In the past day, qualifying was again dominated by Marquez who grabbed his 12th pole of the season to equal twice champion Casey Stoner’s most of pole positions in a season.
Second was unexpectedly Cal Crutchlow in the factory Ducati GP14, who finished ahead of Lorenzo to lock down the front-row. Pedrosa had to settle for fifth after losing out by less than two hundredth of a second to Smith in the Tech 3 Yamaha. Aleix Espargaro joined the two in the second row, then came Andrea Iannone, Rossi and Pol Espargaro who filled the third row. Crutchlow’s team mate Andrea Dovizioso would lead off the fourth row, following his less-than-desired qualifying position.
Prior to the start of the GP of Australia, all eyes were set on Marquez who’s on the verge of a potential 12th win of the season. If he could achieve the feat, it would effectively put him amongst the league of MotoGP elite riders. But, it was not to be…
Rossi battled back from an improbable start to achieve his 82nd career win at Phillip Island
Off the blocks, Lorenzo got ahead of eveybody else into the first turn before Marquez eventually got the better of him in the early stint. Rossi, meantime, made up two places to go sixth behind the close-knit running pack. Pedrosa, who struggled at the start, was down in ninth on lap five of 27. Then in a flash, Pedrosa was sideswiped by Iannone’s Ducati at turn 4 on lap 7, and the Repsol Honda man was immediately down and out of the race.
Rossi made more progress as the race hit the middle stint as he dispatched Smith and P. Espargaro to move up to third place. With 17 laps to go Rossi set a fastest lap of 1:29.605 and made his first overtaking move on Lorenzo at the hairpin, with Crutchlow’s GP 14 in the mix. Lorenzo fought back and retook second place in the first corner of the following lap. Over the next seven laps, the teammates continued to swap places. Then the unthinkable happened, Marquez who was leading the Yamahas by some four seconds took a tumble after losing the front end of his bike at the Lukey Heights corner, with ten laps left to go. Marquez’ tumble meant Lorenzo had assumed the race lead, with Rossi in close contention and Crutchlow, just behind the second Yamaha.
Rossi didn’t relinguish his advantage and powered past Lorenzo, who had front tyre degradation in the final stint. Crutchlow would get ahead of Lorenzo when the tyre situation got more dire in the closing laps. However, the Ducati man would crash out in a dramatic way on the final lap to hand second place back to Lorenzo. At the flag, Rossi had an almost 11-sec lead from Lorenzo and sealed an easiest win of the season. Lorenzo crossed the line second for his tenth podium of the year.
Thanks to the Phillip result, Rossi stays in second place in the championship with a points total of 255. He thereby increases the advantage over Lorenzo to eight points, whose second place sees him rise to third in the championship with 247 points. Pedrosa is now 17 points behind Lorenzo in fourth overall.
In the Ducati camp, Dovizioso finished a strong fourth following a race long battle with the Espargaro brothers, Smith and Bradl throughout the race. He was also aided by several unconditional retirements from the likes of Marquez, Pedrosa and his team mate. Hector Brabera was fifth, ahead of Alvaro Bautista in sixth on his 200th MotoGP race appearance. Seventh through tenth were Scott Redding, Hiroshi Aoyama, Alex de Angelis and Nicky Hayden.
Rossi remarked in post-race, “I won here many times in the past, but over the last few years I was only able to get onto the podium without winning the race. To comeback and take the first position after ten years is great.”
“We did a fantastic job and made the right front tyre choice. Marquez was not too far in front of me but he had a two second gap, so I decided to focus on my pace and on Jorge (Lorenzo). He was very fast during the whole weekend, but for the second position in the championship it was very important to finish in front of him. When I was in front Marquez crashed and I said to myself “victory!”
The MotoGP crews now embarked to the Sepang International Circuit for the penultimate round from 24 – 26 October.
2014 MotoGP, Phillip Island results
1. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 40:46.405
2. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha + 10.836
3. Bradley Smith Yamaha Tech3 + 12.294
4. Andrea Dovizioso Ducati + 14.893
5. Hector Barbera Avintia + 30.089
6. Alvaro Bautista Honda + 30.154
7. Scott Redding Honda + 30.158
8. Hiroshi Aoyama Aspar + 33.166
9. Alex De Angelis Forward Racing + 33.577
10. Nicky Hayden Aspar + 34.144
11. Yonny Hernandez Pramac + 39.468
12. Danilo Petrucci IodaRacing + 56.684
13. Michael Laverty Paul Bird + 1:12.813
14. Mike Di Meglio Avintia + 1:28.050
1. Marc Marquez Repsol Honda 1:28.408
2. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Ducati Team 1:28.642
3. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1:28.650
4. Bradley Smith (GBR) Monster Yamaha Tech3 1:28.656
5. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 1:28.675
6. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) NGM Forward Racing 1:28.866
7. Andrea Iannone (ITA) Pramac Racing 1:28.887
8. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1:28.956
9. Pol Espargarò (SPA) Monster Yamaha Tech3 1:28.968
10. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Ducati Team 1:29.088
1. Marc Marquez 312
2. Valentino Rossi 255
3. Jorge Lorenzo 247
4. Dani Pedrosa 230
5. Andrea Dovizioso 166
6. Aleix Espargaro 117
7. Pol Espargarò 116
8. Bradley Smith 108
9. Andrea Iannone 102
10. Stefan Bradl 96
11. Alvaro Bautista 89
12. Scott Redding 70
13. Cal Crutchlow 63
14. Hiroshi Aoyama 62
15. Yonny Hernandez 44
16. Nicky Hayden 43
17. Karel Abraham 33
18. Hector Barbera 14
19. Alex De Angelis 14
20. Danilo Petrucci 13
21. Michele Pirro 11
22. Colin Edwards 11
23. Brok Parkes 7
24. Mike Di Meglio 6
25. Michael Laverty 5
26. Katsuyuki Nakasuga 4
27. Leon Camier 1