Cal Crutchlow won his second MotoGP race of the season (and career) in dominant fashion after Marc Marquez crashed out of the lead at the Phillip Island track on Sunday. Crutchlow grabbed the front for good with 18 laps remaining when the reigning World Champion lowsided on tricky Turn 4 while holding a sizeable lead.
Valentino Rossi, who started 15th on the grid after his worst qualifying session in five years, seized a distant second after slicing through the field but lacking the speed to close the gap on the eventual race winner. Maverick Vinales, who also began on the fifth row with Rossi, took a hard-fought third place after a race-long battle with Aleix Espargaro (who crashed with five laps remaining) and Andrea Dovizioso (4th).
Crutchlow's impressive win -- he led by more than six seconds at one point -- moved him into sixth in the world championship with two races remaining.
Pol Espargaro, who started second on the grid, finished fifth, nearly six seconds in front of Jorge Lorenzo (6th) who qualified in 12th. Scott Redding survived a fierce, race-long, mid-pack, five-rider battle to take seventh just in front of Bradley Smith (8th), Danilo Petrucci (9th) and Jack Miller (10th). Replacement rider and former World Champion Nickey Hayden also was in the thick of the battle but went down late in the race after a collision with Miller. He crashed and remounted to finish 17th.
The race began with a surprising holeshot by Pol Espargaro who charged into the first corner and led by three bike lengths. But newly crowned 2016 champion Marquez began closing the gap immediately and seized the lead at Turn 4. By the end of the first lap, Marquez had a half-second gap to Pol Espargaro in second and Cal Crutchlow in third.
At the back of the pack, Rossi and Vinales wasted little time in starting their charge. With 25 laps to go, Rossi had moved into 10th. A lap later, he had pushed into seventh. At the front, Crutchlow took second from Pol Espargaro only to lose it briefly to Aleix Espargaro who was still in the lead group. Marquez, however, was out front and running laps nearly a second faster than the other riders. He began to open a lead.
Now in sixth, Rossi began matching Marquez's pace and with 21 laps to go, he set what was at the time the fastest lap of the contest. He passed Pol Espargaro and closed on Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Dovizioso. With 18 laps to go, Rossi passed Dovizioso for third place. At the front, both Marquez and Crutchlow began running laps in the 1'29s. But Marquez pushed too hard in the same corner where he took the race lead and the front end folded. His Repsol Honda cartwheeled through the gravel and out of the race -- the second time in three years he has crashed out of the lead at the Australian track.
Now in first, Crutchlow maintained his torrid pace. Rossi, charging in second, set his sights on Crutchlow. Right away, he took a tenth out of his lead.
And then Crutchlow dropped the hammer.
With 17 laps to go, Crutchlow opened a gap of 1.8 seconds. Four laps later, the gap had grown to 2.8 seconds. Two laps after that, it was 4 seconds. Having no response, Rossi settled into protecting second place, maintaining his two-second gap to the three-rider fight for third. Vinales, Dovizioso and Aleix Espargaro swapped positions. Then with five laps to go and with Vinales hot on his tail, Aleix Espargaro crashed, handing his Suzuki teammate third place.
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Bike||Time / Diff.|
|8||Hector BARBERA||Ducati||3 Laps|
|41||Aleix ESPARGARO||Suzuki||5 Laps|
|93||Marc MARQUEZ||Honda||18 Laps|
|76||Loris BAZ||Ducati||0 Lap|