Phillip Island – Maverick Vinales powered to a dominant victory at the Australian MotoGP on Sunday as newly crowned world champion Marc Marquez was dramatically forced out, extending his jinx at the Phillip Island circuit.
The Spanish Yamaha rider, who started second and took the lead after Marquez retired, scored his first win of the year, taking the chequered flag ahead of Andrea Iannone on a Suzuki.
Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso was third, strengthening his bid to finish runner-up in the world championship as his nearest rival, Valentino Rossi, could only manage sixth.
“It feels amazing,” said Vinales. “I didn’t think I could win, but the bike was perfect. It means a lot to me, particularly in Australia because it’s a place I love to be.”
While he celebrated, there was disappointment for Honda hotshot Marquez, who sealed his fifth world title in motorcycling’s premier class in Japan a week ago.
Marquez has the bizarre record now of failing to finish in Australia on three occasions after winning the world title in Japan (2014, 2016 and 2018).
He was lucky to escape injury after Yamaha’s Johann Zarco made contact on lap six as they were screaming down the track at 250 kph.
The Frenchman skidded off, but gave a thumbs up to show he was unhurt.
Marquez stayed on his bike but his back seat was mangled and his suspension appeared damaged, forcing him to call it a day.
It was his first non-finish of the season, having won the last three races, but he refused to blame Zarco.
“I feel very lucky. I will not complain because it was a racing incident,” he said in the pits.
“The most important thing is that we are both okay. Luckily I won the championship last week, but unfortunately another non-finish for me at Phillip island.”
Marquez started from pole, and in dry conditions on the demanding and picturesque circuit he was super-aggressive from the word go.
Dovizioso, who was fourth on the grid, quickly stormed into second behind the Spaniard, with local hope Jack Miller third.
But then it all went pear-shaped for Marquez, leaving the race wide open.
Vinales took full advantage and began clocking fastest laps, steadily opening a gap from the rest of the field, which was left in a dog fight for the minor podium places.