PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia — The battle for the MotoGP world championship took a dramatic turn in Sunday’s Tissot Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
Lorenzo captured his 50th career victory in an event that included mandatory bike changes and saw championship leader Marc Marquez disqualified for failing to acknowledge the pre-determined pit window.
Prior to the race, it was announced that the duration would decrease from 27 to 19 laps on the grounds of safety, with tire degradation throughout practice having been significantly higher than expected on the newly resurfaced Phillip Island circuit. Furthermore, all riders would be obliged to pit for bike changes on either the ninth or 10th laps of the race, while also running the harder available compound throughout.
Lorenzo’s stunning victory trimmed Marquez’s point lead from 43 to just 18 markers.
“I’m really happy with this win, we’ve also been lucky because Marc made this mistake,” Lorenzo said. “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,” Lorenzo continued. “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.”
Marquez acknowledged the mistake.
“The plan we had was not correct, we though that we could do that lap,” Marquez said. “We thought we could go into the pit at the end of lap 11. The problem was not with the pit board, that was fine, when I saw ‘Box’ I came in. Now we need to forget about it and just concentrate in Motegi.”
A clean start saw no fallers, with Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) attacking Lorenzo at the Honda hairpin but the Yamaha Factory Racing man immediately retaking the top spot on the run into Siberia. The sensation would come with the mandatory pit window, with Marquez’s teammate Pedrosa first to peel off from third place at the end of lap nine and followed by numerous other riders.
Lorenzo would pit at the end of the tenth tour but, having expected a pit lane duel with Marquez, saw the 20-year-old rookie continue for another circulation of the circuit. Marquez then came in at the end of lap 11, outside the pre-determined window of pitting by lap 10 at the latest. In a remarkable twist for the 2013 world championship battle, Marquez was disqualified as was Australian Bryan Staring (GO&FUN Honda Gresini) as the same error had been committed.
Having escaped a touch with Marquez as the latter rejoined from the pits, Lorenzo went on to claim win number six of the season; this also marked the first time since 2006 that a rider other than the now retired Casey Stoner had clinched victory at Phillip Island. Pedrosa finished second to maintain his own title aspirations, as Yamaha Factory Racing’s Valentino Rossi beat Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Cal Crutchlow and GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista in a thrilling contest for third, while light rain began to fall as proceedings drew to a close.
Bradley Smith was sixth for Tech3, having run as high as fourth thanks to a rapid start, while the top 10 was rounded out by Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team), Andrea Iannone (Energy T.I. Pramac Racing), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar).