Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) scored a superb Honda one-two at Phillip Island today, completing the most complicated weekend of the year in superb style.
Cold, wet and windy early spring weather caused difficulties throughout the three days, with qualifying abandoned yesterday due to treacherous conditions. The Q1 and Q2 sessions were instead run this morning, just four hours before the race.
Magical Marquez’s 11th victory of 2019 and his fifth in a row was also his 55th in MotoGP, which makes more history for the remarkable 26-year-old Spaniard, who is now the most successful Honda Grand Prix rider of all time. He took the record from Mick Doohan, who won 54 500cc Grands Prix between 1990 and 1998, and Dani Pedrosa, who won 54 races across the 125cc, 250cc and MotoGP classes between 2002 and 2017. Fittingly, Doohan was the first rider Marquez remembers watching on television when he was a young child!
Today’s success also takes Marquez, Honda and the Repsol Honda Team one step closer to a third consecutive triple crown of the MotoGP Riders World Championship, MotoGP Constructors World Championship and MotoGP Teams World Championship, a truly remarkable performance from rider, team and Honda.
Honda’s great day was completed by Italian youngster Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) who won the Moto3 race to secure the Moto3 Riders World Championship and help Honda take the Moto3 Constructors World Championship.
The MotoGP race was yet another thriller and anything but straightforward for Marquez and his rivals. Phillip island is one of MotoGP’s fastest, most challenging tracks in ideal conditions, but today’s cool track temperature and gusting winds made the 27 laps especially tricky. Thus fortune definitely favoured the brave.
Marquez’s victory rival was countryman Maverick Vinales. The pair set a blistering pace out front, pulling away from the rest of the pack, after Marquez had made contact with Crutchlow through one of Phillip Island’s fast sweepers. From that point on this was a straight two-way duel, with both men riding as fast as they dared, while also working to save their tires for the vital last laps.
Once again, Marquez chose the perfect strategy. At Honda’s home race last Sunday he opened a gap and managed his advantage. This time he followed Vinales for much of the race, finally taking the lead at the end of the penultimate lap, using his RC213V’s amazing speed to power past Vinales on the start/finish straight.
During the final lap he braked super-late into every corner and used tight lines to defend his position, even though it started to rain! Vinales knew he had once chance to retake the lead – at Turn Ten, three corners before the checkered flag. But the 24-year-old lost control of his machine approaching the right-hander and fell, thankfully unharmed.
That promoted Crutchlow to second, the Briton crossing the finish line 11.4 seconds behind his fellow HRC rider and three seconds ahead of local hero Jack Miller.
This was the third time Marquez and Crutchlow have shared the podium in 2019 and this result was particularly special for Crutchlow, who was ruled out of last year’s Australian GP by a high-speed crash during practice. The broken right ankle the three-times MotoGP winner suffered in that fall still affects him today, so he rode a hero’s race, even taking the lead at one point.
The performance of both RC213V machines was perfect, a huge testament to the work of the Repsol Honda Team, the LCR Honda CASTROL team and HRC, who had little dry track time in which to find the best set-up for the race.
Johann Zarco (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) made his Honda MotoGP debut today, substituting for Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V), who misses the last three races of 2019 after undergoing surgery on a troublesome shoulder injury last week. Zarco finished the race a very creditable 13th.
The ever-changing weather didn’t make life easy for the 29-year-old Frenchman, who had to learn a new bike through the wind and rain that spoiled much of practice during Friday and Saturday. Nevertheless he kept his cool and worked steadily towards his goals of getting to grips with Nakagami’s 2018-spec RC213V and scoring points.
Zarco was an impressive sixth fastest in yesterday afternoon’s FP4 session, which was red-flagged due to winds gusting across the seaside circuit at 50km/h/30mph. That performance made him hopeful of a top-ten result in the race, but instead he had to be happy with 13th. He will hope for better weather at next weekend’s Malaysian GP, where he will continue his adaptation to the RC213V.
Today’s conditions were far from ideal for a rider working to recover confidence after a four-race midseason layoff due to injury. Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) finished the race in 16th position, one place outside the World Championship points. The three-times MotoGP king struggled to get enough feel from his tires in the poor weather, so he couldn’t as hard as he wanted. He now looks forward to Sepang, where track temperatures will be higher.
Teams now north to Kuala Lumpur for next weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, the third MotoGP round in three weekends. The season concludes at Valencia, Spain, on November 17.