Polesitter Marquez quickly moved to second as Iannone and Rossi began to go all-out in their dispute over third. These four would trade position six times over the next few corners, with all the main drama starting on the run into the downhill, hard breaking right hander turn nine following the famous Lukey Heights section.
Marquez got past leader Lorenzo and managed to make the move stick, while Rossi pulled a similar move against Iannone on the brakes, but couldn’t hold the spot. From there, Marquez held off Lorenzo around the long uphill lefthand sweeper onto the front straight to earn the win, Lorenzo second from Iannone and Rossi. It was the best dry track race so far this season.
This was Marquez’s 24th career feature race success but his first career MotoGP class win at Phillip Island, the popular Spanish ace finishing exactly one quarter of a second ahead of countryman Lorenzo. Final podium man Iannone was a further seven tenths of a second behind second place, Rossi two tenths behind him.
“From the beginning, there were really many, many overtakes,” explained an elated Marquez. “I catch up to Jorge, but then I overheat the front tire, then it is not there. Then Valentino and Andrea join me, we race, but I decide to go 100% on the last lap.” Marquez set the fastest lap of the race on the last tour, even though he made several passes.
Even happier was Iannone, who earned his third career MotoGP podium position, exploiting the red Desmo’s obvious top speed edge. Iannone was on fire at the start, holding off the pack in the lead, but struck a seagull with his helmet on lap two at Lukey Heights and regrouped with seemingly minor cosmetic damaged (he lost a winglet) to his bike.
“This is the first race where I stay in the fight for first place for the whole race,” confirmed the Ducati team leader. “I am so happy because today I fight with the very best racers – this is really important, we have improved everything step-by-step, we do our best and I did my best.”
In the battle for the this year’s MotoGP Feature class world crown, waged between the two Yamaha stars, Rossi lost seven points of his hard-fought advantage, and now heads the standings with 296 points to Lorenzo’s 285 total.
Marquez holds third at 222 points, and is mathematically eliminated from the title battle with two races left to run in the 18 round 2015 Schedule. Lorenzo has six wins so far this year, ahead of Marquez with five victories and Rossi’s total of four.
Yamaha clinched the 2015 Manufacturer’s Championship at the previous round at Honda’s homeland track, Motegi. The two remaining races are in Malaysia next weekend and Valencia, Spain on November 8.
“I could manage to push and to lead, and stay close to Marquez, but we knew he would be fast,” explained runner up Lorenzo, who still cut into Rossi’s lead atop the standings. “To be honest I did not expect Iannone and Rossi to be there with him.”
“The rear tire was spinning so much, but the bike worked really well and we made a lot of good work all weekend,” continued Lorenzo. “With the amazing last lap that Marc did, and our little problems, I could not keep the gap to him.”
Dani Pedrosa, winner of the previous round, was a solid fifth, just four seconds back, after running in the lead group early with the second Repsol Honda. The returning factory Ecstar Suzuki program had a very good day, class rookie Maverick Vinales a close sixth while teammate Aleix Espargaro netted ninth, split by the satellite LCR Honda of Cal Crutchlow and the Tech 3 Yamaha of Pol Espargaro. Early in the race, when eight riders were in the lead group including both Suzukis, Crutchlow held down fourth spot.
- By Colin Fraser