It was this close - here Marc Marquez (93, Honda) leads Valentino Rossi (46, Yamaha) Johann Zarco (5, Tech 3 Yamaha) and Maverick Vinales (25, Yamaha) in the MotoGP race. Picture:

Phillip Island, Australia – Honda’s Marc Marquez took his sixth win of the year in a savage Phillip Island showdown, breaking away from an eight-rider train in the final five laps fight to win by less than two seconds from Yamaha Factory team-mates Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales, and Yamaha Tech 3 rookie Johann Zarco, all of whom were covered by 0.043s at the line.

Top title contender Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) ran off the circuit early in the race and finished 13th, but still in with a mathematical shot at the title, 33 points behind Marquez with two races to go.

There were mixed fortunes for the South African Binder brothers, with Brad scoring  best finish yet (and his first podium) in Moto2, while younger brother Darryn battled home 24th,  the final finisher in a tough Moto3 contest.


Marquez got the holeshot but couldn’t hold it into Turn 2 as a stunner from Honda privateer Jack Miller saw the Queenslander slice through into the lead - and then start pulling away. Viñales held third, as Dovizioso ran wide into Turn 1 at the start of lap two and dropped down to 20th.

Then Miller came under fire as a seven-rider train at the front closed in on him; Rossi and Viñales were the first to get through as a lead group of Marquez, Viñales, Rossi, Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone and Zarco battled it out in one of the most hard-fought races of the season, with passes coming thick and fast - including a move by Zarco around the outside of Doohan corner – as rubber was left on opponents’ leathers and paint was swapped in one of the most incredible fights in history.

Once Marquez was ahead, however, with five laps to go, he was able to begin pulling a gap, and by the final laps the podium fight was down to three – Rossi, Viñales and Zarco.

Riding some of the tightest lines yet seen around the Island on that final lap, Rossi was able to take it, but the three were almost neck and neck over the line, with Viñales just edging ahead of Zarco to take third for a return to the rostrum but a definite end to his chance at the title, while Zarco's fourth confirmed him as Rookie of the Year.

Iannone got pushed back in the closing stages as Honda privateer Cal Crutchlow took fifth ahead of him with Miller, Alex Rins on the second works Suzuki and another double delight for KTM Factory Racing as Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith completed the top 10.




Factory KTM team leader Miguel Oliveira was in a class of his own, taking KTM’s first Moto2 win by three seconds – the gap having been as high as six at one point – with team-mate Binder took his first podium finish in the intermediate class as his rookie year gained traction after a tough, injury-hit start to the season.

Title contender Franco Morbidelli took third, making good gains in the standings on key rival Tom Lüthi, who had a tough day to come home 10th.
Oliveira took the holeshot, with polesitter Mattia Pasini losing out and Binder moving up into second. Morbidelli slotted into third, with Dominique Aegerter (Suter) slotting into fourth. Lüthi got a good start and shot up into sixth, moving around the outside as he tried to get in the fight at the front.

The pack then started to shuffle as Marcel Schrötter (Suter) crashed, skittling Pasini sending  Aegerter wide, while Oliveira pulled away at the front. Alex Marquez suffered a big moment, and Lüthi began to struggle, as the top trio of Oliveira, Binder and Morbidelli found themselves in clear air.

Takaaki Nakagami put on a mid-race charge, moving up and passing both Binder and Morbidelli, who exchanged some tough passes and spectacular moves before the rain flag came out near the end of the race and Nakagami slid out of second.

Oliveira crossed the line almost three seconds clear, with Binder setting the fastest lap on the penultimate lap to take second and Morbidelli a safe third.

Jesko Raffin put in an impressive performance for fourth, ahead of another solid ride from Motegi podium finisher Xavi Vierge (Tech 3). Alex Marquez recovered from his moment early in the race to work his way back up to sixth, ahead of Simone Corsi (Speed Up), Aegerter, a solid ride from Sandro Cortese (Suter) and Luthi.



Joan Mir became the 2017 Moto3 world champion, winning his ninth race of the season and equaling another record on the way to taking the crown in a closely fought race that was red-flagged as the weather came in. Team-mate Livio Loi followed him over the line in second as he took an impressive podium on the comeback from injury, with polesitter Jorge Martin making it an all-Honda rostrum.

Gabriel Rodrigo (KTM) got through Turn 1 first, before Jorge Martin fought back – and the battle began. With a long freight train at the front, the racing was hard but fair, and the slipstream down the Gardner Straight created some spectacular side-by-side action into Turn 1.

Fabio Di Giannantonio (Honda) as the first to fall out of contention from the leaders, before Aron Canet (Honda), Juanfran Guevara (KTM) and Jules Danilo (Honda) had different incidents to lose out, leaving a group of eight riders fighting it out: Rodrigo, Marcos Ramirez (KTM), Loi, Mir, Enea Bastianini (Honda), Romano Fenati (Honda), rookie Ayumu Sasaki (Honda) and team-mate Adam Norrodin.

Fenati - fighting to keep his title hopes alive - took his turn at the front for a number of laps, before key rival Mir made his move.

Mir had made it to the front and was pushing to try and break free of the slipstream, when some spots of rain started to appear. Suddenly, the heavens opened and, with two-thirds of the race completed, the result was called as at the last full lap, with Mir in front.

Mir wasn’t sure of the result, looking to the screens around the circuit as he cruised back to the pits and then realising he’d taken the world championship with his 10th career win, once more equalling Fenati as the rider with the most Moto3 wins.

Loi came home second for his second ever rostrum finish - from outside the top 20 on the grid, with Martin completing the podium while Gabriel Rodrigo equalled his best ever result in fourth ahead of Bastianini and Fenati.

Seventh was a stunning best yet from Japanese rookie Ayumu Sasaki as the former Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and Asia Talent Cup winner finished ahead of team-mate Adam Norrodin. Tatsuki Suzuki (Honda) took ninth, with Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Mahindra) completing the top 10.


IOL Motoring