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Two rookies rose to the fore on Sunday at the Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. Pramac Racing’s Francesco Bagnaia and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Joan Mir rode superbly to both claim their best results of the season, with the duo doing so from Q1 grid positions.
From 15th and 13th, both Bagnaia and Mir recovered brilliantly to become embroiled in the monstrous eight rider battle for what was P4, until second place Maverick Viñales’ (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) crashed at Turn 10 on the final lap. Finding himself at the spearhead of the group with teammate Jack Miller, 2018 Moto2™ World Champion Bagnaia ran his Australian counterpart all the way, eventually seeing that illustrious maiden podium go astray by a mere 0.055.
After the Flag: victory or nothing! Viñales all in
“I’m happy, for sure I’m very happy. Close to the podium, I tried everything but I lose it for 50 cents,” reflected an upbeat ‘Pecco’, whose previous best finish in his rookie season was P7 in Austria. “Very, very low distance to Jack that made a great last three laps. Jack made really good work. I tried but starting from P15 is never easy. I tried to close the gap as soon as possible but it has been difficult.
“The last laps I was very competitive but in the straight I was losing a little bit of time compared to the factory Ducati but I’m very happy. Very happy for the work done. It’s been a tough season, a lot of complications but finally a result like this is very nice for me and the team also.”
The start wasn’t perfect for the Italian though. Contact with Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) meant he had an even steeper hill to climb to get up to the huge gaggle for fourth. But climb that hill he did, with Bagnaia complimenting his speed in the faster corners while at the same time, lamenting his pace at Turn 10.
In 15 mins: Australian Grand Prix MotoGP™ highlights
“At the first corner Kallio touched me and I lost two positions. Then I tried to push and it was easy for me to recover the gap, and when I arrived to the front group I was very close and when I overtook the riders in the group I tried to push, and my pace was very good. Then I was thinking to arrive to the top of the group, in this moment Viñales hadn’t crashed so I was fourth and the gap to Crutchlow was too high. But in any case I’m happy. I’m also happy for Jack because at home, finishing third at home in MotoGP™ is something incredible… In the fast corners I was quick but in Turn 10 I was so slow, and I think I lost the podium there.”
As for Mir, he came home as the leading Suzuki rider in P5. A horrendous Brno testing crash put Mir out of action for the Austrian GP but since then, the Spaniard has been bang in form. P8 at Misano, an incident-packed P14 in Aragon, P7, P8 and now a P5 in Thailand, Japan and Australia shows Mir that podiums are appearing on the horizon.
“Yeah so happy about today’s race. It looks like the results are finally coming after a long wait of fighting, struggling and this,” began Mir. From Motegi I felt a step, I felt a step in the race on the last laps and it was the same here. I feel great with the bike, mainly on the race. It was a big shame this weekend with the weather and all, because for a rookie, these conditions are always difficult.
“Anyway, it was a good experience here, so happy, we are coming. We are getting closer to the podium, closer than ever, so happy about that. Let’s go to Malaysia and enjoy it a little bit more. In Japan we were fighting for top positions also, the same here. So it looks like in every track now we are competitive. Happy about that, we will see in Sepang.”
Enjoy the best bits of the opening laps of the Australian GP
Ducati dominated the Sepang preseason test, with Bagnaia second quickest. Both rookies have experience on a MotoGP™ bike in Malaysia and the duo will be hoping they can fight for the podium again this weekend.
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