Jorge Lorenzo’s MotoGP title defense remains alive after the Spaniard won an incident-packed Australian Grand Prix yesterday, as championship leader Marc Marquez suffered a disastrous disqualification due to a howling team error.
With tire problems forcing riders to change bikes mid-race in a MotoGP first, the battle between the two-time world champion Lorenzo and Honda’s 20-year-old wunderkind fizzled out in the 14th lap when Marquez was shown the dreaded black flag for failing to pit during the mandated window.
Riders were ordered to pit by the end of the 10th lap at the latest out of safety fears, but an oblivious Marquez sped past the Honda garage after the team somehow botched a lap count on their pitboard.
Having lost the chance to wrap up the title in his debut season yesterday and become motorcycling’s youngest premier-class champion, a crushed Marquez slumped in a chair in his team’s garage after the race with his head in his hands as Lorenzo toasted victory ahead of Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and third-placed teammate Valentino Rossi.
However, Lorenzo was a deserving winner, having endured enormous pressure from the two Honda riders amid chaotic race conditions.
The win breathed new life into his title defense, trimming fellow Spaniard Marquez’s lead to a more precarious 18 points, with two races left in Montegi and Valencia.
“Today has been a crazy race,” the affable 26-year-old said after celebrating his first victory Down Under.
“With this changeover of bikes in the middle, we practiced a lot before the race. So that was one of the keys. Now, [the title defense] is still very, very tough... Let’s see what happens in Motegi,” he added.
Lorenzo enjoyed an excellent start off the grid, but was under heat within seconds, losing the lead briefly to Marquez in the first lap before snatching it back.
The overhauled race added an intriguing tactical element as Pedrosa changed his bike first, followed by Lorenzo a lap later.
Marquez wobbled dangerously as he wore his tires to breaking point before the changeover and narrowly averted catastrophe as he emerged from the pit lane to brush Lorenzo, charging up the inside on his Yamaha and desperate to snatch back the lead.
Lorenzo snuck past, leaving a wobbling Marquez in his wake, and powered away to win by nearly seven seconds after twice being denied at Phillip Island by Australian Casey Stoner.
Still enjoying a strong lead, the championship may be Marquez’s to lose, but the rookie is likely to come under fierce scrutiny from the resurgent Lorenzo and Pedrosa, who lies third in the championship and retains a mathematical chance of winning the title.