Johann 5 FRA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 0.358
  4. IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA Team Suzuki Ecstar 0.551
  5. MILLER Jack 43 AUS EG 0,0 Marc VDS 0.578
  6. ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 0.644
  7. ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 0.817
  8. ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 0.885
  9. SMITH Bradley 38 GBR Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 0.935
  10. CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR LCR Honda 1.043
  11. DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA Ducati Team 1.110
  12. PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA Repsol Honda Team 1.160
  13. RINS Alex 42 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 1’29.824 Q1
  14. RABAT Tito 53 SPA EG 0,0 Marc VDS 0.501
  15. ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE Pull&Bear Aspar Team 0.615
  16. LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA Ducati Team 0.739
  17. BAZ Loris 76 FRA Reale Avintia Racing 0.878
  18. PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA Octo Pramac Racing 1.125
  19. BARBERA Hector 8 SPA Reale Avintia Racing 1.197
  20. REDDING Scott 45 GBR Octo Pramac Racing 1.460
  21. PARKES Broc 23 AUS Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1.543
  22. BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA Pull&Bear Aspar Team 1.554
  23. LOWES Sam 22 GBR Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1.812

THE RACE

Marquez led a fearsome charge into Turn One, but it was Miller who came out of Southern Loop in front – and then began to gap the field.

Jack Miller leads the field over Lukey Heights - Image by AJRN
Jack Miller leads the field over Lukey Heights –
Image by AJRN

If the Australian crowd was permitted to light flares, tear off clothing and set fire to tents, like they do in Italy, France, or Spain, this is when that would have happened.

Jack Miller leads the field into MG Hairpin - Image by AJRN
Jack Miller leads the field into MG Hairpin –
Image by AJRN

A bloke with a broken leg was leading his home MotoGP. It was almost worth going to jail for, sick with Tasering and blinded by pepper spray.

Jack Miller hunted by the MotoGP Field betweens turn 10 and 11 - Image by AJRN
Jack Miller hunted by the MotoGP Field betweens turn 10 and 11 –
Image by AJRN

Marquez must have been amazed because he faded back a few spots, and Vinales and Rossi began to chase Jack.

Rossi actually caught him, and then there were two blokes with broken legs leading the race.

Jack Miller leads Rossi at Phillip Island - Image by AJRN
Jack Miller leads Rossi at Phillip Island – Image by AJRN

But then it just got wilder. Dovi had ridden himself back into 20th after overcooking a corner, while Marquez remained in touch with the lead, which was to change constantly, much like the manifold fights for the other two steps of the podium.

Miller led, then Rossi led, then Zarco led, then Rossi, then Zarco, then Marquez, and at times the MotoGP class resembled the Ritalin-free kids of Moto3 and a bar-fight.

Valentino Rossi leads at Phillip Island
Valentino Rossi leads at Phillip Island

Amazingly, only one rider sailed into the vegetables when Asparagus A threw his Aprilia at a passing seagull.

Aleix Espargaro
Aleix Espargaro

I was astonished and delighted at what was happening up the front. Zarco actually rode his bike into Rossi, leaving the Doctor with tyre marks up the side of his leathers, while Iannone, Vinales, and Marquez hammered away at each other like fiends.

MotoGP 2017 - Phillip Island
MotoGP 2017 – Phillip Island

Of course, the only rider banging for a championship was Marquez. It was his to lose, which made his ride all the more astonishing.

He must have known Dovi, his only rival for the title, was back in 12th, fighting it out with Petrucci and Lorenzo for the Slowest Ducati At The Island – which Petrucci finally claimed when he came second-last just ahead of the Tech 3 Yamaha caretaker, Broc Parkes – but it made no difference to Marquez. Like I said. The kid is carved from the very soul of racing.

Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso at Phillip Island
Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso at Phillip Island

And it was brutal as hell up the front, as Rossi once again demonstrated there seems to be no end of fight in his 38-year-old body.

Valentino Rossi - Phillip Island - Image by AJRN
Valentino Rossi – Phillip Island – Image by AJRN

But five laps from the end, Marquez began to stamp his authority on both the race and the 2017 title. While the battle raged for the podium, he managed to eke out a bit of a lead, as Rossi fought it out with both Zarco and his own team-mate Vinales for second.

Valentino Rossi, Andrea Iannone, Johann Zarco and Cal Crutchlow - #AustralianGP 2017 - Image by AJRN
Valentino Rossi, Andrea Iannone, Johann Zarco and Cal Crutchlow – #AustralianGP 2017 – Image by AJRN

I kept expecting Zarco’s soft-soft tyre combo to finally give up, but the Frenchman has proved to be a master at managing his hoops. It took every bit of Rossi’s decades-forged race-craft and inherent bastardry to keep him at bay, as well as making sure Vinales understood who the number one Yamaha rider still was.

Valentino Rossi fending off the advances of Maverick Vinales - 2017 Australian GP - Image by AJRN
Valentino Rossi fending off the advances of Maverick Vinales – 2017 Australian GP – Image by AJRN

It was certainly a MotoGP race that ticked every box. Old masters and young geniuses, grinding fairings, getting forced wide then recovering for (or from) seemingly impossible overtaking manoeuvres, one bloke chasing a championship but not leaving anything in the dressing room despite his rival being miles behind him…it’s almost impossible to write about what we all saw, lap after searing lap, and I had to watch the race twice just to absorb it all.

Marc Marquez eventually conquered all comers at Phillip Island to streak away to a convincing win
Marc Marquez eventually conquered all comers at Phillip Island to streak away to a convincing win

And this was after the blistering wet magic that was performed at Motegi the week before.
Great things happen in threes, they say, and while Marquez might be 33-points ahead of Dovzioso now, you’ll remember Dovi won there last year. And there is still one more race after Sepang.

Marc Marquez pokes his tongue out at the retards booing him on the podium at Phillip Island - Image by AJRN
Marc Marquez pokes his tongue out at the retards booing him on the podium at Phillip Island – Image by AJRN

I’ll get another Valium prescription. My doctor’s good like that.

Australian GP 2017 - Phillip Island - Image by AJRN
Australian GP 2017 – Phillip Island – Image by AJRN

MotoGP 2017 – Round 16 – Phillip Island – Race Results

  1. MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA 25 Repsol Honda Team Honda 40’49.772
  2. ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA 20 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1.799
  3. VINALES Maverick 25 SPA 16 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1.826
  4. ZARCO Johann 5 FRA 13 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 1.842
  5. CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR 11 LCR Honda Honda 3.845
  6. IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA 10 Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki 3.871
  7. MILLER Jack 43 AUS 9 EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda 5.619
  8. RINS Alex 42 SPA 8 Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki 12.208
  9. ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA 7 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 16.251
  10. SMITH Bradley 38 GBR 6 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 16.262
  11. REDDING Scott 45 GBR 5 Octo Pramac Racing Ducati 21.652
  12. PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA 4 Repsol Honda Team Honda 21.668
  13. DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA 3 Ducati Team Ducati 21.692
  14. ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE 2 Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati 26.110
  15. LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA 1 Ducati Team Ducati 26.168
  16. RABAT Tito 53 SPA 0 EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda 26.252
  17. BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA 0 Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati 36.377
  18. BAZ Loris 76 FRA 0 Reale Avintia Racing Ducati 39.654
  19. LOWES Sam 22 GBR 0 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia 40.400
  20. BARBERA Hector 8 SPA 0 Reale Avintia Racing Ducati 45.901
  21. PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA 0 Octo Pramac Racing Ducati 48.7682
  22. PARKES Broc 23 AUS 0 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 57.711
Marc Marquez now holds a commanding 33-point lead over Andrea Dovizioso.
Marc Marquez now holds a commanding 33-point lead over Andrea Dovizioso.

MotoGP Championship Points Standings

  1. MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA 269 Repsol Honda Team Honda
  2. DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA 236 Ducati Team Ducati
  3. VINALES Maverick 25 SPA 219 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha
  4. ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA 188 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha
  5. PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA 174 Repsol Honda Team Honda
  6. ZARCO Johann 5 FRA 138 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
  7. LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA 117 Ducati Team Ducati
  8. PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA 111 Octo Pramac Racing Ducati
  9. CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR 103 LCR Honda Honda
  10. FOLGER Jonas 94 GER 84 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
  11. BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA 70 Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati
  12. MILLER Jack 43 AUS 65 EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda
  13. ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA 62 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
  14. REDDING Scott 45 GBR 61 Octo Pramac Racing Ducati
  15. IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA 60 Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki
  16. ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA 49 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
  17. RINS Alex 42 SPA 46 Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki
  18. BAZ Loris 76 FRA 45 Reale Avintia Racing Ducati
  19. ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE 30 Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati
  20. RABAT Tito 53 SPA 29 EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda
  21. BARBERA Hector 8 SPA 25 Reale Avintia Racing Ducati
  22. SMITH Bradley 38 GBR 20 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
  23. PIRRO Michele 51 ITA 18 Ducati Test Team Ducati
  24. KALLIO Mika 36 FIN 11 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
  25. LOWES Sam 22 GBR 5 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
MotoGP 2017 - Phillip Island
MotoGP 2017 – Phillip Island