RACE REPORT | MotoGP Australia 2023

After finishing as the runner-up a whopping eleven times, Johann Zarco finally achieved his long-awaited debut victory in a thrilling turn of events at the Australian Grand Prix. This remarkable triumph occurred in his 120th MotoGP race!

Jorge Martin, Zarco's teammate and a contender for the championship title, led for the majority of the race, except for the final lap. Unfortunately, Martin's gamble on soft tires backfired spectacularly, and he was overtaken by the pursuing pack. The reigning champion, Francesco Bagnaia, who had been in danger of losing his lead in the title race during the race, managed to extend his advantage by securing second place. In the meantime, Fabio di Giannantonio put himself in the spotlight for a potential spot with the vacant Honda team by clinching a brilliant third place, marking his first MotoGP podium. Martin, despite fading to the back of the lead group and finishing in fifth place, was agonizingly close to victory, crossing the Phillip Island finish line just one second behind the winner. In a throwback to his Moto2 days in 2016, Zarco celebrated his victory with a trademark backflip during the slowdown lap.

The Grand Prix race was moved to Saturday afternoon due to the extreme weather forecast for Sunday. There's still a chance for additional points in Sunday's Sprint race, provided that the weather conditions cooperate. As a result of Martin's setback, he is now 27 points behind Bagnaia, having started the race 18 points adrift due to his fall in the previous round at Mandalika. Most riders opted for the medium rear tire, but Martin stood out by selecting the soft option, joining Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro in taking the risk. Except for Joan Mir, Raul Fernandez, and Franco Morbidelli, all riders chose the hard front tire. Martin, who had secured pole position with a new lap record, initially held the lead, with Binder and Bagnaia in pursuit, while Jack Miller delighted local fans by rising to fourth.

Although Marc Marquez made progress to sixth place by the end of the first lap, his challenge faded as Zarco closed in on the leaders. The big question was whether Martin's rear tire would endure, as di Giannantonio, Binder, Zarco, and Bagnaia closed in during the final stages of the race. Martin appeared to have a comfortable lead, but it evaporated on the last lap. Zarco seized victory at Turn 4's hairpin, with Bagnaia also overtaking Martin for the first time on track since the Catalunya Sprint. Di Giannantonio and Binder followed suit. Marco Bezzecchi finished seven seconds behind Martin, while Miller slipped to eighth place, and Marc Marquez dropped all the way to 15th, just behind Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo.

A racing incident between Joan Mir and Luca Marini resulted in Mir crashing. The FIM Stewards determined it was a racing incident. Augusto Fernandez also had a fall at the Turn 4 hairpin. After canceling his planned comeback in Indonesia due to pain from his recently fractured ribs, Alex Marquez returned to the track at Phillip Island. However, last year's winner, Alex Rins, withdrew from the remainder of the Australian MotoGP weekend due to intense pain from his healing leg fractures. The LCR Honda rider will undergo scans to determine the exact source of the pain. Rins had finished 12th and was the top Honda rider on Friday.

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