Phillip Island, Australia – MotoGP fans saw a little of the old Marc Marquez as the world champion crashed out of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, and some vintage Valentino Rossi as The Doctor stormed up from 15th on the grid to second, but Honda privateer Cal Crutchlow kept his cool for a superb second career win.
Earlier, South Africa’s newly-crowned 2016 world champion Brad Binder (KTM) took a stunning win from pole, clear at the front as chaos reigned throughout the Moto3 field.
Pol Espargaro on the Yamaha Tech 3 got the holeshot from position three on the front row, with polesitter Marquez the biggest loser off the line – before the 2016 MotoGP world champion swept around the outside of Doohan Corner to take back second and then fight off Espargaro through Lukey Heights and down into Turn 10 for the lead. And once at the front, he got into his rhythm and soon began moving away.
Crutchlow got the better of the fight with Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro for second, as Rossi came charging through the field – picking off Pol Espargaro and Ducati Teams rider Andrea Dovizioso, then setting his sights on Aleix Espargaro and soon getting past.
Marquez was nearly three seconds clear at the front when he slid off in Turn 4 on lap10 – and suddenly Crutchlow was leading the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Rossi, unexpectedly promoted to second and only two second off the lead after an amazing comeback from 15th on the grid, began a late charge, but very nearly threw it away at the same corner that had claimed Marquez, running very deep and losing a lot of ground to avoid going off the circuit.
A three-way fight then broke out for the final podium spot between with Aleix Espargaro, Dovizioso and Suzuki lead rider Maverick Vinales – until Turn 4 claimed another victim as Aleix Espargaro’s Suzuki slid out with five laps to go, breaking up the group as Vinales moved away to come home a clear third, with Dovizioso four seconds down in fourth.
Pol Espargaro took a solid result after his storming start as came home fifth ahead of a struggling Jorge Lorenzo – who was unable to make up much ground despite a good launch off the line.
Ducati privateers Scott Redding and Danilo Petrucci were leading a seven-bike train home in the battle for seventh, with local hero Jack Miller (Honda), Hector Barbera on the second Ducati Team machine, Aprilia’s Stefan Bradl, Bradley smith on the second Tech 3 Yamaha and Nicky Hayden, standing in for the injured Dani Pedrosa on the second factory Honda.
The Kentucky Kid put in an impressive one-off return to the premier class until Miller took Turn 4 a little overenthusiastically and Hayden was the casualty, sliding out.
Hector Barbera was another crasher, leaving Redding to lead Smith over the line for seventh, with Petruccii and Miller completing the top 10.
Thomas Luthi took his first back-to-back Grands Prix as he slipstreamed Franco Morbidelli to the line, overtaking the Italian in a stunning photo finish to win by 0.010s, only a week after his victory at the Twin Ring Motegi. Sandro Cortese completed the podium for his first rostrum in more than a year, bouncing back from a tough season marred by injury.
Luthi got the hole shot from pole, as championship leader and reigning title-holder Johann Zarco dropped out of contention. As Luthi then had a big moment, Morbidelli grabbed the lead, but the Luthi struck back almost immediately as the top three - Lüthi, Morbidelli and Mattia Pasini - began putting daylight between themselves and the rest of the field
Championship contender Alex Rins started from 16th but was up to sixth by lap five as he attempted to cut Zarco’s points lead. Sam Lowes was the first big name to crash out, as the battered Brit took his fifth tumble of the weekend, just before Rins saw his title chances take another big hit as he too ended up in the gravel.
The front group held station as Zarco dropped back through the field; after a strong turn of pace at the start, Jonas Folger fell back into the clutches of Misano winner Lorenzo Baldassarri, who relegated him to fifth, until Takaaki Nakagami and Folger’s team-mate Sandro Cortese pushed him down to seventh.
Cortese continued his stunning ride through the field to take third, half a second off the pace, after Pasini crashed out at Turn 4. Baldassarri came home fourth ahead of Nakagami and Folger, with Speed Up rider Simone Corsi the first of only two non-Kalex finishers in seventh. Axel Pons, Xavi Vierge and Marcel Schrotter completed the top 10.
The Moto3 race came to an unscheduled early halt on lap six as first top KTM rookies Joan Mir and Nicolo Bulega crashed out, and then a multiple pile-up at Lukey Heights brought out the red flags.
At the restart, set for 10 laps, Fabio Quartararo once again had to start from the back, after having been disqualified from his qualifying position due to a technical infringement, despite having fought his way up into second before the red flag.
The restart saw Binder and Andrea Locatelli escaping at the front, before the South African 2016 Moto3 world champion began to pull away, leaving Locatelli in a lonely second.
Further back, a 16-bike battle for third saw riders heading into Doohan Corner eight abreast. Quartararo was unable to repeat his heroics from the earlier start, while further casualties included Honda’s Jorge Navarro after a touch from Bo Bendsneyder (KTM), and Turn 4 crasher Niccolo Antonelli (Honda).
In the dying stages of the race Binder’s younger brother Darryn (Mahindra) got into a duel with Aron Canet (Honda) as the two broke free from the pack; Canet taking the final podium spot by a scant 0.048s with a slipstream over the line, with Darryn Binder nevertheless posting his career best finish in fourth.
They were followed by Livio Loi (Honda), Jorge Martin (Mahindra), Darryn Binder’s Mahindra team-mate Marcos Ramirez, Honda riders Hiroki Ono and Jules Danilo, Bendsneyder, Adam Norrodin - and Quartararo, who finished 12th, less than a second behind Darryn Binder in fourth!