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As announced yesterday, the Australian Grand Prix would take place on Saturday, rather than Sunday, because of threatening weather reports for the last day of action at Phillip Island. The Sprint has not been cancelled though, as it will take place on Sunday instead.
MotoGP Phillip Island 2023 race: The battle for the win
After qualifying, the front row was made up of Jorge Martin, Brad Binder and Francesco Bagnaia and, on a rare occurrence, the order did not change at all between the top three. Small gaps emerged between them straight away, but Bagnaia had a battle against Jack Miller on the first lap which cost him time.
Fabio Di Giannantonio was also in the mix, climbing up to third by the third lap, as the home hero started dropping back. The Gresini rider also pulled one second away from the championship leader, who did not have the pace early on.
The race stabilised for the next few laps, so at the halfway stage the situation was like this: Martin was 2.5 seconds ahead of Binder, with Di Giannantonio one second behind and Bagnaia one more second back and Johann Zarco on his tail. At that point we got our first retirements of the race, as Joan Mir and Augusto Fernandez fell in separate crashes.
Bagnaia started to come back at the two riders ahead of him. Di Giannantonio put Binder under a lot of pressure and he finally made the move stick with nine laps remaining, setting after Martin. Four laps later, the KTM rider regained his position, but Martin was losing pace because of his soft tyre.
And then the battle took a massive twist! Zarco overtook both Bagnaia and Di Giannantonio and Binder was his next target. With two laps to go, he made an aggressive move on the South African, who dropped to fifth as a result. The Frenchman was up against his teammate and the gap was over a second with one and a half laps to go, but Martin was out of tyres!
Zarco closed the gap in less than a lap and made a commanding move on his teammate, who was a sitting duck. Despite looking he would run wide, the Frenchman had everything under control. Martin in the meantime, could do nothing to fight the pack behind. Significantly, Bagnaia made his way up to second, followed by Di Giannantonio.
MotoGP Phillip Island 2023 race: The results
Amazingly, improbably, Johann Zarco took his maiden MotoGP victory! It came in his seventh season in the premier class and his 120th race. The former Moto2 World Champion stunned the paddock and he celebrated in style!
JO-JO! The back flip returns! 🙌
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) October 21, 2023
In the meantime, Francesco Bagnaia is perhaps the happiest he will ever be to finish second. Having spent almost all of the race outside the podium places, while his title rival was leading, the Italian comes out of the Australian GP with a 27-point lead in the standings, a huge achievement.
Another delighted rider will be Fabio Di Giannantonio. Having spent most of his first season and a half struggling for pace and top 10 finishes, he has achieved his first podium. Thankfully for him, it comes at a brilliant time, as he is looking to salvage his MotoGP career and stay in the championship.
Brad Binder overtook Jorge Martin at the exit of the final corner, but both will feel bitter with the result. The former had a really good shot at victory, while the second’s championship bid has taken a real hit.
Behind them, there was a brilliant battle for sixth, which was raging for the entirety of the race. Eventually, Marco Bezzecchi came out on top, ahead of Jack Miller, Aleix Espargaro and Alex Marquez. Marc Marquez was also battle of it for a good part of the race, but he dropped all the way back to fifteenth and scored one point.
Behind the younger of two brothers came Enea Bastianini, Maverick Vinales, Luca Marini, Miguel Oliveira and Fabio Quartararo, the latter of whom made a late recovery after spending most of the race down in nineteenth.
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