Vinales Continues Pre-Season Form

Maverick Vinales is looking in top form ahead of the start of the 2017 MotoGP season. The Spaniard, who replaced Jorge Lorenzo at the factory Yamaha team, has topped the time sheets again after the three day test at Phillip Island.

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Vinales has now topped every test since his move to Yamaha (Valencia, the private test at Sepang, the Official Sepang test, and Phillip Island). Image: crash.net

Vinales was one of only two riders to record a lap time in the 1:28s, with world champion Marc Marquez also breaking the barrier. However it was the former Suzuki man that won out, topping the charts on both the second and third days and finishing 0.294s clear of the Repsol Honda rider.

It was a good test for Honda, as Dani Pedrosa, who missed the majority of day two due to a throat infection, finished third overall, and Cal Crutchlow was fifth. The LCR man was on form throughout the weekend, with a third place on day two and two fifth places.

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Jonas Folger finished the test as top rookie, less than half a second behind Vinales. Image: Motorsport.com

Rookies Jonas Folger and Alex Rins offered up some very promising performances, with Folger managing to shoot up to fourth on the final day. Rins managed to recover from a poor first day to best his Suzuki teammate Andrea Iannone, who struggled after a strong first day. The top rookie from the Sepang test, Johann Zarco, struggled in Australia, only recording a 1:29.67, putting him in fifteenth.

The title this year may be a two horse race between Marquez and Vinales. Valentino Rossi only finished in the middle of the pack, 0.921s behind his teammate. The Ducatis were improving though, as Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo finished seventh and eighth respectively.

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The KTM team unveiled their 2017 livery after the Australian test. Image: crash.net

It was a miserable test for the other Brits, as Bradley Smith, Scott Redding and Sam Lowes occupied three of the bottom four places. Smith and Pol Espargaro both showed signs of improvement on their KTMs, finishing half a second closer to the leader than they did at Sepang. Sam Lowes also improved on his Aprilia, despite not breaking the 1 minute 30 barrier, as he was 0.3 seconds closer to Vinales.

The final MotoGP test will be at Losail, Qatar, from the 10-12 March, with the season kicking off at the same track on 26 March.

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Crutchlow takes win down under

Cal Crutchlow took his second victory of the season with a dominant victory at Phillip Island. Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales completed the podium, whilst recently crowned champion Marc Marquez crashed out of first place on lap 10.

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Cal Crutchlow’s victory was his second of the season, and his first win in the dry. Image: Crash.net

The Brit had started second on the grid, but found himself being swallowed up off the line. He worked his way forward through the pack to trail Marquez before the Spaniard slid out at Honda corner. Crutchlow extended his lead over Valentino Rossi to over four seconds to take his first premier class victory in the dry.

Rossi coasted to a second place having started down in 15th, keeping well clear of the scrap behind him. Maverick Vinales tussled with his team mate and Andrea Dovizioso for third, a scrap that saw Aleix Espargaro crash out. Pol Espargaro faded after a strong start, and Jorge Lorenzo rounded off the top six.

It was a good day all round for the British riders, as Scott Redding and Bradley Smith, on his second race back from injury, finished seventh and eighth. Home rider Jack Miller finished tenth, having tussled with Nicky Hayden, who was standing in for the injured Dani Pedrosa.

Thomas Luthi took the victory in Moto2, taking him to second place in the championship, 22 points behind Johann Zarco with two rounds to go. Sam Lowes crashed out early on and Danny Kent also failed to finish. Brad Binder continued his domination of the Moto3 class with his sixth win of the season. The race had been red-flagged due to a huge multi-rider accident involving John McPhee.


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Marquez in thrilling finish down under

Marc Marquez finished the Australian Grand Prix for the first time in some style, producing a masterful final lap to take the victory. The Spaniard went in to the last lap in fourth, but produced a lap record to pip title hopeful Jorge Lorenzo to the win. Andrea Iannone completed the podium after winning out over title leader Valentino Rossi.

Source: crash.net

Source: crash.net

Although Marquez started on pole, it was Lorenzo that set the early pace.It soon began to develop in to a four way race, with the leaders interchanging throughout. Marquez passed Lorenzo through Honda corner, and the number 99 almost slipped another place, but Iannone ran wide after blasting past on the home straight. The reigning champion was unable to escape his fellow leaders though, with Lorenzo passing him, then Rossi and Iannone both lunging down his inside on the same corner. On the final lap, Marquez passed Rossi at the beginning of the lap, before passing Iannone at Doohan. The Italian fought straight back but in doing so left the door open for Marquez to slip straight past him. As Marquez chased down Lorenzo, Rossi slipped up the inside of Iannone, just doing enough to prevent the Ducati man from biting straight back. Marquez made his move with just two corners left, holding a tight line through the hairpin. Luckily for Lorenzo, Iannone also passed Rossi at the same corner, meaning that the Spaniard’s championship hopes are still alive.

Dani Pedrosa finished fifth, with Maverick Vinales sixth and Cal Crutchlow finishing as the top Brit in seventh. Bradley Smith continued his run of scoring points in every race this season with a tenth, just ahead of Scott Redding. Jack Miller was the top Open class rider in fifteenth.

Marquez's win was his 50th Grand Prix victory. Source: twitter (marcmarquez93)

Marquez’s win was his 50th Grand Prix victory. Source: twitter (marcmarquez93)

With those 20 points, Jorge Lorenzo has now cut Valentino Rossi’s championship lead to just 11 points with two races remaining. The win for Marquez all but secures his third place, whilst Bradley Smith is still within touching distance of fifth placed Dani Pedrosa despite his tenth place at Phillip Island.

In Moto3, Danny Kent will have to wait to seal his title after he was taken out in spectacular fashion by his main title rival Enea Bastianini. Miguel Oliveira won the race to leapfrog Bastianini in the championship, 40 points behind Kent. It seemed almost inevitable that things would not go for the Brit this weekend, having been relegated to seventh from pole for slow riding in the warm-up, and being clipped already by Francesco Bagnaia before Bastianini ended his race. Alex Rins was the clear winner in Moto2, with Brit Sam Lowes keeping his hopes of reaching third in the championship alive with a second place.