Phillip Island: Cal Crutchlow seized on a blunder by new world champion Marc Marquez at Australia’s Phillip Island on Sunday to win only his second MotoGP.
The Briton, who turns 31 next week and was competing in his 103rd MotoGP, capitalised when Marquez made a mistake and crashed out on lap 10 while holding a big lead.
Crutchlow maintained a solid race pace on his LCR Honda to beat Italian great Valentino Rossi on his Movistar Yamaha by 4.218secs, with Spain’s Maverick Vinales third on a Suzuki Ecstar.
The race turned dramatically when Marquez, who claimed his third premier-class world crown with victory in Japan last weekend, slid off his Repsol Honda into the gravel on Turn Four when in command.
Crutchlow swept to the front and held off the nine-time world champion Rossi until the chequered flag as Vinales and Andrea Dovizioso battled for third.
He became the first British winner of the Australian MotoGP.
Marquez acknowledged that he was to blame for the crash.
“It was completely my mistake. During the whole season I’ve been very careful on the braking points and this time I risked more so this crash has nothing to do with the Michelin tyres,” he admitted.
It was Crutchlow’s second victory in premier class after beating Rossi and Marquez in this season’s Czech MotoGP in August.
“Someone asked me last week what I thought about going to Phillip Island and I said I planned to come and win… it’s nice to win one in the wet and the dry because people only think you can ride in the rain when you win in it,” Crutchlow said.
“I had to stay strong, I thought my pace in the race was good and better than in other years here,” Crutchlow said.
“I was pleased to to be able to take advantage when it came, and we look forward to Malaysia now.”
Crutchlow had memories of his crash at the same corner two years when he trailed race leader Rossi on the last lap at Phillip Island.
“I didn’t brake into that turn and took it quite easy. I was in the rhythm and so I continued with that and I rode comfortably to the finish,” he said.
“I didn’t want to make the same mistake but I knew I had to keep pushing if we lost the heat in the front tyre.
“I was quite confident I may have caught Marc but when he crashed I tried to keep the same pace and in the last 10-12 laps I didn’t really push, I just made sure I kept the heat in the front tyre.
“I was confident I could have won with Marc in the race and we now look forward to the last two races.”
Rossi greatly improved his chances of finishing runner-up this season with his second placing. He now leads team-mate Jorge Lorenzo by 24 points heading into the final two races.
Rossi has now finished 16 times on the podium in 20 trips to Australia amid his eight wins across all classes at Phillip Island.
“This morning we discovered that we have good pace and step by step I came back and I try to reach Cal, but today he was too fast and too strong for me,” Rossi said.
“Cal is always very fast around Phillip Island, he can interpret the track, and for me the second half of the race was difficult and I could not do.”
Pol Espargaro was fifth and Lorenzo sixth in Sunday’s race, with two races left in the championship in Malaysia and Spain.
Swiss Thomas Luthi pipped Franco Morbidelli on the line to win an exciting Moto2 and pull to within 22 points of French championship leader Johann Zarco with two races left.
Newly-crowned world champion Brad Binder of South Africa stretched his lead in the world championship to 130 points after a dominant win in the Moto3 race.
Many of his rivals were among a total of 14 riders to crash out, with the race shortened to 10 laps under a red flag.