Rossi had a strong start from seventh on the grid and soon found himself in fifth position after the first few corners. He continued to push hard on lap 1, crossing the line in fourth place, right behind his teammate. An early battle with Johann Zarco saw him move back to fifth, but he was soon riding in third place, with 25 laps to go, when Marc Marquez and Zarco went wide. Passing Viñales, the Doctor looked to be on a roll when he overtook Jack Miller for the lead two laps later, but chaos was about to ensue.
Zarco and Marquez made a comeback as Rossi went wide in turn 4, with 18 laps remaining, and Miller did the same shortly after. The Italian didn’t hesitate to fight his way back to the lead again, but he was unable to break away as the battle at the front continued.
The Doctor was riding in second place when, with eight laps to go, a touch of Marquez’ front wheel pushed him back to fourth. Yet, a manic four-lap dash at the end of the race saw the nine-time World Champion retaliate. He set consistent personal best times in sectors one and two to start the last lap in second place. With a two-second gap to Marquez, he focussed on holding off Zarco and Viñales and took the chequered flag in second position, 1.799s from first. This result earned Rossi his 17th podium finish at the Phillip Island track.
Viñales had a good start and immediately looked threatening behind frontmen Miller and Marquez. After two laps his tyres were warm and he was ready to make a move. As he overtook Marquez, he took Rossi with him. His teammate passed him with 23 laps remaining as they continued their chase after the leader, but the Spaniard wasn’t to be shaken off easily.
When Rossi overtook Miller, Viñales launched himself past both. He was leading the race, but it wasn’t to last in today’s frantic MotoGP battle. He soon had to deal with Marquez, Zarco and Miller again and the Spaniard found himself in fifth place, with 15 laps to go, behind his teammate.
Seeing Rossi carve through the field, Viñales cautiously picked up places, but it remained a push-and-pull fight at the front. He had his head down, but soon had to start all over again as fighting with Zarco and Andrea Iannone pushed him wide and made him fall back to seventh place. He climbed back up the rankings, picking off Miller and Cal Crutchlow with five laps to go, and used his saved-up tyre life to perfection in the last laps to breeze past Iannone and overtake Zarco over the line for third place, pipping him by 0.016s, to take third place, 1.826s from first.
Today’s race results see Viñales hold third place in the championship with a 50-point gap to the leader, while Rossi regained fourth place in the standings, 81 points from the front. Yamaha moved up to second place in the Constructor classification, 34 points from first, and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP are in second place in the Team title challenge, with 36 points to the top of the rankings.
The team will soon head north again to take part in next week’s Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit.