Historic ‘bike-swap’ rule sees championship leader Marquez disqualified
Jorge Lorenzo took the victory at today’s Tissot Australian Grand Prix with the Yamaha Factory Racing team rider making the best of the historic ‘bike-swap’ rule introduced due to safety precautions with Dani Pedrosa taking second for the Repsol Honda team and Valentino Rossi finished in third position following a dramatic disqualification for current championship leader Marc Marquez who failed to pit during the allotted time window to make his change-over.
I’m really happy with this win. It’s unbelievable to have 50 Grand Prix victories at 26-years-old.
Lorenzo got the holeshot into the first turn with the factory Yamaha rider being followed by Pedrosa and Marquez while Rossi got mugged by Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Bradley Smith who made a blistering start from the third row leaping past his teammate Cal Crutchlow and GO&Fun Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista and the seven times MotoGP champion in just a few corners. The pace at the start was higher than normal with all riders try to make the best of the first half of the race before the mandatory pit change over.
The front three riders had broken away within the first half of the opening lap and the gap back to Rossi, who was now back in front of Smith, was increasing and would continue to do so with the fight at the front seeing Marquez pushing past his teammate and right on the rear of Lorenzo’s YZR-M1. The pace in the pits was also higher than normal with the pit crews working furiously to prepare for the change overs that were due to take place between laps 9 and 10. The battle for best CRT was firmly in the hands of Power Electronics Aspar rider Randy De Puniet who was circulating just behind the Ducati Team riders Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden.
There was drama from the start of the pit changes with Pedrosa not slowing enough and getting penalized one place when he rejoined. While the majority of the riders on made their changes on lap nine, race leader Lorenzo continued to push on ahead of Marquez until the end of the next lap but Marquez didn’t follow his rival and began lap 11 on his own in a move that would shortly lead to consternation in his Repsol Honda garage. When he did pit at the end of lap 11 and re-joined the race, Marquez was touched slightly by a rapidly approaching Lorenzo.
The race continued with Marquez chasing Pedrosa and Lorenzo for just a short period before the Repsol Honda received more bad news when Marquez was black-flagged for not pitting within the allotted time window and in turn giving Lorenzo a nearly guaranteed 25 points back on his main championship rival. Pedrosa was now circulating in lonely second place with Rossi now back in front of Crutchlow and Bautista. There was also bad news for home riders Damian Cudlin (Paul Bird Motorsport) and Bryan Staring (GO&Fun Honda Gresini CRT) who were also caught out in their timing of the pit changes and both riders were disqualified.
Following Marquez being black-flagged, the race at the front was processional with Lorenzo dominating and Pedrosa looking to consolidate another strong performance in second while Rossi was battling furiously with Crutchlow and Bautista for the final podium position. The race was also to provide another twist at the end when rain began to fall just as Lorenzo was on his way to cross the line to reduce the gap to Marquez to just 18 points with two rounds to go in this year’s championship. Pedrosa was confirmed as finishing in 2nd while Rossi held on to beat Crutchlow for third with Bautista also just milliseconds away. The rain began to really fall as the remainder of the riders were on their final lap with Smith leading home Hayden while Andre Iannone (Energy TI Pramac Racing) had a fantastic second half of his race to finish in 8th ahead of Dovizioso and the best CRT was claimed by De Puniet in the final top ten spot.
Aleix Espargaro was off the pace somewhat today with the Power Electronics Aspar rider in 11th ahead of NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards and Ignite Pramac Racing rider Yonny Hernandez and they were followed across the line by Avintia Blusens’ Hector Barbera, Danilo Petrucci (Came IodaRacing Project) and Luka Scassa for the Cardion AB Motoracing team in 16th. Claudio Corti (NGM Mobile Forward Racing) finished in front of Michael Laverty (Paul bird Motorsport) and Lukas Pesek (Came IodaRacing Project) and the final positions went to Hiroshi Aoyama for the Avintia Blusens team and Cudlin who was reinstated into the final position.
Lorenzo was very happy with his race win and today’s victory marked his 50th grand prix win. He said, “I’m really happy with this win, we’ve also been lucky because Marc made this mistake. Without that he would have been second or first because he was really fast today. So we’ve been lucky but we were unlucky in the middle of the championship so today is a balance. When I was entering the first corner Marc was exiting the pit at exactly the same time, the situation was almost impossible to avoid. I was braking a little later to open the line and I don't think he was looking so much entering the corner so it was both our fault.
Now we have options, if Marc keeps constant on the podium then it is impossible to win the championship but there are a lot of laps to go so anything could happen. It’s unbelievable to have 50 Grand Prix victories at 26-years-old. It seems like only yesterday when I won in Brazil in 2003 but it’s been ten years. I’m very proud of it and hope to win some more in the future!” Lorenzo added.
Speaking about the race and the newly introduced bike swap rule, Pedrosa said there was some confusion. He said, “Today's race was very stressful - above all before the start, as the rules were being changed every five minutes. Everything was turned on its head and it was very difficult to adapt first time, without making any mistakes. Marc made mistakes and I did too. Everything was going so fast and it was confusing for both the riders and the mechanics. We had to be clear about which lap to enter the pits, as it wasn't obvious which was lap 9 and which was lap 10.
Rossi was very happy to have scored another podium and paid tribute to his pit crew for their hard work saying, “At the end the result was good, I’m so happy to be on the podium here at Phillip Island because it’s always a great pleasure and a great atmosphere. I tried to give the maximum, the race was very thrilling and I enjoyed it very much, especially because with the team we were able to do a very good job in the pit and gain two positions. I had a great battle with Cal, when I understood it was for the podium I tried to give the maximum. In the last half of the lap it started to rain, which was very scary but at the end it was ok and a good result. We still need to work and improve to be faster for the next race.”