Features 20 Oct 2022

Top 10: Australian MotoGP moments

Breaking down an action-packed weekend at Phillip Island 2022.

With a thrilling Anamoca Brands Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in the books, there are a number of key developments, storylines and achievements to be reflected upon from the 2022 MotoGP World Championship’s 18th round last weekend. CycleOnline looks at the Top 10 moments that emerged as the series made its return to Phillip Island for the first time in three years.

Image: Supplied.

1. Rins and Team Suzuki Ecstar rise:
Starting from P10 on the grid and having not won a race in nearly two years, Alex Rins’ thrilling Phillip Island victory certainly came as a surprise of sorts to many. The Spaniard moved his way through to the front of the leading battle royale and saved his rear tyre for when win it counted to execute a near-perfect last lap and secure the win – his first since Aragon 2020. With Suzuki withdrawing from MotoGP at the end of the year, it was clear the extra sentiment that achievement held for those within the team.

2. Miller Corner:
The iconic turn four at the Phillip Island Circuit was renamed Jack ‘Miller Corner’ as a tribute to the Australian MotoGP contender, with an official ceremony held at the venue on Saturday. Eager to deliver a strong result in front of the home crowd, the number 43 didn’t have the best of opening laps from P8 on the grid but regrouped and began to move his way towards the front. The Ducati Lenovo Team rider ran as high as third before being shuffled back to fifth in the battle for the leading positions. It was on lap nine when disaster struck and he was hit heavily by Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) who entered the fourth corner too hot and brought a premature end to both riders races. It was a brutal outcome for Miller who was brought down at his own turn heavily, but fortunately, the Australian was physically ‘alright’ as he now targets third in the championship entering the final two races of the 2022 season.

3. Disaster strikes Quartararo as Bagnaia strikes:
What was a once a 91-point deficit has turned into a 14-point championship lead for Ducati Lenovo Team’s Francesco Bagnaia following the Italian’s P3 at the Australian MotoGP and another disastrous race for Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). The reigning MotoGP World champion experienced drama at turn four when he got crossed up under brakes and ran off the track on lap five, dropping him back to P20 after being with the lead group. In an attempt to regain lost ground, Quartararo crashed at turn two later in the race, marking his third zero-points haul in the last four races.

4. Back on track for Marquez:
Eight-time world champion Marc Marquez continues to look more like his old self on the bike since his latest operation, and Phillip Island was no exception. Despite Marquez’s injured arm being on the right side and Phillip Island having a greater amount of left corners, the number 93 pulled off a miraculous save as he turned right through ‘MG ‘in qualifying. The 27-lap Australian MotoGP saw the Repsol Honda rider make the most of the soft rear tyre and fight his way to P2, marking his first podium since the latest operation. Showing improvement at every GP, it’s clear Marquez is building to become a title challenger once more for 2023.

5. Best lap of nine years beat by Martin:
Prima Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin set an all-time MotoGP lap record on his way to pole position at Phillip Island, stopping the clock at a blistering 1m27.767s to beat Jorge Lorenzo’s benchmark set back in 2013 by 0.132s. It was a spectacular effort from the Spaniard, and with the top-five all qualifying in the 1m27s bracket it demonstrates how intense the current level of rider and bikes are. The MotoGP all-time record wasn’t the only one to be broken at the 4.45km circuit, with Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) lowering the Moto3 standard to a 1m35.840s and Fermin Aldeguer (Beta Tools Speed Up) setting a new time to beat in Moto2 courtesy of a 1m32.233s.

Image: Supplied.

6. Guevara convincingly claims Moto3 crown: 
Gaviota GasGas Aspar rider Izan Guevara claimed the 2022 Moto3 World Championship in the most convincing fashion, taking victory in a thrilling Phillip Island lightweight class encounter. An eight-rider battle broke away at the front of the race in the early stages, including home hero Joel Kelso (CIP Green Power) who charged forwards from the fifth row. With 15 laps to go Guevara and teammate Sergio Garcia began to stretch away, but Deniz Oncu (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and pole-setter Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) were able to claw them back in, making it a four-rider battle for the lead. The leading quartet swapped places multiple times in the remaining laps, but Guevara returned to the front early in the final lap and maintained to take the chequered flag – his sixth victory of the season on his way to taking the title. The talented Spaniard will certainly be one to watch next season as he graduates to Moto2 with the Aspar outfit.

7. Season-best P8 for Kelso:
Australian Moto3 World Championship rookie Joel Kelso achieved a career-best Moto3 World Championship result with P8 at Phillip Island after a gutsy charge from the fifth row of the grid. The CIP Green Power rider wasted no time finding his way inside the top 10 from 14th and did what he needed to get away with the leading group. As the race entered its second half, the front-running quartet broke away but Kelso held his own in the second group which ultimately was a four-way battle for fifth, and took the chequered flag less than two-tenths away from a top-five position.

8. Gardner closes gap to the front:
While a P15 in Australia may seem like nothing to write home about, Phillip Island was in many respects one of Remy Gardner’s strongest races of the year. In potentially his only MotoGP outing at home, Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) made a great start to the 27-lap outing and gained nine positions to run inside the top 10 as the race approached its halfway point. The Australian suffered with tyre degradation in the closing laps and ultimately dropped to P15, but nonetheless, delivered a solid ride and the 19.470s deficit to race winner Rins was five seconds closer to the lead than he has been all season come race-end.

9. Long lap to victory Lopez masterpiece:
Displaying unrivalled pace, Beta Tools Speed Up’s Alonso Lopez overcame a long lap penalty to take a dominant Moto2 win at the Australian GP. Lopez wasted no time in stretching out an advantage at the front of the field, and by the time he served the long lap at Miller Corner on lap four he already had a 2.8-second lead. The number 21 rejoined at the front and was unchallenged as he managed to the race to secure his second win of the season. 

10. Biggest crowd at Phillip Island in 10 years:
It’s fair to say Australia was starved of MotoGP action following the championship’s two-year absence from Phillip Island due to coronavirus. The action certainly did not disappoint as the world’s best returned to Victoria, with an estimated spectator attendance of more than 91,000 across the three days – the largest crowd since two-time MotoGP World champion Casey Stoner last raced on home soil back in 2012.