Rossi Grabs Gutsy Second Place in Powerful Phillip Island Performance
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Valentino Rossi took the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix to another level today, with a charge through the field from 15th on the grid to a stunning second place. Teammate Jorge Lorenzo overcame the challenges thrown at him this weekend by pushing hard from 12th on the grid and brought his YZR-M1 over the line in sixth place.
Rossi made a good start to the race at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit as he jumped two places to 13th on the opening lap. Overtaking Scott Redding and Maverick Viñales, the Doctor fought his way past Nicky Hayden as he continued to battle his way to the front of the field. Having climbed up to eighth, he was trailing teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who he quickly overtook on lap three and then the pair smoothly pulled ahead of Danilo Petrucci.
Rossi gradually closed down the 0.4s margin to tack onto the back of Andrea Dovizioso and Pol Espargaró's bikes. He then put the hammer down and set a provisional fastest lap of 1'29.795s, leaving behind his two rivals a lap later. He kept pushing in fourth place, trying to bridge the 0.4s gap to Aleix Espargarò and a podium finish.
As Rossi wrestled his way past Aleix Espargaró, drama struck as Marc Marquez crashed out of the lead on lap nine, handing the Italian second place.
The fight for the win was now between the nine-time World Champion and Cal Crutchlow, who was a little more than two seconds ahead of him. The Doctor was eager to hunt down the Briton, but the chase to the front of the field in the early stages of the race had taken its toll on his soft front tyre. Rossi decided to focus on maintaining his position after a small mistake on the brakes and cruised to a stunning second place, +4.218s from the front.
Lorenzo had a superb start from twelfth on the grid and quickly stormed to ninth in the opening laps. The Mallorcan was fully aware that his teammate and Viñales would be soon joining him at the front of the pack and hurried to deal with Stefan Bradl and Jack Miller two laps into the race for seventh place. A lap later Lorenzo was forced to let Rossi and Viñales through and followed them past Petrucci, but was unable to keep up with their pace.
With Marquez crashing at the front, the remaining second half of the race was a lonely ride for Lorenzo in sixth place, with a significant gap to both the bike in front and the back of him. Lorenzo focused on keeping the heat in his tyres to bring home some solid points and crossed the line +20.125s from the front.
Thanks to his stunning ride today, Rossi stays in second place in the championship with 216 points. He thereby increases the advantage over his teammate Lorenzo to 24 points, whose sixth place sees his points total raised to 192.
Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
"Following this morning's warm up we understood there were good premises for a positive race. Since the beginning of the session this morning, Valentino had a really good feeling and that's why we kept the bike as it was before the race. The two remaining variables were the tyres and the start from the fifth row, but Vale did great to manage both! Valentino's second place is a great relief after a very difficult and challenging weekend. Jorge did his best to recover from 12th on the grid and, although I am sure he's not happy with his sixth place, he did a very good job to ride around the difficulties he experienced throughout the whole weekend. I really want to congratulate with and thank all team members, who worked hard all weekend to provide Valentino and Jorge the best weapons for today's race. Their work has been crucial to recover from a bad Saturday!"
2nd / +4.218 / 27 laps
"This morning we discovered that we had a good pace in good conditions and step by step I came back. At the beginning of the race, the first lap was very funny and I tried and hoped to go to Cal, but he was too fast and too strong. The first ten laps I enjoyed a lot. Cal was also my target and I thought that I could beat him because this morning I was a bit stronger. When I saw Marquez crash I thought I might be able to win and tried but unfortunately Cal was too fast. He is always very fast in Phillip Island and interprets this track in the maximum way. For me the second half of the race was more difficult and I couldn't make a move, but this race is what we needed after the mistake in Motegi and the bad day we had yesterday, which I think was the most frustrating day of the season. It was a very positive day for the team and Yamaha and it's been a positive race. Congratulations to Cal and thank you to all my team, to all the guys who did a great job."
6th / +20.125 / 27 laps
"The temperatures were the same as during the warm-up and we gave more or less the same performance and I made the same lap times, a 1'30.4s. The grip level drop on the rear has been huge, from the beginning I didn't have grip, but that's the way it is. As soon as the track has less grip, we struggle more and the problems we have with the bike double or triple. In Malaysia we shouldn't have a problem with the cold, or grip as the track is new. It should have more grip than last year so I really look forward to a better result."
Espargaro storms to 5th in Australia - Smith superbly battles to 8th
Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Pol Espargaro clinched a strong 5th place finish at the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix aboard the Yamaha YZR-M1 today. The young Spaniard launched off the front row of the grid and shot to the head of the field when the race started. Espargaro completed the first lap in 2nd and remained in this position until the 5th lap as he challenged Marc Marquez for the lead of the race. He was then shuffled back two places but the 25-year-old stayed firm as he carried on his formidable pace at the high-speed circuit. He eventually slipped back another position on the 12th lap, but he powered onwards and opened a comfortable gap to the 2015 World Champion Jorge Lorenzo who pursued him. From here, Espargaro lapped consistently before powering across the finish line in 5th, which marks a highly positive end to the weekend for the former Moto2 World Champion. He now sets his sights on closing the triple flyaway events with another top tier result at the Malaysian Grand Prix next week.
On the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team pit box, Bradley Smith produced a courageous ride to complete his 100th Grand Prix with the Tech3 team in 8th, despite not racing at full fitness due to a complicated knee injury. The young British rider kicked off the Australian GP from 14th on the grid and got straight to work when the sprint began. After carefully navigating his way through the first lap, he crossed the line in 18th but he then confidently stuck into a solid rhythm as he looked to progress. His pace allowed him to glide past four riders and move into 14th after one third of the distance. Smith continued to push and his hard work and faultless riding lap after lap paid off and he joined a pack of seven riders all fighting for 7th as the GP entered the final stage. After a frantic dash to the chequered flag, Smith defied all expectations by finishing in 8th, having impressively jumped up two positions on the last lap. The positive conclusion in Australia leaves the British rider fired up for the forthcoming Malaysian round as he continues his recovery process.
5th / +14.299 / 27 laps
"Today I played all my cards and we have to leave Phillip Island feeling pleased about our performance over the weekend. The start itself was good and I put myself at the front of the field, plus I didn't make any mistakes. In addition, I tried to brake smoothly and not take unnecessary risks throughout the GP. However, I can't help but feel a bit frustrated when I think about how the factory riders passed me, whilst I was trying to fight with them, but I guess that's how things go. Yet, I know that we gave our all and I have to say that the team is continuing to work in the same way that they did on our first day together, even if there are only a couple more races left together, and I appreciate that a lot. I think we were probably a bit lucky that there was limited dry track time this weekend because I believe this is why we were in front of a few factory guys today. However, looking at the results we have to be happy with what we are taking away from this GP and we will keep fighting for another strong result next week in Malaysia."
8th / +28.781 / 27 laps
"First of all, I have to say that the result is very positive. It was definitely a lot of hard work and in the last few laps, I was fortunate enough to find some opening gaps which allowed me to finish in 8th. Initially, I was a bit disappointed with myself because I wasn't aggressive enough at the start. This may have been because of my injury and perhaps I was over thinking a bit about what to do, plus I was very careful with warming up the tyres. However, once I found my rhythm, I was able to catch the group, even if it was a challenge to do this, and when I got onto the back of them, I just tried to be smart and save the tyres, because I knew that the rubber was going to be vital for the last three laps. I made a few passes in the closing stages of the race and then finally in the last corner, I just went full attack mode on the outside and I got some good grip which allowed me to beat Petrucci and Miller to the line. Once again, I have to say big thanks to the Tech3 team because they did a super job, especially after yesterday's crash. Also, with the limited track time that we had in the dry, the guys were fantastic and gave me a solid setting. For the moment everything is going according to plan. We came back in Japan, then here, we went a little better, so now let's see what Sepang brings."