Today’s Pramac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix had something for every taste and budget. Repsol Honda defending double world champion Marc Marquez, in his season of discontent, laid down an historic last lap to seize the victory from Yamaha mullah Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo, trailing teammate Valentino Rossi by 18 points coming in, was blessed today by a statement performance from factory Ducati #1 Andrea Iannone who slipped past Rossi one more time on the final lap and onto the podium, trimming Rossi’s lead over Lorenzo to 11 points heading to Sepang.

One of the problems with MotoGP over the past decade is that the races were often non-competitive high-speed processions. A second problem has been the title often being decided with two or three rounds left on the calendar, reducing those races to beauty pageants. No such problems exist in 2015, and neither was relevant to today’s battle. Four bikes were in it all the way through; the results left the championship very much in doubt with but two rounds remaining and the announcers gasping for air.

Dorna wishes it could deliver the kind of action we saw at Phillip Island in every race.

Saturday’s qualifications produced a front row comprised of Marquez, Iannone and Lorenzo, followed by Dani Pedrosa, Cal Crutchlow (strutting his stuff in the former British penal colony) and ROY lock Maverick Vinales on the factory Suzuki Ecstar, with Rossi mired in seventh. As the lights went out, Iannone beat Lorenzo to the first turn – a relief to everyone but Jorge – and took the early lead until Lorenzo flew past him in Turn 8. Iannone came back at Lorenzo on Lap 2, despite colliding with a seagull midway through the lap, littering the racing surface with breakfast cereal – shredded tweet – and punching a fist-sized hole in the Ducati’s fairing. (One shouldn’t consider what might have happened had the overconfident bird collided with Iannone’s helmet, packing the throw weight of a high-speed brick.)

Okay, everybody stay calm. The last thing we want is for PETA to get involved.

The four riders spent the first half of the race in a tight knot, with everyone but Rossi enjoying some time in the lead. As the riders approached the halfway point, they separated into a Noah’s Ark two-by-two kind of thing, Lorenzo and Marquez the lead pair followed by the two Italians. Things closed back up with three laps to go, thanks in part to a sensational double pass by Iannone, who watched Rossi go through on Marquez, and then blistered past both Aliens into second place. At the end of Lap 25, my notes showed Lorenzo leading, followed by Iannone, Rossi and Marquez, Lorenzo praying to Our Lady of Guadalupe for Marquez to push Rossi to fourth. Which is how Lap 26 ended, setting up one of the great closing laps in MotoGP history, or something equally hyperbolic.

One for the Ages

The top four riders in the 2015 MotoGP standings all finished within 1.058 seconds of each other.

Early in the final lap, Rossi went back through on Marquez, leaving the Catalan champion in fourth place, Lorenzo’s dream finish and nine point gain intact. Marquez quickly returned the favor, now in third, in time for the following sequence. Marquez goes through on Iannone. Rossi goes through on Iannone. Iannone goes back through on Rossi. Finally, Marquez goes through on Lorenzo very late in the lap, tires shredded, having turned his fastest lap of the race on the final lap. The four riders – three Aliens and Iannone, bucking for promotion – cross the finish line separated by just over one second. Marquez, in a demonstration of things to come next year and beyond, went from fourth place to first in less than a lap, making the two future Yamaha hall of famers look old and slow, respectively. And so Marquez took a turn hammering Lorenzo similar to the way his teammate Pedrosa thumped Rossi in Japan, leaving 11 points separating the two Yamaha veterans with two rounds to go and the Boys in Blue looking suddenly vulnerable at season’s end.

Let’s Review

With a win at Phillip Island, Marc Marquez has now won in every current MotoGP track except Motegi.

Marc Marquez, for those of you who consider him to have been a flash in the pan, asserted his will on the grid today and was not going to be denied a win (his 50th across all classes). He needed it more for psychological reasons than professional, scoring his first premier class points in Australia. Jorge Lorenzo, who appeared to have things his way early on AND late in the day, ingloriously surrendered five points to Marquez that, before the season ends, he may wish he had back. Iannone will probably be a full-fledged Alien next season, riding the next iteration of Gigi Dall’Igna’s handiwork. And Valentino Rossi – poor old Valentino Rossi, leading the 2015 championship by double digits – gave up fewer points today than his effort justified. Had Lorenzo held off Marquez at the flag, Rossi’s lead would be down to six points, a virtual toss-up in this fascinating 2015 season.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa ended a nondescript weekend in fifth position, nothing like his performance last week in Japan. Vinales tied his best result of the year in Catalunya with an impressive sixth place finish, some 13 seconds in front of veteran teammate Aleix Espargaro in ninth. Crutchlow brought his LCR Honda across the line seventh, followed by Tech 3 Yamaha pilot Pol Espargaro. (Pol takes a slightly different approach to the “always beat your teammate” rule, substituting the word “brother” for “teammate.” Which he did again today.) Meanwhile, brother Aleix, focused on whipping his little brother, needs to watch out behind himself, as Vinales trails by only four points. Tech 3 Yamaha Brit Bradley Smith topped off an unproductive weekend by getting tweaked at the flag by Aleix, completing the top ten.

Pol wins the trophy for best finish by a rider named Espargaro, beating his brother by 1.638 seconds.

For the record, substitute rider and homeboy Damian Cudlin retired with a mechanical problem on Alex de Angelis’ bike, and Nicky Hayden became the only crasher today on Lap 10. The so-called “race to the bottom,” featuring Ant West on Karel Abraham’s Honda and Toni Elias on the #2 Forward Racing Yamaha, was taken by West, who finished 23rd, two and a half seconds behind Elias.

The Big Picture

Andrea Dovizioso started the season stronger but he has fallen behind his teammate Andrea Iannone who has been more consistent all season.

As noted earlier, with two rounds left Rossi leads Lorenzo by 11 points, a margin capable of disappearing, or reversing itself, in an instant in the heat and humidity of Malaysia. Marquez and Iannone appear set to finish the season third and fourth, respectively. Pedrosa maintains a seven point lead over Smith for fifth place, the highly motivated Brit still not out of it, even on satellite equipment. Factory Ducati pilot Andrea Dovizioso trails Smith by a mere five points, but a disconcertingly poor showing today – 13th place, 29 seconds out of the lead – suggests he may have cashed in his chips for this season, looking ahead to 2016, new tires, and a chance to put young Iannone back in his rightful #2 place. The biggest surprise in the top ten for the season is Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, a single point ahead of Pol Espargaro for ninth place, and only 10 points in arrears of Crutchlow. Petrucci has a bright future in this sport.

Rumble in the Jungle Next Week

The 747s are winging their way to Kuala Lumpur for another grueling Malaysian Grand Prix. We were there last year, and the equatorial heat is so punishing it’s hard to breathe, much less race motorcycles. The brolly girls will earn their money next Sunday, in stark comparison to the slackers in Assen, who basically just stand around looking delicious.

Valentino Rossi still leads Jorge Lorenzo but his 11-point margin can vanish in a blink of an eye in Sepang.

Rain is always a threat at Sepang, with thundershowers almost every afternoon. If we’ve learned one thing about this season, it’s that Jorge Lorenzo likes things dry and Valentino Rossi likes things wet. We’ll keep an eye on the forecast with the expectation that each will get some of what he likes. Personally, I’d like to see Lorenzo pick up at least seven points again next week, setting up what could be yet another Race of the Year. May the racing gods give us more like today!

2015 MotoGP Phillip Island Top 10 Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda
2 Jorge Lorenzo Movistar Yamaha +0.249
3 Andrea Iannone Ducati Corse +0.930
4 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha +1.058
5 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +5.062
6 Maverick Vinales Suzuki Ecstar +6.800
7 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda +9.375
8 Pol Espargaro Monster Yamaha Tech3 +18.401
9 Aleix Espargaro Suzuki Ecstar +20.039
10 Bradley Smith Monster Yamaha Tech3 +20.657
2015 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 16 Rounds
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 296
2 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 285
3 Marc Marquez Honda 222
4 Andrea Iannone Ducati 188
5 Dani Pedrosa Honda 165
6 Bradley Smith Yamaha 158
7 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 153
8 Cal Crutchlow Honda 107
9 Danilo Petrucci Ducati 97
10 Pol Espargaro Yamaha 96
  • JMDonald

    This race had to be a disappointment for Rossi. What the hell is going to happen next?

    • john burns

      another MotoGP.

  • Shlomi

    Unbelievable!

  • Gruf Rude

    Too bad America just doesn’t get to see MotoGP – this has to be the most exciting to watch motorsport in the world . . .

    • DKing

      Oh yes we do..thanks to Motogp.com. :)

      • Gruf Rude

        Talk to me again when it is as easy to find on my TV as SuperCross . . .

        • 12er

          Sadly its as easy to find as Supercross as it tends to be on FS1 or 2 with Supercross. Though rarely the majors pick up a supercross or motocross race, so I’ll give you a “Its only slightly easier to find supercross.”

  • john burns

    why don’t the birds ever learn? That looks like the same one I clipped there in like 1989.

  • Old MOron

    I think that was the best Moto GP race I’ve seen. Just fantastic.

    Now about Moto 3? Does anyone here, besides me, think that Danny Kent was at fault in his crash?

    • methamphetasaur

      Julian Ryder and Keith Huewen thought so.

    • TroySiahaan

      That Moto3 race was incredible, especially in the first handful of laps. To me, the Kent crash is 6 of one, half dozen of another. I can see both sides, but I don’t think I’m qualified to place blame.

      • Old MOron

        Four years ago, Simoncelli and Pedrobot were involved in a very similar incident at Le Mans. Just about everyone condemned Simoncelli. He even got a ride-through penalty. Seems to me that if the rules are consistently applied, Kent should find himself starting from the back of the grid in Sepang.

  • Ferris Argyle

    I’m surprised by a couple of things in this article.

    It remarks that Pedrosa’s performance was nothing like last week in Japan without mentioning that the reason he did unusually well last week is that he chose a hard rear tire while the other leaders were on softs.

    It also comments that Rossi “gave up fewer points today than his effort justified. Had Lorenzo held off Marquez at the flag, Rossi’s lead would be down to six points”. Rossi started on 3rd grid row and passed both Marquez and Iannone in the final lap; could just as well write “had Rossi held off Iannone, Rossi’s lead would still have been nine points”.

    • Bruce Allen

      Welcome to the conversation. As I’ve been telling my wife for the last 40 years, “You may be right.”

      • Ferris Argyle

        You do write the most engaging MotoGP previews and reports, so always look forward to them. Only one writer I know of mentioned Pedrosa’s tire choice last go-round, so you’re in broad, and maybe even good company.

  • 12er

    freakin’ awesome race, about all I can say.

  • Vrooom

    I’d say Iannone officially qualifies as alien. His bike seemed so much faster than the Yamahas in the straights, wonder if any of those weird aerodynamic fins offset the seagull shaped giant hole in his fairing?

    • Gruf Rude

      It might be that the giant seagull-shaped hole provided a dynamic chassis weight shift to the rear tire, allowing better drive out of the corners. . . 😉

    • 12er

      I saw they stole Jorge’s upper fairing mounted winglets also. That duc is going to fly here shortly, well off earth…

    • Bruce Allen

      He needs to win a race first. Dovi won one in 2009 and failed to qualify for the outta-this-world club. I Expect to see both Iannone and Vinales holding membership cards before too long.

  • John B.

    I have been watching MotoGP for several years, and that was among the most compelling races I have ever seen. I know almost nothing about motorcycle racing and can’t really relate to what these guys are able to do on a motorcycle.

    Nevertheless, I find MotoGP enjoyable primarily because of the precarious perch upon which the top riders sit. Aside from the life threatening danger inherent in the sport, no rider has job security beyond a couple years. If a factory rider doesn’t win they are replaced. Riders routinely have major surgery to repair broken bones and return to race the next week. It’s great to watch a high stakes sport where there are literally no excuses. MotoGP riders may be the most courageous athletes in the world.