Alex Rins wins MotoGP Australian Grand Prix; Francesco Bagnaia takes championship lead
A thrilling last lap pass on Francesco Bagnaia gave Alex Rins his fourth MotoGP win in the Australian Grand Prix and his first victory since the 2020 Aragon GP. Marc Marquez rode in Rins’ wake to finish second, pushing the title contender to third. For Marquez, who returned to action only four rounds ago in the Aragon GP, it was his 139th career podium finish - the fifth most in the league.
“It’s amazing to go out with a victory,” Rins said on NBC Sports after the race, referencing the impending departure of Suzuki from the series.
The top three finishers crossed under the checkers less than 3/10ths of a second apart.
Disappointed by failing to win, Bagnaia would have left the Australian Grand Prix with a 23-point advantage and could have clinched the championship in Malaysia with another victory. Falling from first to third, he lost nine points in the process.
Still, Bagnaia entered the race two points behind Fabio Quartararo and gained significant ground in the title chase when that Quartararo crashed on Lap 11 of the 27-lap affair.
Starting from the pole, Jorge Martin got the holeshot as Marquez and the three title contenders, Bagnaia, Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro also leapt from the grid at the front. Bagnaia lost a couple of positions in the first couple of turns, but by the end of Lap 1, he was back in third.
At the end of Lap 1, Bagnaia had a three-point lead in the championship battle, and would hold the advantage for the remainder of the race.
Quartararo was already slipping back through the pack before disaster struck. He fell the seventh in the first four laps before running wide under heavy braking in Turn 4. The mistake dropped him out of the points and back to 22nd, but he still had the potential to ride forward.
Meanwhile, Rins was moving forward from his 10th-place qualification effort. He was inside the to five by Lap 6 and steadily passed riders. Turn 2 was his hot zone as he made passes for position there in three consecutive laps.
Quartararo had just climbed back into the points, running 15th, when he tucked his front wheel in the Southern Loop less than halfway through the race. For the third time in the last four rounds, he failed to score any points. This was the same corner in which Quartararo crashed in 2019, the last time the MotoGP Australian Grand Prix was run before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Up front, Bagnaia was climbing into second and his sight set on maximum points for first. On Lap 15, the new points’ leader assumed the lead.
In a seesaw battle, Rins fell to fourth in the closing laps before surging forward once more. On the final lap, Bagnaia led Marquez and Rins until a bold move in Stoner Corner reversed the order.
Bagnaia erased his two-point deficit to Quartararo and leaves Australia with a 14-point lead. Quartararo has held the points lead since Round 5 at Portimão early in the season.
Espargaro finished ninth and is 27 points out of the lead.
Pole sitter Martin faded to seventh at the end.
Marco Bezzecchi in fourth and Enea Bastianini rounded out the top five. With a 42-point deficit, Bastianini remains in title contention, but he will need a lot of help in the final two rounds.
Hoping for a strong run in front of his home crowd, Jack Miller was crashed by Alex Marquez on Lap 9 in Turn 4, which was renamed “Miller Corner” only one day previously.
In Moto 2, Alonzo Lopez beat Pedro Acosta to the line by more than 3.5 seconds with Great Britain’s Jake Dixon rounding out the podium.
The points leader entering the race, Augusto Fernandez crashed early in the race while running third. Ai Ogura assumed the top spot despite a modest finish of 11th.
In seventh, Cameron Beaubier was the highest-finishing American rider.