Jorge Lorenzo roared straight back into championship contention with victory in a bizarre Australian Grand Prix. The reigning champion claimed maximum points but Marc Marquez, who could have clinched the title had results gone his way, instead got himself black flagged for pitting outside the designated window. As a result, the top two are now separated by eighteen points with two races to go.
The race distance had already been shortened yesterday due to concerns over the durability of the Bridgestone tyres but when those fears were exacerbated in morning warm-up, the Grand Prix was slashed again to nineteen laps with riders forced to pit no later than lap ten.
Typically, Lorenzo made a blistering start to grab the holeshot as the Repsol Hondas squabbled behind over second but Bradley Smith was the big mover, swooping around the outside of Valentino Rossi at Doohan corner to take fourth. The factory Yamaha soon regained the advantage at MG and when Alvaro Bautista and Cal Crutchlow followed through, the British rookie was consigned to a lonely race in seventh.
Riders were forced to switch motorcycles on either lap nine or ten and Pedrosa opted for the former, a decision also taken by Bautista and Smith while Lorenzo and Marquez stayed out to remain on the same strategy as one another, or so we thought. Jorge dived into the pitlane at the end of lap ten but strangely, Marquez failed to follow him in and moved into the lead of the Grand Prix. Bryan Staring had made the same mistake on his CRT FTR-Honda and suddenly found himself running second.
At the end of lap eleven, Marquez finally switched to his second motorcycle but the extra lap wasn’t enough to jump Lorenzo as the Yamaha rider barged through at Doohan, making contact with the right arm of Marquez as he attempted to blend back in. Any pain the rookie may have been suffering won’t have been helped by the sight of black flag with no.93 beside it when he crossed the line to start lap fifteen. His error had caught up with him and the championship party would have to be put on hold. If that didn’t annoy the home crowd, identical penalties for both Australian riders certainly did the trick with Staring and Damian Cudlin also black flagged.
Pedrosa had made a mistake of his own on the way out of the pitlane, crossing the white line that prevents the riders from cutting straight onto the racing line, and race direction ordered him to drop a place, a drastically different penalty to his teammate. Ironically, Marquez’s tap from Lorenzo played into Pedrosa’s hands and because Dani had sneaked through, all he had to do was cede to his teammate again who was a lap away from disqualification anyway.
Through all the mayhem, Lorenzo kept his cool and his final test would come on the final lap as rain began to fall for the first time all weekend. Jorge kept his Yamaha upright though and crossed the line to win one of the most farcical races in recent memory. Pedrosa kept his own title hopes alive, mathematically at least, in second while Valentino Rossi held off a last lap challenge from Crutchlow and Bautista to take his place on the podium.
The disqualification of Marquez promoted Bradley Smith to sixth ahead of a trio of Ducatis, led by Nicky Hayden ahead of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone while Randy de Puniet was the first CRT rider home in tenth. Aleix Espargaro followed his Aspar teammate home in eleventh though and now can’t be caught in that particular mini-championship.