Incredible scenes in MotoGP Round 16 as rookie's Championship lead slashed to just 18 points.
The 2013 MotoGP World Championship title chase was blown wide open at Phillip Island on Sunday where Jorge Lorenzo won a shortened race from which Marc Márquez was disqualified, as the rookie's lead at the top of the standings was slashed from 43 to 18 points.
The drama stemmed from the decision taken to shorten the race distance to 19 laps from the original 26, with the unprecedented ruling of a mandatory bike change being enforced. Unusually high tire wear due to a new track surface at the Phillip Island circuit meant that supplier Bridgestone was unable to guarantee the safety of its rear slick beyond 10 laps. Therefore, riders were required to come into pit lane and switch to their second bike no later than lap 10 of the race.
Defending World Champion Lorenzo, who claimed the 2012 title at the Australian Grand Prix a year ago, got a rocket of a start from pole position and led for the opening few corners before a mistake allowed Dani Pedrosa through. The Yamaha man got back in front immediately however as a raucous scrap unfolded with Márquez involved as part of the trio at the front.
Lorenzo's pace was fearsome early on and he was pursued closely by both Márquez and Pedrosa, and a momentary lapse from the race leader almost allowed Márquez to come around the outside. He held him off however, and things really heated up as the riders started to dive in for their changeovers.
Pedrosa sprung a surprise by coming in at the end of lap nine as Lorenzo and Márquez stayed out for the maximum permitted time, but an error from Pedrosa on entry to pit lane meant that he exceeded the permitted speed limit.
As Lorenzo and Márquez pushed to the limit to gain any advantage possible before pitting in, the rookie managed to save a scare when his foot came off the peg, but even more thrills were to come moments later.
As Lorenzo peeled off to come in for his bike change Márquez remained on track and flew around the final corner, starting his 11th lap. Lorenzo re-emerged on track just ahead of Pedrosa, with the Repsol Honda man then told he had to drop a position as his penalty for the earlier speed limit misdemeanour when entering pit lane.
Márquez then entered pit lane for his belated changeover and upon rejoining the race at Turn 1 clashed with Lorenzo, who was flying into the first turn and in the race lead. The pair clattered into one another but both remained upright, and Lorenzo held his lead with Pedrosa and Márquez second and third. Pedrosa then gave up a position to Márquez as he abided by the earlier direction from race officials – all of it making for one of the most incredible and, at times, unbelievable races in recent history.
As things reached a climax Márquez was then black flagged for his failure to comply with the changeover rules, and a fight between Valentino Rossi, Álvaro Bautista and Cal Crutchlow that had been for fourth place suddenly turned into a contest for the final podium position. Rossi eventually came out on top.
At the front Lorenzo crossed the finish line to take victory number six of the season, and with Márquez's no-score took a massive 25-point chunk out of his rival's lead at the top. Pedrosa's second place keeps him in the hunt – mathematically – for the title as well, with just two rounds now left.