PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia — Maverick Vinales ended his and Yamaha’s lengthy droughts when he won the Australian MotoGP Sunday as newly-crowned world champion Marc Marquez failed to finish after starting from pole for the fifth straight year.
Vinales started in second place on the grid after finishing 0.3 second behind Marquez in qualifying and was able to control the race after Marquez came into contact with Johann Zarco on the 22nd lap.
He overcame a poor start to lead by more than four seconds before easing down to win by 1.54 seconds from Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso, who helped Ducati narrow Honda’s lead in the constructor’s championship.
Yamaha had gone without a win in 25 races since Valentino Rossi won the Dutch GP last June, the longest winless streak in its history. Vinales, who has now reached the podium in Australia in three-straight years, had not won in 29 races since Le Mans last year.
Marquez retains an unassailable 86 point lead over Dovizioso on world championship standings while Valentino Rossi is 15 points back in third place and Vinales a further 15 points behind in fourth.
The Spanish world champ was involved in a frightening incident with Zarco on lap 22 when the Frenchman clipped his rear wheel and crashed heavily. Marquez kept control but his Honda suffered heavy damage to its rear suspension and he couldn’t continue.
Vinales had been in 10th place when the incident occurred and managed to stay out of trouble, seizing the lead in the second half of the race.
“It feels amazing,” Vinales said. “Honestly, it’s been so difficult here for me.
“I couldn’t realize that I won but the bike was perfect today and I just pushed my best. The team provided me a bike to win. That’s the target and for sure when I crossed the line there were only tears on my face.”
KTM rider Brad Binder of South Africa held on to win the MotoGP race by 0.036s from Spain’s Joan Mir, posting his third win of the season. Xavi Vierge was third.
Italy’s Francesco Bagnaia had a chance to clinch the world championship after his win in Japan last week but could only manage 12th, keeping the title race alive ahead of next weekend’s round in Malaysia. His closest rival, Miguel Oliveira, finished 10th, cutting Bagnaia’s title lead to 36 points.
“It was an insane race … I felt like I was back in Moto3,” Binder said. “I got quite a good start … then I decided to sit in the group and try to save something for the end.
“I was just trying to stay out of trouble really. There were a few hairy moments there.”
Spain’s Albert Arenas won the Moto3 race in a blanket finish in which only one second separated the first 14 riders.
Arenas took the lead at the start of a frantic final lap and held on for the second win of his career from Fario Di Giannantonio and 17-year-old Celestino Vietti, riding in only his second race.
The eventful 23-lap race saw seven of 27 riders crash, notably championship contender Marco Bezzecchi.
Bezzecchi started the race from 15th place on the grid but in second place on championship standings, a point behind Spanish star Jorge Martin. He worked his way into the lead and into virtual first place in the championship before being taken out with 12 laps to go in a collision with Gabriel Rodrigo.
Martin survived the chaos to finish fifth, increasing his championship lead to 12 points with two rounds remaining.