MotoGP: Viñales pulls the pin at Phillip Island to end Yamaha’s win drought
The number 25, Maverick Viñales, ends Yamaha’s 25-race losing streak in style, Iannone takes second and Dovi third for his first Phillip Island podium in red
The drought is over. 25 races since their last win – taken by Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) at the TT Circuit Assen last season – Yamaha were back on the top step at the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix as Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) brought an end to their losing streak in imperious style. His first win since Le Mans 2017 saw him take the flag 1.5 seconds clear of second place Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar), with Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso taking his first podium for the Borgo Panigale factory at Phillip Island.
Maverick Viñales– This is the best feeling ever, honestly! We‘ve been in the dark all year, and suddenly we came into the light! I couldn‘t show my potential in the previous races, but today I could. Being first in Australia is always amazing! It‘s the best track ever, and I like to be at the front there. To win here and break this long none winning period of Yamaha is unbelievable! I was riding on the bike like I was in FP4. I got a really good feeling from the bike, so I knew I could maintain 1‘29s. That‘s what I did for most of the middle of the race. I tried to escape as far as I could, because I knew my tyre wasn‘t going to last until the end. I knew opening that gap would be difficult, I had some moments with some riders, and some shaking on the bike – I was struggling, but I still made it through anyway. It was amazing! I have to say ‘thank you’ to the team, because this weekend they worked for the win. We will try to be the best and we‘ll try to work in a good way. We don‘t want to lose the concentration, because we don‘t know what will happen in Malaysia, but for sure the level of motivation will be high after this weekend.
As the lights went out it was Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) who got a lightning launch from P8 to head around the outside and lead into Turn 1, but the Italian then ran off at Turn 2 to end his charge. However, fellow Alma Pramac Racing rider Jack Miller took advantage to take the lead of his home Grand Prix at Turn 4 – a rinse and repeat of 2017 for the Aussie.
Pole man Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) slotted in behind Miller with Iannone third, but heading into Turn 1 on Lap 2 it was all change: Marquez took over the reins of the freight train, with Dovi slotting into second, Iannone third and Miller pushed back to fourth. The swapping and changing at the front begun with the fast and sweeping Phillip Island circuit keeping the riders in close pursuit of each other. The racing was hard but fair under glorious clear skies.
Close then became too close for Marquez and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), however, as the duo headed into the braking zone at Turn 1 on Lap 6 and Zarco hit the back of the number 93, causing the Frenchman to lose control and crash at roughly 300kph. Zarco’s bike also severely damaged the back of Marquez’ Honda and subsequently, the 2018 Champion retired from the race. Thankfully, Zarco walked away from the incident uninjured.
This left Dovi leading from Miller and Iannone but then Viñales began to make his move. Starting P2, the Spaniard didn’t get a good getaway and was as low as tenth at one stage, but on Lap 8 he made what would turn out to be his race-winning overtake at Turn 4. Maverick then took off in true Top Gun style and within a lap had created a 0.8 second lead.
The number 25 was in the groove and looked like he was on rails around the Island. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was leading the chase before Iannone then took the baton, but the Suzuki man ran wide at Turn 4 and dropped to the back of the quartet. Alvaro Bautista (Ducati Team) was taking no prisoners on his one-off Ducati factory ride, with he and teammate Dovi also taking it in turns to try and reel in Viñales. But no matter who it was out of the four, no one could match the Spaniard’s superior pace – the gap was 1.9 seconds on Lap 13, and grew to four seconds by Lap 21.Rins got the better of Rossi on the final lap to claim a fourth consecutive top five finish; ‘The Doctor’ forced to settle for P6 after heading wide on the last lap. Miller would bring his Ducati home in a solid P7 and as the leading Independent Team rider – the Australian just 6.7 seconds from the win – with Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) earning his best result in the premier class so far in P8 to take charge in the Rookie of the Year Championship. Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) crashed out of the top on Lap 19 at Turn 4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was able to beat Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Bradley Smith by a whisker in two great results – with 0.036 separating the duo at the line in P9 and P10 respectively – despite the Spaniard getting hit in the hand by some debris following the Zarco-Marquez incident.
11th was Karel Abraham (Angel Nieto Team) in the Czech rider’s best result of the season, with Petrucci recovering to P12 at the flag. Scott Redding (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Xavier Simeon (Reale Avintia Racing) completed to points in P13, P14 and P15 respectively – the latter earning his first point-scoring finish of the season.
A fantastic and faultless ride from Viñales means Yamaha have won their first Grand Prix race in 490 days. Can this launch the Spaniard into an end of season onslaught for second in the Championship? Or will Rossi and Dovizioso hold him off? Next up is Malaysia and the last of the flyaway races to give us the penultimate piece of the 2018 puzzle.