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Suzuki back on the top step of the podium in a thriller as Bagnaia takes over the Championship lead

Alex Rins has seized victory in an Animoca Brands Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix which will go down as one of the all-time great MotoGP™ races. Not only did the Spaniard perhaps give Team Suzuki Ecstar one last win before the Hamamatsu marque sadly leaves us at season’s end, a crash for Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) gifted the World Championship leader to Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) with just two races left in 2022. Still, it could have been even worse for the Frenchman considering Bagnaia led a topsy-turvy encounter at the start of the final lap only to be passed by both Rins and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), the latter of whom scored a 100th MotoGP™ podium by finishing second at Phillip Island.

After heavy rain in the Warm Up, the skies were sunny and the circuit dry ahead of lights out for the 27-lap race. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) got the holeshot from pole position and Marquez took up second from the same position on the middle of the front row. Bagnaia, who had also qualified on the front row, did not make a good start but was back up to third after he followed Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) past Quartararo and then himself passed Espargaro.

Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) was one to watch in the early stages, emerging eighth at the end of the standing lap before passing Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) at Miller Corner (Turn 4) and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) at ‘MG’ (Turn 10), as the top two of Martin and Marc Marquez enjoyed a lead of almost one full second. Miller overtook Quartararo for fifth and Espargaro for fourth on Lap 3, then saw off the latter when he tried to reclaim that position at Southern Loop (Turn 2) on Lap 4.

Quartararo had already been relegated to seventh by Marini when it got a whole lot worse for ‘El Diablo’, who made a mistake under braking and ran off at Miller Corner on Lap 4, dropping to 22nd. Miller’s charge continued when he got by on Bagnaia, at his second attempt, for third at MG on Lap 5, but Pecco got the place back at the start of the following tour.

Meanwhile, Rins, who qualified 10th, was also on the rise and moved into the top five when he went under Espargaro at Southern Loop on Lap 6. In fact, he would gain a position at Turn 2 on three consecutive laps, getting by Miller for fourth and then Bagnaia for third, at which time the top two were still about eight tenths of a second up the road.

Miller gets taken out and Quartararo makes an even bigger mistake

For Miller, however, the tide was starting to turn as ‘Thriller’ lost fourth to Espargaro and fifth to Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) at the start of Lap 9. He was out of the race completely just two turns later at the corner which now bears his name when Alex Marquez got it all crossed up under brakes and clattered into the factory Ducati from two bikes back – a nasty-looking collision but thankfully one which both were able to walk away from.

On the other factory Ducati, Bagnaia made an unsuccessful attempt to re-pass Rins at Doohan Corner on Lap 10, by which time they had caught Martin and Marc Marquez. Rins, however, was able to put a move on MM93 for second place at Doohan Corner a lap later, as Bezzecchi kept himself in the hunt with a pass on Espargaro for fifth.

Quartararo had not long got himself back into the points-paying positions when disaster struck, the Frenchman tucking the front of his YZR-M1 at Southern Loop and crashing out of the contest on Lap 11. Up front, the lead changed for the first time when Rins went underneath Martin at Stoner Corner (Turn 3) on Lap 14, before Bagnaia vaulted from fourth to second with a double pass just down the road at Miller Corner, with Martin all the way back to fifth once Bezzecchi went down his inside at MG – after starting that lap in P1!



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