Spain’s Alex Rins stormed to a pulsating win at the Australian MotoGP Sunday with World championship leader Fabio Quartararo crashing out to put a huge dent in his title hopes.
The Suzuki rider started 10th on the grid and finished 0.186 seconds ahead of Spanish great Marc Marquez who claimed his 100th premier class podium.
Francesco Bagnaia narrowly came third in one of the closest top-three finishes the sport has known to move top of the championship standings.
Ducati’s Bagnaia started the race just two points behind Quartararo and now heads to the penultimate grand prix of the season in Malaysia with a 14-point advantage and a chance to win the World title.
It could have been a bigger gap, with the Italian leading into the final lap at the waterfront Phillip Island circuit before an audacious Rins and then Marquez passed him.
“I’m super happy to finish first,” said an ecstatic Rins after his fourth career MotoGP win.
“First because it is the last time on a Suzuki on the island and second for all the people who supported me during the bad moments.”
Suzuki’s season fell off the rails after it made a shock announcement in May that it would be quitting MotoGP at the end of the season, just two years after winning the championship with Joan Mir.
“It wasn’t easy for us as a team to know that next year the team is not continuing … we had some not so good races, but we don’t give up,” said Rins.
Quartararo on a Yamaha started fifth but made a massive mistake under braking at turn five on lap four and dropped to 22nd.
He started setting fastest laps in a desperate bid to get back in the points, but overdid it on lap 10 of the 27-lap race, losing control on a corner and sliding out.
The Frenchman has now failed to score in the last three grands prix in a horror run that has seen his title hopes fade.
“The championship changed for him (Bagnaia) and it can change for us in the last two races,” insisted Quartararo. “I think we can make a great last two races.”
Bagnaia, who was 91 points behind Quartararo after the 10th race of the season in Germany, said he planned to approach Malaysia the same way he does every race.
“It will be very important but I will just try to do the same … thinking session by session. We must be smart,” he said.
Australian Jack Miller started 40 points behind Quartararo, still with slender title hopes, and had moved up to fourth when his race also ended prematurely.
Alex Marquez was at fault, smashing into him at turn four in an error that ended both of their races.
Among the other title contenders, Spain’s Aleix Espargaro came ninth to leave him 27 points adrift while Enea Bastianini was fifth to be 42 points behind.
Jorge Martin started on pole and led for much of the early stages ahead of Marc Marquez before Bagnaia assumed the lead on lap 15.
In a dogfight at the front, a flying Rins passed Bagnaia with seven laps to go before the Italian took back his lead a lap later ahead of the last lap drama.
Originally published at tribune.com.pk