Cal Crutchlow took a stunning second MotoGP win at Phillip Island, as the LCR Honda pilot kept calm and kept his gap at the front ahead of Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and Suzuki’s Maverick Viñales, who finished second and third respectively. The move fully justified Crutchlow’s gamble to use the hard front, and proved his win in the wet earlier this season was no fluke – this boy can ride and deserves to be at the front of the GP pack.
There were no miracle starts for those frontrunners starting further back for the Australian GP, with Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo getting the best from P12 to move up to P9, and teammate Valentino Rossi gaining two places to P13 – with Maverick Viñales moving up only one. It was Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro who got the holeshot from P3 on the front row, with polesitter Marquez the biggest loser off the line before the 2016 MotoGP world champion swept back around the outside of Doohan Corner to take back P2 and then fight off Espargaro through Lukey Heights and down into T10.
Once at the front, the Motegi and Aragon winner found his rhythm and began to build up his lead as the battle for second behind him intensified. The fight for P2 between Crutchlow and Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro saw the Brit emerge on top, and this was the point which also saw Rossi begin to cut his way through the field – picking off Pol Espargaro and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso with clean and clinical precision befitting a doctor.
Rossi then began setting his sights on Aleix Espargaro and soon getting past the Spaniard, and with Crutchlow starting to close the gap to Marquez there was suddenly a Repsol Honda cartwheeling through the gravel at Turn 4 – and Marquez was out of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Crutchlow then found himself in the lead, hoping the 2014 flashback for Marquez wouldn’t touch him after a last lap crash two years ago on the Ducati. The low temperatures were clearly a worry but the British rider dug deep and continued pulling away.
Behind him the battle for second continued to rage with Rossi getting a warning shot at Turn 4 that saw him run deep and lose ground, and the new fight for the final podium spot saw Aleix Espargaro locked in fierce battle with Dovizioso and Viñales.
After swapping positions in a three-way fight, Turn 4 then claimed another victim as Aleix Espargaro lost his Suzuki machine with just five laps to go, before teammate Viñales pounced to take third from an increasingly nervous looking Dovizioso, and this is where they remained as they crossed the finish line.
After his storming start, Pol Espargaro took a solid result as he crossed the line in fifth, ahead of a struggling Jorge Lorenzo, the former champion clearly out of sorts and unable to make up big ground after his good launch off the line.
Further back saw the Pramac duo of Scott Redding and Danilo Petrucci leading a seven rider fight for seventh with home hero Jack Miller on the Marc VDS Honda, Ducati’s Hector Barbera, Aprilia’s Stefan Bradl, Tech 3’s Bradley Smith and Nicky Hayden on the factory Honda.
‘Kentucky Kid’ Hayden, standing in for injured Dani Pedrosa at Repsol Honda, put in an impressive one-off return to his 2006 championship winning colours as he battled well within the points, before Miller took Turn 4 a little overenthusiastically and Hayden was the casualty, sliding out.
Hector Barbera was another crasher, leaving Redding to lead compatriot Bradley Smith over the line for seventh, with the top ten completed by Petrucci and Miller. As well as the solid result for Miller, fellow Australian Mike Jones scored a point on his Avintia Racing machine, impressing once again.
Crutchlow said: “I was terrified of losing heat in the front and I went really weak into that corner for the whole race. I knew it was critical towards the end of the race – I crashed there two years ago when I had 10 seconds behind me also, so I was quite scared to be honest and I didn’t want to make the same mistake but I knew I had to keep pushing or we’d lose the heat in the front tyre. I’m really pleased for my team, I was confident I could have won even with Marc in the race. I look forward to the last two races and then we’ll see what happens next season.”