PHILLIP ISLAND (AFP) – Italian legend Valentino Rossi won his first Australian MotoGP in nine years after world champion Marc Marquez crashed out while holding a big lead at Phillip Island yesterday.
Rossi, one of the sport’s greats with nine world championships across all classes, swept to the front when Marquez came off his bike on the 19th lap, to beat home teammate Jorge Lorenzo and Britain’s Bradley Smith in an all-Yamaha podium.
It was a popular victory for the 35-year-old Italian, who celebrated his 250th premier-class race with his 82nd victory at one of his favourite tracks.
It was Rossi’s sixth premier-class win at Phillip Island and his first since 2005 to extend his phenomenal record to 15 podium finishes in 18 trips to Australia.
Marquez, who clinched back-to-back world titles last weekend in Japan, had looked set comfortably to win his first MotoGP at Phillip Island with a massive four-second advantage on his dominant Repsol Honda bike.
But the Spanish ace lost control of his front wheel on lap 19 of the 27-lap race at the bottom of Lukey Heights and crashed out unharmed, leaving Rossi to take over and go on to win by 10.836 seconds.
“When I saw Marc crash it was a surprise, and to finish first at Phillip Island after my last victory here in 2005 is a great achievement,” Rossi said.
“I love this track and I’ve won the two most important world championships of my career in 2001 and 2004.
“I won again here in 2005 but I have done a lot of podiums since then and never won.”
Rossi’s victory pushed him to an eight-point lead over Lorenzo in the fight for second place in the world championship standings behind Marquez, with two races remaining at Sepang and Valencia.
“I was focused on the second place in the championship and I am able to gain some points over Jorge, but it’s so close with two races to the end,” Rossi said.
Marquez’s Spanish Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa retired from the race on lap seven after his bike was hit in the rear by Andrea Iannone, resulting in a buckled rear wheel rim. He finished with zero points.
Pedrosa, currently trailing Rossi by 25 points in fourth spot, looks to have lost his chance of finishing second overall.
Rossi came off the third row of the grid — his worst qualifying position since 12th at Assen in late June — and diced with Lorenzo for second spot as Marquez extended his lead with every lap.
But the race took a dramatic turn when Marquez, looking set for his 12th GP triumph this season, lost his front wheel and tumbled onto the trackside grass, his race over.