MotoGP World Championship GP 2014 – Round 16: Australia – October 19, 2014
Hondas Suffer in Treacherous Race of Attrition
One week after championship triumph at Honda’s home circuit of Motegi, treacherous conditions brought disappointment to the factory Repsol Honda Team RC213V riders, neither of whom finished in the Australian Grand Prix.
Out of 23 starters, nine didn’t make the finish – an attrition rate of almost 40 percent in dry but rapidly cooling conditions that undermined tyre choices and brought dreams crashing to earth. Both factory-backed Honda riders were in that number, along with satellite rider Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V). It was the first time since the Portuguese Grand Prix in 2010 that the Repsol Honda team has suffered a double DNF.
New double World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) had built up a significant lead of almost five seconds after 18 of 27 laps of the scenic seaside Phillip Island circuit. Braking on the downhill approach to a tight corner the front wheel suddenly locked and tucked under, and he fell unhurt.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) had already fallen innocent victim to another rider’s error. The former 125cc and double 250cc champion was caught up in a tight pursuit pack after only five laps when a crashing Andrea Iannone (Ducati) slammed into him from behind. Pedrosa retained control, but his bike was too badly damaged by the impact to continue, and he had to pull into the pits to retire with a buckled back wheel.
A number of other riders crashed for the same reason as Marquez, as before the race the wind direction switched from a warm land breeze to an icy blast off the freezing Bass Strait adjacent to the circuit. Track temperature continued to fall through the race, playing badly against the special hard-construction high-endurance tyres. Bridgestone had made them especially for this circuit, after catastrophically high wear rates last year forced the race to be cut into two halves.
The race was won by veteran multi-champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha), with his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo a fading second, inheriting the position only after Cal Crutchlow (Ducati) had a similar crash under braking on the final lap.
The result makes no difference to Marquez’s championship: he was already unassailable, after winning eleven of the first 12 races. But with two rounds remaining, it does mean he will have to wait for another chance to equal former Honda serial champion Mick Doohan’s record of 12 wins in a single season.
But a zero score was costly for Pedrosa, who has held second overall for most of the season, in spite of requiring surgery at the start of the European season after suffering arm-pump problems. Now both Rossi and Lorenzo have overtaken his points score.
It also means Honda will have to wait for the chance to secure the constructors’ championship. The points lead is 45, with a maximum of 50 to be won over the last two races – a strong but not yet unassailable advantage.
The top-scoring Honda was the fourth RC213V rider Alvaro Bautista (GO & FUN Honda Gresini RC213V), who came through on the last lap to lead his team-mate Scott Redding over the line by four thousands of a second, a matter of inches, for sixth place. Redding races the production-racer version of the class-leading RC213V – the RCV1000R, built for this year’s new Open category rules. Seventh equalled the youngest-ever grand prix winner’s season best, in his first year in the premier class.
A second of these close replicas of the class-leading V4 MotoGP prototype was eighth, with former 250cc champion Hiroshi Aoyama (Drive M7 Aspar RCV1000R) heading a close trio over the line within less than a second. Second Drive M7 Aspar RCV1000R rider Nicky Hayden was tenth. Hayden, Honda’s 2006 World Champion, is in his third race back after missing four rounds following radical surgery to his right wrist in the summer break.
Czech law graduate Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) was an early casualty, falling out on the fifth lap after climbing from 23rd to 18th.
All competitors in Moto2 are powered by Honda, with the series organisers providing identical race-tuned CBR600 engines, to guarantee close and reliable racing. The race fulfilled that goal, in a fierce front-running battle, with championship positions as well as race results at stake. Four different riders led at various stages, eventually crossing the line within less than two seconds; the fifth was no further behind.
A third win of the year for class rookie Maverick Vinales (Paginas Amarillas HP 40 Kalex) kept the championship open for at least one more race, and preserved the Spanish reigning Moto3 champion’s own mathematical chances of moving up to second overall.
Second place for Swiss former 125cc World Champion Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Sitag Suter) also upset the odds. Luthi, winner of the last round in Japan, crossed the line two tenths ahead of title leader Tito Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex). Rabat had the chance of securing his first crown at this race, after taking a Moto2 record 12th pole position, but now will have to wait longer.
His closest rival is team-mate Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Kalex), who led the first eight laps of the 24-lap race, and then again a few laps later. He had taken benefit when Rabat ran wide at the hairpin more than once; but then made the same mistake himself, to finish a close fourth.
Reigning World Supersport champion Sam Lowes (Speed Up) was a fifth member of the front group and a strong candidate for the rostrum until the closing laps. He was still only 1.5 seconds behind Kallio in fifth, his best result so far in his first grand prix year.
Rabat extended his points lead over Kallio by three points, and now has a advantage of 41, with two rounds remaining and 50 points available; while Vinales closed to within 20 points of Kallio. At the same time, Luthi took over fourth overall from German Grand Prix winner Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert Suter), who was eighth.
Almost ten seconds behind the leading group, former Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex) came through to take sixth place, less than a tenth ahead of fellow-German Marcel Schrotter (Tech 3).
A similar distance behind Aegerter, Xavier Simeon (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Suter) and Jordi Torres (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2 Suter) completed the top ten, at the head of a fiercely close group.
In Moto3, six Honda riders are up against rival machines from KTM and Mahindra, and two races ago Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda) took over the championship lead from Australian Jack Miller (KTM).
Miller narrowly won the race from Marquez, cutting the title lead of the younger brother of MotoGP champion Marc to 20 points, and keeping interest in this closest title battle at fever pitch.
Second Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Rins was almost alongside in third, himself still a mathematical title candidate. Three more of the new-this-year Honda NSF250RW machines made up the rest of a six-strong lead group that flashed across the line within just 0.242 seconds.
Efren Vazquez and SaxoPrint-RTG Honda team-mate John McPhee were fourth and fifth; and Ongetta-Rivacold Honda’s veteran French rider Alexis Masbou sixth. The sixth Honda, ridden by Malaysian Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia Honda), crashed out on the second lap.
MotoGP World Championship GP – Round 16: Australia
|1||Valentino ROSSI (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)||F|
|2||Jorge LORENZO (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)||F|
|3||Bradley SMITH (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)||F|
|4||Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)||F|
|5||Hector BARBERA (Avintia Racing)||O|
|6||Alvaro BAUTISTA (GO & FUN Honda Gresini)||F|
|7||Scott REDDING (GO & FUN Honda Gresini)||O|
|8||Hiroshi AOYAMA (Drive M7 Aspar)||O|
|9||Alex DE ANGELIS (NGM Forward Racing)||O|
|10||Nicky HAYDEN (Drive M7 Aspar)||O|
|11||Yonny HERNANDEZ (Energy T.I. Pramac Racing)||F|
|12||Danilo PETRUCCI (Octo IodaRacing Team)||O|
|13||Michael LAVERTY (Paul Bird Motorsport)||O|
|14||Mike Di MEGLIO (Avintia Racing)||O|
* F=Factory option, O=Open category
|1||Maverick VIÑALES (Paginas Amarillas HP 40)|
|2||Thomas LUTHI (Interwetten Sitag)|
|3||Esteve RABAT (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|4||Mika KALLIO (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|5||Sam LOWES (Speed Up)|
|6||Sandro CORTESE (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|7||Marcel SCHROTTER (Tech 3)|
|8||Dominique AEGERTER (Technomag carXpert)|
|9||Xavier SIMEON (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2)|
|10||Jordi TORRES (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2)|
|11||Takaaki NAKAGAMI (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)|
|12||Louis ROSSI (SAG Team)|
|13||Franco MORBIDELLI (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|14||Lorenzo BALDASSARRI (Gresini Moto2)|
|15||Jonas FOLGER (AGR Team)|
|1||Jack MILLER (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|2||Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|3||Alex RINS (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|4||Efren VAZQUEZ (SaxoPrint-RTG)|
|5||John MCPHEE (SaxoPrint-RTG)|
|6||Alexis MASBOU (Ongetta-Rivacold)|
|7||Miguel OLIVEIRA (Mahindra Racing)|
|8||Jakub KORNFEIL (Calvo Team)|
|9||Niklas AJO (Avant Tecno Husqvarna Ajo)|
|10||Niccolò ANTONELLI (Junior Team GO & FUN Moto3)|
|11||Francesco BAGNAIA (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|12||Jorge NAVARRO (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|13||Karel HANIKA (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|14||Alessandro TONUCCI (CIP)|
|15||Brad BINDER (Ambrogio Racing)|