Phillip Island Saturday Quote Machine Final
MotoGP Press
Saturday, 21 October 2023
The backflip is back! Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) took a stunning maiden MotoGP™ win at the MotoGP™ Guru by Gryfyn Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, stalking his way onto the rear wheel of teammate and title contender Jorge Martin before making a brutal, clean and perfectly-judged move to take the lead on the very last lap. He also opened the door for a perfectly-judged lunge from Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) too, with Pecco picking Martin’s pocket and the Pramac on the soft rear tyre then finding himself mobbed by both Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) late on.

As the dust settles and some more history is made, Zarco gives away his record as the rider with the most MotoGP™ podiums without a win, Martin licks his wounds as he faces down a 27-point deficit in the Championship, Bagnaia celebrates another stylish bounce back from Q1 to the podium… and ‘Diggia’ enjoys that sweet Prosecco of a first ever premier class podium.

Before all that, Binder threatened the holeshot with a great start but Martin held firm from pole, immediately getting the hammer down as the two shot off into the lead and the shuffle began just behind. And that was that. Except this time, it wasn’t.

Martin’s strategy was clear: the number 89, an incredible four tenths clear on pole, had gambled on the soft rear hanging on as he escaped at the front and nursed it home. And the strategy was absolutely perfect until the very last handful of laps, when the Jaws music really began and Martin’s odds dropped off a cliff as the chasing group closed in.

The gap was over three seconds when it was Binder trying to keep tabs, and after an impressive start from an impressive qualifying, next came Diggia, and then Bagnaia at the head of a serious battle for fourth. The reigning Champion led Zarco, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing), Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), with elbows out all over the shop in the first third of the race.

Bit by bit as Martin edged clear in the lead, however, Binder held onto second but Diggia homed in on the KTM – and Bagnaia and Zarco started to create their own daylight to the duels behind them.

By 16 laps to go, Di Giannantonio had Binder well within a second and was only continuing to close in, but Bagnaia and Zarco had been able to go with the number 49. The gap kept see-sawing, however, with the Gresini machine homing in on the KTM and Bagnaia losing ground before another few laps would see it close back up. By nine laps to go, Di Giannantonio then made his move and pulled alongside the KTM on the Gardner straight, taking over in second.

The chase was on and the gap to Martin started to come down, but the number 49 wasn’t making the charge alone. Binder, Bagnaia AND Zarco were all locked together on the simple but difficult mission of catching the race leader, and that they started to do. But was it enough? When Binder attacked back with five laps to go, the group ran the risk of losing time in the battle but the gap was still coming down – just over two seconds across the start-finish line.

On the third to last lap, Martin’s advantage started to really tumble in tenths, with Binder still on the chase and Zarco now next in line as he’d taken over in third. Over the line with two to go it was 1.2 seconds, but Turn 4 saw another huge shuffle and another risk of losing time. But it was Zarco who went for a dress rehearsal and equally well-judged attack, snatching second place and quickly setting off after Martin.

Over the line for the last lap the number 89 had just four tenths left in hand ahead of his teammate, Bagnaia was now the bike behind Zarco and Binder had dropped to fifth. And again, it came at Turn 4. The number 5 slammed up the inside of Martin to take the lead, Bagnaia cut back in in a flash to also demote the number 89, and suddenly everything had changed: Zarco was just corners from a maiden MotoGP™ win, Bagnaia was on the verge of a huge change in momentum, and Martin was left trying to fend off Di Giannantonio and Binder.

That he could not. As Zarco crossed the finish line to take that first ever premier class win, Bagnaia took second and Di Giannantonio was more than able to grab third and his first MotoGP™ podium, with Binder ultimately also demoting Martin right on the finish line.

The battle behind was no slouch either. After elbows earlier in the race there were plenty more, with Bezzecchi slicing through to take sixth from Miller. Aleix Espargaro was even closer behind in eighth, ahead of a seriously impressive charge from the still-recovering Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™). Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) completed the top ten ahead of Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) after Top Gun was shuffled down the order in a Turn 1 shuffle, and Marc Marquez, another gambler on the soft rear tyre, ultimately finished P15.

That’s that from a historic, unique and instantly iconic Saturday Grand Prix race at Phillip Island, and it’s Johann Zarco who writes his name into the historic books with a maiden MotoGP™ win. Bagnaia proved once again he can’t be written off, but Martin showed yet more pure speed. Now we look to the skies as we wait for Sunday, with races all set to start an hour early and fingers crossed for more awesome action Down Under if the weather holds out. See you on Sunday!
The speed and spiral of the magnificent Phillip Island circuit was the stage for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Brad Binder to thrill in a typically close and exciting battle for the podium. A cool and breezy climate in southern Australia greeted the Saturday schedule that saw the MotoGP Sprint swapped for the full-length Grand Prix race due to the stormy forecast for Sunday.

The Guru by Gryfyn Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix visits Phillip Island for the 27th time and after sunny and warm conditions on Friday, the event gets cooler and cloudy for Saturday qualification and the full GP affair
Brad Binder pushes the KTM RC16 to 1st place on Friday then 2nd in qualification (a personal best and his third front row start) and finishes 4th; 0.8 of a second from the win
Jack Miller, a podium finisher at ‘PI’ in 2019 and a Moto3™ GP winner with Red Bull KTM Ajo in 2014, puts on a show for his many home fans with a hard-won 7th
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Deniz Öncü tries to mark the pace in Moto3™ qualifying with the KTM RC4 and takes 7th. Moto2™ 5th position on the grid for Pedro Acosta

MotoGP’s continent hopping continued for the second week in a row and with the eagerly awaited trip to the state of Victoria, Phillip Island and Australia. The flowing 4.4km layout is renowned for the high speed streak of 12 corners as much as for the stunning scenery next to the ocean and is revered by both riders and fans alike. The notoriously fickle climate in the area for the time of year meant that MotoGP soaked-up sunshine and decent temperatures on Friday for Practice. Saturday however was cooler and windier and high winds and storms were predicted for Sunday. The organizers therefore decided to run the full 27-lap race in place of the Saturday Sprint: the first Saturday GP dash since 2015 and the Dutch TT.

Binder had already cast his line on Friday around the circuit alongside the deep blue of the Bass Straight with the fastest lap-time, less than two tenths of a second away from the lap record. Jack Miller basked in the spotlight of his home Grand Prix and his second in Red Bull KTM colors after he rushed to victory ten years ago at Phillip Island with a KTM RC4. The 28-year-old has Turn 4 named after him and was 2nd quickest on Friday for a KTM 1-2 into Q2.

Binder was again rapid from the outset on Saturday and recorded P2 for his third career MotoGP front row start – and a personal best. Miller was 0.8 from Pole Position and qualified 8th for the third row.

The Grand Prix started with Brad chasing Jorge Martin and trying to manage his medium rear tire. Jack was busy with his battle in the second group and pushed all the way to make the top seven. The final two laps saw a gripping tussle for the podium and Brad was part of a five-rider dispute that was split by just one second at the checkered flag. Binder pipped Martin out of the last corner to secure P4.

Depending on the conditions, MotoGP will hold a 13-lap Sprint tomorrow.

Brad Binder, 2nd in qualification, 4th in the race: “Really happy with qualifying…and the first 25 laps of the race! I felt great but was having a couple of issues in the faster corners when the tire performance dropped. I was able to work out a solution in the last sector and gained a bit more pace again. I was chasing [Jorge] Martin and not really thinking too much about what was going on behind me and before I knew it I went from 2nd to 5th! Anyway, I think we had a strong race even if that was not the result we wanted. We also made huge progress if we look at how we went here last year.”

Jack Miller, 8th in qualification, 7th in the race: “It was a decent Grand Prix. I had a bit of fun with the guys there. The bike was working good and I cannot complain. I felt I was losing a bit too much time in the last sector but then also struggling a bit with the front tire. I had to try and nurse it. We learned from that today. We didn’t really want that result at our home GP but it was a solid finish and we were not too far away from the front guys. Happy enough and happy with the bike. We have a bit more work to do but things are going good.”

Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager: “A Saturday race, a bit strange but we were ready. Brad showed he was in it for the win right until the end. It was messy! He was only a few tenths away from it which was a shame. Jack performed really well but maybe struggled a bit to overtake in the beginning. Once he found the pace then he was good. Overall, it’s been a great weekend: 1-2 on Friday and Brad was on the first row. We made a huge step everywhere compared to 2022. We should be happy…but at the same time it’s a bit bittersweet.”

Grand Prix of Australia photographs can be found HERE

Results Qualifying MotoGP Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix

1. Jorge Martin (ESP) Ducati 1:27.246
2. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +0.416
3. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Ducati +0.468
8. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +0.828

Results MotoGP Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix

1. Johann Zarco (FRA) Ducati 40.39.446
2. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Ducati +0.201
3. Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA) Ducati +0.477
4. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +0.816
7. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +9.283

LCR Honda IDEMITSU rider Takaaki Nakagami has finished 19th on the 27-laps-race at the Phillip Island Circuit.

Facing the long-distance race on Saturday due to a huge storm forecasted for Sunday, Nakagami tried to push and adapt to a windy and cold situation on track. However, a lack of feeling with the front end prevented him from pushing harder and he finally crossed the line 19th.

Takaaki Nakagami 19th

"It's been a long race; I lacked confidence to push. We've been comparing different packages, but we still need to decide while adjusting it. I believe tomorrow we can take a step forward for the Sprint to have more feeling with the bike's front end".
Australian GP: Bagnaia finishes second in Phillip Island thriller. Tenth Bastianini

All-Ducati podium in Australia. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing Team) takes his first-ever MotoGP victory at Phillip Island ahead of Bagnaia and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing)

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) took a well-deserved runner-up slot in an extraordinary end to the Australian GP at Phillip Island, which saw five riders contesting the victory on the final lap. The win went to Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), his first in MotoGP in 120 races, ahead of Bagnaia and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing), while Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing), who led for 26 of the 27 laps, found himself caught and overhauled by the chasing group as tyre choice proved to be decisive. Bagnaia now has a 27-point lead over Martin, with tomorrow’s Sprint race still to come.

After a difficult Friday, Bagnaia’s day started off well, with the championship leader taking the top slot in Q1 and qualifying for Q2, where he set third quickest time, earning himself a front-row start for the race.

As Martin pulled out a three-second lead at the front, Bagnaia found himself fifth in the chasing group behind Binder (KTM), Di Giannantonio, and Zarco. In the final stages, these four riders were catching Martin, and as they started the final lap, the gap between them was minimal. Zarco dived into the lead at turn 7 to take his maiden MotoGP win and Bagnaia immediately followed him through to grab second place.

Teammate Enea Bastianini, starting twelfth on the grid after a good qualifying session, found it hard to stay with the leading group in the early stages and dropped to fourteenth by mid-race. In the second half, the rider from Rimini recovered to finish tenth.

Francesco Bagnaia (#1 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 2nd
“I’m very happy, it was another difficult weekend but every time we rise, and once again we finished at the front. Johann did an amazing job with the rear tyre, and I was controlling all the laps. I was just missing a bit of traction in the last lap but I’m happy. Martin was on the soft tyre, and I had to think hard at the start, because I knew he would go away. The pace was strong throughout the race, but I kept controlling the rear tyre until the end, and I was right because in a moment I went from fifth to second. It was a race in which I had to be calm because I knew the soft tyre wouldn’t last and finally everything was perfect. Points are always fundamental, now we have 27 on Martin, things can change very quickly so we must be very careful and understand perfectly what is going on. There are four and a half races left so it will be important to remain constant every time.”

Enea Bastianini (#23 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 10th
“I can't be happy, that's for sure. Today it went worse, in the sense there was more grip on the track than yesterday, and I struggled more. I couldn't get the bike to slide the rear, so it was pushing a lot at the front and moving around, consuming the front left of the tyre. The strange thing is that I felt better in the last ten laps than in the first. It was hard to ride like this because I couldn't turn. Evidently, we do well when there is less grip, so we'll look carefully at the data to understand why I went better in the last ten laps compared to the first laps when the tyre should make the difference. I went into this race with much higher expectations, and I had to scale them back, but I know what I can do on the bike, we just have to try to get in tune to work better."

On Sunday, the Ducati Lenovo Team riders will be out on track for ten minutes of warm-up at 09.00 in Australia (00.00 CEST), while the Sprint race, to be held over 13 laps, will start at 13.00 local time (04.00 CEST).
Repsol Honda
Repsol Honda Team work for more after Australia’s first Saturday Grand Prix

Schedule changes made for a busy Saturday in Australia as the Repsol Honda Team contested practice, Qualifying and the Grand Prix all in the same day.

For the first time since 2015, a Grand Prix was held on Saturday as weather warnings forced a change of schedule on safety grounds. This made for an intense day as the MotoGP field completed practice, two Qualifying sessions and had the full length Australian Grand Prix all moved to the same day.

As the weather continued to cool from Friday, the Repsol Honda Team headed out on track for Q1 alongside a number of big names for an intense 15-minute session. Marc Marquez would time his run perfectly to enter the top two on his final flying lap, advancing through to Q2. Ultimately taking seventh on the grid with a best time of 1’28.012, the eight-time World Champion ended 0.766s off pole.

From the head of the third row, Marquez lost a little ground in the run down to Turn 1 but quickly rallied and recovered to challenge the top five. A spirited start to the race had the #93 as an early podium contender but he quickly had to switch into a more defensive posture as the competition around him increased. Gambling with the soft, the latter half of the race became about survival, and he crossed the line in 15th to collect a solitary point.

Joan Mir started the full-length Grand Prix from 16th on the grid after taking some steps forward with the setting of his Repsol Honda Team RC213V in the morning. From here, Mir was able launch well and work his way forward and into the points. Riding comfortably and able to gain on those ahead of him in almost every corner, the Repsol Honda Team rider found himself in a multi-rider battle. Unfortunately, the fighting would get too heated and contact with Marini at Turn 4 in the middle of the race would result in Mir retiring soon after.

A further schedule change has seen the Sprint Race brought forward to 13:00 Local Time on Sunday, set to be run over 13 laps.

Marc Marquez

“Last year the soft tyre brought us the podium, this year the gamble didn’t pay off. I was hoping for a slower race, but straight away Martin was pushing hard and I knew it would be a very fast race. At the start I really enjoyed the ten or so laps with Bagnaia and Zarco as we were fighting a lot. Then I needed to change my tactic and just focus on bringing the bike home as I was suffering more with tyre life. Now we wait and see what will happen with the situation tomorrow.”

Joan Mir

“I disappointed with today, it is another hard one. I was just trying to make my race, not hurting anyone, trying to take care of the tyres because you saw what happened at the end of the race. We were working in the correct way according to the data. Then Marini tried to overtake me and hit me, and I fell after losing the front. Being in the back, the situation is more complicated as the riders are fighting a lot – I was a victim of it today. But this is racing. Let’s see tomorrow.”
— ends —
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