This seasons Moto GP World Championship has been many things – intense, dynamic, thrilling – to name a few.
But nothing could have prepared me for what happened this past Sunday at Phillip Island. I don’t think I have seen anything like it at a race track before.
Firstly, a brief synopsis of the season so far.
Reigning Moto GP champ, Spain’s Marc Marquez, has been the man for the past 2 seasons. Upon his Repsol Honda he was completely dominant. He had won virtually every race in those seasons – his first in the top tier championship.
He was the youngest world champ, the first since 1978 to win the premier championship in his first year, and won 13 of 18 races in the 2014 season.
But not this season. Only four wins, and a series of inconsistent results, saw him sitting in third place in the standings, and all but relinquishing his title.
Movistar Yamaha’s riders, double world champ Jorge Lorenzo and 6-time world champ Valentino Rossi, have been fighting it out all season long to claim the title. Neither have given an inch, and racing has been tight all season long. Sunday was no exception.
Valentino went in to the weekend with an 18 point lead over Lorenzo, but with Marquez and Lorenzo started on the front row, alongside Ducati rider Andrea Iannone, he would have his work cut out starting from the third row on the grid in 7th. Phillip Island is a fast track with speeds on the near 1km long Gardiner Straight reaching a massive 330 km/hour, something the Yamaha riders were struggling with. But what they lacked in straight-line speed, they more than made up for in determination, handling and, to be blunt – balls.
Initially, Lorenzo led the bulk of the race with the other three fighting out the minor places. And with only a handful of laps left to go, it looked like he would cut that lead down to single figures. Rossi looked set to take a hit in the points table, with Marquez and Iannone fighting over the scraps. Watching live on TV, you could be forgiven for thinking there were only four men racing out there, but between Marquez, Lorenzo, Rossi and Iannone, there was more than enough action with more than 50 passes between them, and even a dead seagull.
Lorenzo had it under control. At least, that’s what it looked like. Clearly, no one told Marc Marquez this. Entering the final lap, Marquez found another gear. He started that lap nearly a second behind Lorenzo. But in a brilliant display of high speed riding, set the races fastest lap – a lap nearly a second faster than any other rider – and made a lunge at Lorenzo entering the hairpin turn, three turns from the finish. He managed to hold his fellow Spaniard at bay to cross the line a mere 0.249 seconds in front.
A second covered the top four, with Iannone finishing ahead of a hard charging Rossi.
Words can not describe how intense the battle was. Racing like this is rarely seen in Moto GP, and rarely seen at speeds like we saw. In the end, Rossi walks away with an 11 point lead over Lorenzo, Marquez sits a further 63 a drift, but not for a lack of late season trying.
Two rounds remain – Malaysia and Valencia – before we crown the champ. Picking it will be harder to pick than a broken nose, but if racing is as exciting as it was in Australia, I am more than okay with that.