Phillip Island (Australia) — France’s Johann Zarco won the Australian Grand Prix for his first MotoGP race victory in nearly seven years in the premier class, while his teammate and championship contender Jorge Martin lost the lead on the final lap.
Martin had taken pole by smashing the lap record, and no rider on the grid was a match for the Spaniard’s searing pace, but he lost grip in the final laps and missed out on a podium as Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia stormed his way to second place.
Fabio Di Giannantonio, who does not have a seat next year with Gresini Racing, was third while Martin finished fifth behind Brad Binder to drop 27 points behind Bagnaia in the riders championship.
“It’s a good feeling, it’s hard to believe,” Zarco said after celebrating in front of the fans with a back-flip off a wall.
“After so many races I finally won, I have to take in the moment. I want to cry, but not at the moment,” Zarco added according to Reuters.
Martin had the perfect start as he shot off the line and went well clear of the field which jostled for positions on the first lap.
He extended his lead over Binder to over two seconds in the next few laps while Bagnaia fell to fourth.
Di Giannantonio had a dream start from sixth to move up to third and he put pressure on Binder, who did not have the pace to reel in the runaway race leader.
The Italian, who had not finished on the podium this season, eventually forced his way past Binder to move up to second with nine laps to go, but he was caught in the final laps as Binder and Zarco went through.
Martin had been cruising in the front but with three laps to go, he was desperately searching for grip on his tyres as the chasing pack of four came within touching distance and constantly exchanged positions.
Zarco then moved up to second and saw his opportunity to overtake his team mate with Bagnaia following suit, leaving Martin shaking his head on the bike.
“I had a good start and I had to fight at the beginning, then I was quite fast,” Zarco said.
“Martin totally went away (in the lead). I was conserving the tyres. Then I tried to attack and was surprised to see Martin dropping down, so I knew something was possible.”
By the time they reached the chequered flag, Di Giannantonio and Binder also overtook Martin to leave the Spaniard contemplating what could have been, having crashed out while leading the Indonesia Grand Prix last weekend.