A great day out for the Jackass- He even got a photo with Giacomo Agostini!
Circuit: Phillip Island
Journey Of The Jackass, Chapter 17: Marooned on a windeswept Island
Another visit to the Island, with this year marking 30 years since Wayne Gardner won the first official World Championship race at the circuit, and it also marked 8 years since Marco Simoncelli passed away, and in other news Johann Zarco returned to MotoGP aboard an LCR Honda, filling in for Takaaki Nagagami, and Valentino Rossi became the first rider to appear in 400 Motorcycle Grand Prix races!
Friday was dramatic to say the least- The rain caused plenty of problems in Practice 1, and Fabio Quartararo suffered a massive highside at Siberia, leaving him with pain in his left leg, and he sat out FP2, but was fine for Saturday.
After Practice 2, there was a Michelin 2020 tyre test, and Marc Marquez delivered his usual Marquez moment, somehow managing to maintain control of his bike at MG at a 70 degree lean angle… and he was up against the full weight of the bike.
A save so good, even the track marshalls loved it.
And capping it off, Andrea Iannone had a meeting with a loose wallaby.
If he’d hit it, it would have been a perfect representation of the Wallabies at the World Cup.
With Friday marred by consistent showers, on Saturday, the Island was battered by high winds and rain, and in the interests of rider safety, Qualifying was moved to a SUPER SUNDAY of two-wheeled action.
When it finally got underway on Sunday morning, Maverick Vinales claimed his 3rd pole of 2019, with Quartararo recovering to finish 2nd, and Marquez 3rd, and in a welcome return to the pointy end, Valentino Rossi qualified 4th, giving Yamaha 3 riders in the Top 4.
In a surprise result, the Aprillias of Aleix Espargaro and Iannone qualified 7th and 8th, and in something of a disappointment, Jack Miller could only qualify 9th despite having the pace for a Top 6 start, and Dovi seemed to disappoint in qualifying again, starting from 10th.
Race (27 laps)
A home Grand Prix wouldn’t be complete without a special livery, and on Sunday morning, Pramac whipped up a silver bullet, complete with matching outfit.
Good thing nobody pulled out a magnet during the race.
Celebrating his historic 400th Grand Prix, The Doctor made a blinder of a start, making a sweeping run down the outside to take the lead into Doohan Corner, and as they rounded Turn 2, Danilo Petrucci tried going ’round the outside of Marquez, but suffered a massive high side on the Ducati, and Quartararo, who had gone onto the grass after the bike had a wobble, was abruptly taken out as well!
Turns out it was a flying Italian, not a busted ankle, that would end Fabio’s weekend.
As Rossi led through the early laps, the Top 9 riders had formed a train the size of one of those big-uns you see in the Pilbara, with Dovi bringing up the caboose barely a second behind, as Crutchlow moved into 2nd, Iannone was in 3rd on the Aprilla, and Marquez and Vinales, after slow starts, were 4th and 5th.
Crutchlow passed Rossi for the lead on Lap 4, and Iannone on his Aprilla moved up into 2nd, and then passed Crutchlow at MG, and at least for a few corners, an Aprillia was in the lead of a Grand Prix!
And I thought Canadians going into outer space was weird.
I say only a few corners, because the Brit gained the slipstream, and promptly reclaimed the lead on the Gardner Straight.
Vinales worked his way into the lead past Crutchlow on Lap 9, and Marquez joined in the party with a brave pass at Lukey Heights, and the battle for the lead took off, as the Spaniards put a gap on the field, as the race kind of settled down after 8 laps, as the focus turned to the Top 10 train battling for 4th.
In the meantime, Jack was still hovering back between 7th and 9th, punching it out with Alex Rins + Dovi, and managing his tyres for the back half of the race, trying to learn from the errors he made in Motegi.
On another note, Jack’s teammate Pecco Bagnaia, after starting 15th, had stormed into the Top 10, showing a huge amount of cheek to him and to Dovi on that factory Ducati.
On Lap 18, The Ducatis were now firing on all cylinders, and so they gave Rossi a happy 400th race present on behalf of the Italian people, as Dovi and Jack powered on by the Yamaha for 4th and 5th at Doohan Corner, and Bagnaia joined in the fun, firing up the inside at the Honda hairpin and making it stick for 6th.
A few laps later, Pecco climbed past the factory Ducati, and showed huge balls to pass Jack for 4th, in what was turning into his best performance in his rookie season!
The exchanging of positions would continue until the finish.
All the while, there were dark clouds overhead, and the teams wheeled out the spare bikes, as the threat of rain seemed very real….
As the last lap began, Marquez finally made his move, using the slipstream to fly past Vinales into Doohan Corner, while further back, Dovi got past Jack for 4th, but had a wobble into the Southern Loop, and dumped a bunch of spots, taking him out of contention for 4th!
Vinales hounded Marquez looking for an opening throughout the last lap, and as they passed Lukey Heights, the Spaniard lined up for a pass, but he lost the rear of the Yamaha, and fell out of the race from 2nd, and the sliding bike almost took out Marquez as well!
With his nearest rival on the deck, Marquez strolled home to make it 5 wins in a row, Crutchlow inherited a well-earned 2nd, a year after breaking his leg and nearly ending his career at the Island, and Jack successfully defended Pecco for a few more corners, and he was on the podium in front of his home fans!
The first Aussie on the podium at Phillip Island in MotoGP since Casey Stoner made it 6 wins in a row, back in 2012!
Another noteworthy performance- Joann Mir coming from nowhere to finish 5th, beating his Suzuki teammate Rins, who was gang bashed in the final laps.
And as if Victoria’s notoriously schizophrenic weather had a delightful sense of irony, the rain started on the cooldown lap.
Another batshit wild visit to Phillip Island- The fight for the lead, the performance of the satellite teams, with Pramac recording their best team result of the year, the Aprillas leading the race for a few corners and recording an incredibly rare Top 6 finish, with both bikes finishing in the Top 10, plus all those Top 10 battles that lasted the entire race…
And of course, THE SHOEY RETURNED.
4 podiums for Jack in 2019, after his only MotoGP podium prior to this year was that miracle win at Assen in 2016.
To say the least, 2019 has been a massive leap forward for the Jackass.
So on this history-making trail of destruction and devastation, Marquez claimed his 55th career win, moving past Mick Doohan into 3rd all-time for the Premier Class- Fittingly in Mick’s backyard- And he’s put Repsol Honda a mere point behind Ducati in the Teams’ Championship, and now, he only needs to finish at least 6th in either Malaysia or Valencia, to beat Jorge Lorenzo’s 2010 record of 383 points for an 18 race season.
Moto2: The Remy Rollercoaster
It was a dramatic beginning to the weekend for Remy, suffering a violent highside at the Hayshed in the wet Practice 1 conditions, which he thankfully walked away from, and generally just getting stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the Moto2 riders copped the worst of the bad conditions, barely stringing together 10 laps before the weather changed.
He managed to scrape in to Q2 as the weather turned, and would ultimately start from 13th, as the session was dominated by the Red Bull KTM bikes of Brad Binder and Jorge Martin, going after the team’s 3rd consecutive Moto2 win at Phillip Island, with Luca Marini starting 3rd, and championship leader Alex Marquez, requiring a series of unfortunate events to Binder and Luthi to seal the Championship, started from 6th.
Race (25 laps)
Binder and Martin had clean getaways, and promptly rocketed away from the rest of the field, away from the carnage that resulted when Iker Lecuona made a move at the Honda hairpin that was never on, taking out Marini and Betsecki, and almost wiping out the rear wheel of Marquez as well!
Gardner made a great start, climbing up to 8th place by the end of the opening lap and taking advantage of the carnage, while Lecuona would earn a long lap penalty from the FIM Stewards, but he recovered most of the time lost in short order.
With his dad Captain Chaos watching on, Remy made the pass on Marquez for 6th at Honda on Lap 3, and not even a second later and 10 metres up the road, Xavi Vierge carried too much speed and fell out of the race.
It seems that with the finishing line and the championship within sight, Marquez just hasn’t had the pace to fight the front runners, and Lorenzo Baldassarri was soon carving up his exhaust, giving Remy the chance to pull away in 5th.
Marquez just kept on tumbling down the order, and Baldassarri ultimately made the pass on Lap 8 at the Hayshed, as it looked like his championship lead would dwindle below that 25 point mark!
In a worrying sign, Gardner’s tyres and pace seemed to hit the cliff at the halfway mark, and Baldassarri passed him, and Stefano Manzi passed him shortly after that, and it looked like the only local in the race was going to struggle to finish in the Top 10, but he was able to stabilise his pace and fight on.
Marquez continued to have a fight on his hands against supposedly inferior bikes and riders, falling down to 10th after being passed by Remy’s SAG teammate Tetsuta Nagashima, but Marquez fought back as he recouped a few more vital points.
Gardner was locked in a fight with Lecuona for 6th on the last lap, and to be honest, I fully expected Remy to get walloped by Lecuona when the Spaniard made another somewhat daring move at Honda, but Gardner, buoyed on by the home fans, held tough and took 6th place, and further back, Marquez made a crucial pass on Manzi to move up to 8th.
Out in front though, Binder and Martin aboard those KTMs were unbeatable once again at the Island, and the South African made the Moto2 championship that little bit more interesting, leading the entire race to lead home a 1-2 on the Red Bull bikes, with Tom Luthi in 3rd.
Gardner finished a really good 6th, which he was slightly disappointed with, and after down race, Marquez finished in 8th, his championship lead down to 28 points, although he can still clinch the championship by finishing ahead of Binder and Luthi on Malaysia.
Look on the bright side Remy.
You didn’t fall off, and you finished in the Top 6 for the second time in 14 races!
NEXT UP: Malaysia next weekend!