Epic battles, pile-ups, red flags in Moto3
Epic battles, pile-ups, red flags in Moto3

Despite the Moto3 class not losing any track time over the weekend at Phillip Island, the majority of the time spent was wet or ruined by rain showers and wind. The warm-up session was a chance for them to experience the Australian circuit in the warm and dry conditions; a career first for the many in the class especially those who are rookies.

Riders penalised for various reasons

John McPhee (Peugeot MC Saxoprint), Francesco Baganaia (Pull & Bear Aspar Mahindra Team), Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3), Phillip Oettl (Schedl GP Racing), Adam Norrodin (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team), Stefano Valtulini (3570 Team Italia), wildcard Mat Barton (Suus Honda) and Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) all received grid penalties ahead of the race which switched up the grid from Qualifying. Quartararo was found to have a ‘non-homologated ECU during Qualifying’ and as a result he was ’demoted to last grid position’.

Brad Binder on fifth Moto3 pole of the season

The 2016 Moto3 champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) remained on pole (his fifth of the year) ahead of rookie Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA Racing Team) who completed the front row; making it all KTM at the front.

McPhee was pushed down to fourth ahead of Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) and Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) who was looking to make up for crashing out at Motegi. Darryn Binder, brother to Brad on the Platinum Bay Real Estate Mahindra, had his best ever Moto3 career grid starting from seventh.

Crazy start to the Australian Moto3 race

Brad got a fantastic start when the lights went out for the 24 laps race and as they made their way over the hill, Rodrigo was tucked right in behind the leader and almost came into contact with his rear tyre as they approached turn one. Bulega slotted in behind them fending off his teammate Migno in fourth. McPhee was making his way around the outside and just slotted into fifth when carnage occurred behind them.

At turn two, Darryn Binder spun the rear tyre and went down. As he slid out, he was straight in the path of another rider, and tagged Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) bringing him down with them. Now three riders down in the track, other riders dispersed to try and avoid them. Juanfran Guevera (RBA Racing Team) was narrowly avoided by Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) as he bailed having seen what had happened in front of him.

Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) was brought off and was hit by Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia) as he slid into the gravel. This caused Pawi to high-side and he and his bike catapulted; Pawi needed medical assistance. Two other riders ran straight on into the gravel and were able to recover. Both Canet and Darryn Binder were able to re-join the race.

Brad Binder under pressure at the front

Brad was pulling away but Rodrigo soon recovered the gap bringing Bulega with him as McPhee overtook Migno, and he crossed the line in fourth. Using the slip of Brad, the group completely changed positions, McPhee led briefly before Migno went from fifth to first, Bulega entered turn one in third and Rodrigo forced Brad down to fifth.

Not wanting to remain there, Brad accelerated around the outside and recovered some positions moving up to third as Rodrigo overtook Bulega on the inside to take fourth. This was just the start of what would be an immense battle for the lead. Bagnaia was able to tag onto the back of the group.

McPhee got back to the front again briefly before Brad forced his way past bringing Bulega with him. Bulega took the lead, forced Brad wide who in turn forced McPhee to have to sit up so not to fall off. Rodrigo and Bagnaia slotted in front of him as a result.

Second crash for Canet at notorious corner

Canet crashed again this time he crashed out of turn four, a notorious corner that has caught so many riders out over the weekend… even champions. The Estrella Galicia 0,0 slid out after coming off at the hairpin, he appeared unhurt as he picked up the bike and cleaned off mud it had collected before he restarted it and returned to the race.

McPhee soon recovered to third as Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3) had joined the group after passing Bagnaia. Within corners though, due to the amount of movement on the track, the lead group of five had expanded to 11 within corners.

Bulega taken out of the race

Brad muscled his way to the front where he was able to pull away. Rodrigo was second as Di Giannantonio overtook many to slot in in third. Trying to avoid coming into contact with Quartararo as he rode round the outside of him on the left hand corner turn six, Bulega was forced to sit up. His weight shifted and he fell of the side of the bike which resulted in him crashing out; it was race over for the rookie who was able to get to his feet quickly when he discovered the damage meant he could not recover.

Rodrigo causes an accident taking two riders out of contention

Bagnaia now led the group that chased Brad. Quartararo was third and went around the outside of Bagnaia to steal second. As they entered the hairpin, late braking from Rodrigo saw him go up the inside of Bagnaia and Di Giannantonio coming into contact with Di Giannantonio, who in turn then hit the back of Bagnaia and the two of them crashed out of the race. Di Giannantonio was fuming as he gestured and screamed as the pack passed him. It was race over for the two of them.

Another pile up on track led to race being red-flagged

Quartararo was able to make his way to second with 18 laps remaining ahead of McPhee. Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing) was fourth ahead of Migno and Rodrigo was sixth. But as they approached turn nine McPhee tucked the front end and fell, he was immediately ran over by Migno and then by Bastianini and they all slid down the hill.

McPhee lay face down on the grass, and Migno got straight back to his feet as Bastianini slid across the track; the oncoming riders managed to avoid his bike that slid across the race line, but Bastianini himself was ran over by Estrella Galicia 0,0 rider Jorge Navarro who was unable to stop in time. The race was red-flagged on lap six of 23 so the medical car could come on track for McPhee.

McPhee injured and required medical treatment

Bastianini was able to walk away from the crash but looking in pain as he supported his back with his hand. Jorge Martin (Pull & Bear Aspar Mahindra) assisted Navarro back to the pits pushing the Spaniard as his bike free-wheeled; the bike had to return to the pits on his bike so he was permitted to join in on the race start.

McPhee however, required medical attention had not only had he fallen down, he was hit by another rider, ran over and then tumbled down the hill. He had to be placed on a stretcher and was carried into the ambulance; he was conscious. He was initially checked in the medical centre, before he was air-lifted to hospital for further checks.

Confusion in pit lane

When the race restarted following the Quick Race Restart procedure, where the pit lane exit would be opened for 60 seconds only ahead of a sighting lap, riders were to assemble on the grid in the positions determined by the results of lap five. The new race was was to take place over 10 laps.

The race restart grid positions

There was a lot of confusion in pit lane as the break in proceedings was extended by three minutes. Just 24 riders returned to the track for the race restart. It was Brad on pole again ahead of Locatelli and Rodrigo who made up the front row. Behind them,  Tatsuki Suzuki (CIP-Unicorn Starker) and Jukes Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold) lined up with Locatelli on row two, and Navarro, Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate) and Maria Herrera (MH6 Team), completed row three.

Albert Arenas (Peugeot MC Saxoprint), Norrodin and Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia) made up row four, Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Fabio Spiranelli (CIP-Unicorn Starker) were on row five and row six contained Lorenzo Petrarca (3570 Team Italia), Martin and Oettl.

Loi, Canet and Binder were on row seven and Valtulini and wildcard Barton were on the eighth row with Quartararo who was again penalised; he had to start from the back of the grid again following his disqualification, even though he had already done the penalty once. There was more drama before the warm-up lap as Martin broke down on the grid and so had to start from the pit lane. 

Brad Binder pulled away again when race restarted

The race restarted and Brad Binder got another good start and again Rodrigo slotted in behind him, Locatelli passed him though and sat in behind the leader. Rodrigo was ahead of Danilo and Suzuki, but as they approached turn four of the first lap, Locatelli crashed out of the corner. Dalla Porta was penalised for a jump-start and was given a ride through penalty taking him out of sixth position.

As they crossed the line to complete the first lap, Brad Binder led ahead of Locatelli, Rodrigo, Suzuki, Dalla Porta who would be out therefore Ramirez was sixth ahead of Norrodin, Herrera and Navarro who completed the top ten.

Epic battle commenced for third

A battle commenced for fifth as Ramirez led the group involved. Suzuki overtook him on the inside to take the place from him. There were changes throughout the pack as the machines are so evenly matched and benefit from sliping and late braking. Ramirez had caught up to Danilo and Rodrigo and overtook him to take third. Then Suzuki made his way past to take the lead of the massive group of 16 looking to get on the podium.

It was eight-a-breast as they headed into turn one of the track with five laps remaining. Martin now led in third ahead of Ramirez as Quartararo overtook Suzuki to take fifth. Rodrigo had dropped down to eighth ahead of Navarro and Canet but it was still early days,

Navarro looking to recover championship points

Brad had extended his lead to over one second with four laps remaining and Locatelli was under no pressure in second. Navarro was on a mission though, with Bastianini out he would benefit from championship points to allow him to catch the Italian as they battled for second in the standings. He was up to fourth by the end of the lap but at risk. He went down to the eighth by the end of the start-finish straight on the next lap as they attacked after the slip.

It was extremely close on track; it was too hard to call as they all pushed hard trying to get as far forward in the pack as possible. With two laps remaining, Canet had battled his way to third ahead of Darryn Binder who was having the ride of his life.

More crashes on the final lap

Brad Binder started the last lap of the race still ahead of Locatelli. Navarro crashed out of turn four of the track; he was pushed out wide by Bendsneyder who forced him onto the kerb and tripped him up. He was unhurt but forced to retire from the race.

Then Rodrigo was forced out of seventh as he came into contact with the back of Martin, was unable to brake and was almost thrown off the bike as he entered the gravel. He remained on it in an attempt to recover but still unable to slow both he and the bike hit the tyre wall a fair distance away still at some speed.

Binder wins the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Moto3 Grand Prix

Brad Binder won the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix Moto3 race, adding 25 points to his total that has already secured him the podium. Locatelli claimed second, and emerging triumphant in the epic battle, rookie Canet collected his first podium of the season having already crashing twice.  Darryn Binder collected his best ever Moto3 race finish in fourth, even though he also crashed in the first race.

Some personal best achievements when results eventually decided

Loi was fifth and Martin ended up in sixth. Ramirez also collected his best result in seventh ahead of Ono, Danilo and Bendsneyder who completed the top 10. Norrodin was 11th ahead of Quartararo who made his way back up to 12th from the back of the grid.

Suzuki was 14th ahead of Oettl and female rider Herrera who claimed the last available championship point. Arenas finished just outside the points in 16th ahead of Petrarca, Spiranelli, Dalla Porta and wildcard Barton who completed the top 20 and the list of finishers.