Alex Rins claimed a hard fought first victory of 2022 for both himself and Team Suzuki Ecstar at Phillip Island on Sunday.
With seven riders covered by less than a second at the flag, Rins held out over Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and new championship leader Pecco Bagnaia for a thrilling and well deserved win as Mooney VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi claimed best independent rider and the Rookie of the Year title from fourth.
The final race action of the day prepared following a commemorative lap celebrating Australian MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner on his 37th birthday. Prima Pramac’s Jorge Martin lined up on pole position from the seemingly back-in-form Marquez with Ducati Lenovo’s Bagnaia in third. The Italian’s main title rivals Aleix Espargaro and Fabio Quartararo just behind on row two with teammate and local hero Jack Miller launching from eighth for his home GP in factory colours.
The Repsol Honda rider opted for a soft rear tyre gamble with the remainder of the pack split between hard and medium Michelin fronts and just five riders - Miller, Pol Espargaro, both LCR’s and Cal Crutchlow opting for medium rears. Red Bull KTM’s Miguel Oliveira faced a long lap penalty - following his grid demotion to 24th - after Saturday’s sanctions for an illegal practice start ahead of the Q2 chequered flag and disturbing Enea Bastianini’s final flying lap while riding slowly at turn nine.
Lights out for 27 laps and Aleix Espargaro was up to third in the opening action. Pramac’s Johann Zarco swallowed up by the pack as he dropped from sixth to 17th with Aprilia’s Maverick Viñales suffering a similar fate to 13th having launched up the standings off the line. Bagnaia was back through on his rival with Quartararo still in tow as Miller bettered Alex Marquez for seventh as the opening lap concluded. Mooney VR46’s Luca Marini the next in the Australian’s sights as Martin maintained control out front.
Ducati held third and fourth as Miller’s advance found the edge of the podium, Espargaro attempting to fight back on the number 43 before he was quickly put in his place. Quartararo running wide after a major wobble at Miller corner as the reigning champion returned to the action in 22nd and on the back of teammate Franky Morbidelli.
Gresini’s Fabio di Giannantonio crashed out on lap five. Rins flying through the field as he found fifth, with Espargaro, both VR46 riders and Joan Mir now behind. Quartararo immediately gunning for a comeback as he advanced to 19th with both WithU Yamahas ahead.
Rins captured Miller as lap seven began, Bagnaia two tenths ahead before the Ducati became his latest victim. The GSX-RR now half a second shy of Marquez and Martin with 20 to go.
KTM’s Brad Binder entered the top ten before a crash for the younger Marquez took out Miller - at his newly renamed corner - immediately gifted him seventh. Quartararo into the points on lap ten with a second to bridge to Espargaro’s Honda.
Rins was in second next tine around as further heartbreak befell Quartararo, the Frenchman exiting the action at the Southern Loop for his third non-score in four races.
Bezzecchi was running fifth with 15 to go as Bagnaia and Marquez battled ahead of the GP21. The top nine running within two seconds of the leaders as Rins briefly took charge overall before Martin hit back.
The Suzuki’s second attempt was more successful as Martin dropped back to fourth through Miller corner. Bagnaia up to second with Bezzecchi looking to capitalise on the struggling Pramac for fourth shortly after.
Bagnaia hit the front on lap 15 with Marquez quickly demoting Rins to the back of the podium through turn four. Bastianini finding his usual late race form as he claimed ninth from the recovering Zarco with Marini and Binder the next in line.
Rins was back in second three laps later with Martin and Marquez the next to squabble for final podium contention. The leading pack now ten strong and covered by two seconds as the race counted down.
Bezzecchi was on the podium with eighth to go as Rins returned to the lead. Marquez suffering, and saving, a moment through Doohan before he looked to hit back at the Ducati. Rins at the mercy of the Ducati power and the home straight slipstream as Bagnaia and Bezzecchi swept past with Marquez capitalising for third as the lap played out.
Rins was back on the podium next time around as Martin took a shot at the eight-time champion. Morbidelli crashing out to complete a disastrous day for the Monster Energy outfit as Espargaro’s grip on the leading group faded on his way to ninth.
Five to go and the fight at the front was seven-strong. Bezzecchi hard on the wheels of his friend and training partner with Rins, Marquez, Marini and Martin mere tenths each adrift behind as Bastianini arrived on their tail.
The rookie was dispatched by Rins and Marquez through turn three, as the Suzuki homed in on Bagnaia. Marquez bettering the distracted Suzuki through the Southern Loop before the inseparable pair switched again.
The Italian found himself in third as the final lap fired up, Bastianini on the tail of the VR46 pairing before Marini was dispatched.
Rins held fast to celebrate victory for the departing Suzuki squad over Marquez with Bagnaia, Bezzecchi, Bastianini, Marini, Martin and Zarco completing an immense top eight for the Bologna factory. Espargaro’s title hopes fading with a ninth place finish from Binder and younger brother Pol while Oliveira, Crutchlow, Darryn Binder and local rider Remy Gardner collected the final Australian GP points.