Maverick Viñales proved he was top gun in Australia as he took Yamaha’s first win in 26 races with a commanding ride at Phillip Island.
As the lights went out it was Danilo Petrucci who got a lightning launch from eighth to head around the outside and lead into turn one, but the Italian then ran off at turn two when a technical issue put an end to his race. Pramac Racing team-mate Jack Miller then took advantage to take the lead of his home Grand Prix at turn four, with polesitter marc Marquez just behind and Andrea Iannone slotting into third.
However, it was all change just a lap later, when Marquez pounced for the lead at Turn One, with Andrea Dovizioso fighting through to second and Miller dropping back to fourth behind Iannone.
Lap six saw all hell broke loose at the front of the field, when Johann Zarco slipstreamed Marquez and a Ducati, the extra increase in speed resulting in Zarco’s Tech 3 Yamaha hitting the back of Marquez’s Honda, leading to the Frenchman suffering a scary 200mph crash. The impact was so strong that it left Marquez’s rear sub unit severely damaged, and the Spaniard coasted back to the pits to retire.
The coming together allowed Dovizioso to take the lead, ahead of Miller and Ianonne, but then Viñales began a sensational charge through the field. By lap eight he had joined the fight at the front, and dived into the lead at turn four. He never looked back, controlling the race and building a five-second lead before eventually crossing the line 1.5 seconds ahead of Iannone, with Dovizioso rounding out the podium.
Speaking after the race, a clearly ecstatic Viñales said: “This is the best feeling. We’ve been in the dark all year, and suddenly we came into the light I couldn’t show my potential in the previous races, but today I could.
“Being first in Australia is always amazing! It’s the best track ever and to win here and break this long none winning period of Yamaha is unbelievable! I was riding on the bike like I was in FP4. I got a really good feeling from the bike, so I knew I could maintain 1‘29s. That’s what I did for most of the middle of the race. I tried to escape as far as I could, because I knew my tyre wasn’t going to last until the end. I knew opening that gap would be difficult, I had some moments with some riders, and some shaking on the bike – I was struggling, but I still made it through anyway.”