It’s safe to say the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix didn’t go according to plan for Honda. After jubilation in Japan, where we saw Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) become the youngest ever rider to lift five premier class crowns, Australia saw the Asaka-based factory take a hit to their triple crown hopes.
Cal Crutchlow’s (LCR Honda Castrol) weekend was ended on prematurely after Friday saw the 2016 Australian GP winner suffer right ankle fractures after a huge crash in FP2 at Turn 1. Then, on Sunday, Marquez was caught up in a scary incident at the same corner as Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) tagged the back of his Repsol Honda at around 300kph. The Frenchman lost control of his YZR-M1 as it tangled with the rear end of the Honda machine, which subsequently severely damaged Marquez’ seat, ending his race.
“When I was on the bike, I didn’t understand anything and I was honestly angry because I felt contact from behind,” began Marquez, speaking about the incident that left him with his first DNF of the year. “Then, when I arrived in the box and I saw the situation on the video, I understood. It was completely a race incident because, on that part of the track, we go so fast, Miller was in front, I was behind Miller and the slipstream from Miller, because we arrived at 300kmh… I braked and I braked a bit late, I tried to stop more, then I felt the contact because Zarco got the slipstream from two bikes. For me it’s a race incident. I already spoke with him and I feel really lucky, that he and I are both okay, that’s the most important thing.”
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) also crashed during the race, this time at Turn 4. A disappointing end to his last Australian GP, with Pedrosa unable to explain the reason behind his tumble: “Unfortunately I crashed. I wasn’t in a good position and I locked the front in the straight braking so, unfortunately, a big crash and the bike was very damaged,” explained the ‘Little Samurai’.
“Let’s move on and hope that in Malaysia, a track that I like, I can find a better setting and work well on the bike to do a good weekend. I don’t know what happened, the front tyre locked.”
With Crutchlow, Marquez and Pedrosa not scoring, the gap in the Constructor Championship is down to 39 points over Ducati after Andrea Dovizioso’s (Ducati Team) P3 in Australia. In addition, their lead in the Team Championship has been cut to just 16 points over Movistar Yamaha MotoGP after Maverick Viñales stormed to victory, with Ducati Team only 38 behind.
However, it wasn’t all stormy waters for the Japanese manufacturer on the Island. Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) secured his best result of the season in P8 to strengthen his position in the race to become Rookie of the Year over Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). The gap between the duo now 12 points in the Italian’s favour. Meanwhile, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) scored points for the ninth time in his rookie year as he flew the solo LCR Honda flag.
Better luck in Malaysia hopefully awaits Honda.