Marc Marquez took his sixth win of the year in a scintillating Phillip Island showdown, breaking away from an eight-rider fight for the win in the latter stages to take to the top step.
After a tough race for title rival Andrea Dovizioso as the Italian suffered an early run off and was only able to fight back to 13th, it leaves the rider from Cervera now 33 points clear in the standings.
Valentino Rossi took second as he came out on top of a three-way fight for the podium, with teammate Maverick Viñales taking third. Viñales is now out of the Championship fight, 50 points back with two rounds to go.
It was Marquez who got the holeshot but he couldn’t hold it into Turn 2 as a stunner from Jack Miller saw the Queenslander slice through into the lead – and then start pulling away.
Viñales was the man in third on the chase, as an incredible first lap then took another twist next time round into Turn 1, when Dovizioso went wide and dropped down to P20.
Then the race was on for the Italian, as a seven-rider train at the front closed in on Miller in the lead. Rossi and Viñales were the first to get through, and a lead group of Marquez, Viñales, Rossi, Andrea Iannone and Zarco began to fight it out.
Marquez vs Rossi, Zarco vs Rossi, Viñales vs Marquez, Iannone vs Zarco…in one of the most aggressive and hard-fought battles of the season, decade or more, the passes came thick and fast – including a move for Zarco around the outside of Doohan corner – as rubber was left on the road; a little on opponents’ leathers and a little paint was swapped in one of the most incredible fights in history.
Once Marquez was ahead, however, the reigning Champion was able to begin pulling a gap with five laps to go.
Pulling the pin as the battle raged on behind him, the number 93 began to sprint away – and the podium fight was down to three by the final laps: Rossi vs Viñales vs Zarco.
With some of the tightest lines ever ridden around the Island at times on that final lap, Rossi was able to take it – but all three were almost neck and neck over the line.
And over that line, it was Viñales just edging ahead of the Tech 3 of the Frenchman – taking third for a return to the rostrum but a definite end to his chance at the title. Zarco's fourth, meanwhile, confirmed him as Rookie of the Year in 2017.
After Iannone getting pushed back in the latter stages, Cal Crutchlow took fifth ahead of the Italian, with Miller, Alex Rins and another double delight for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing completing the top ten; Espargaro just pipping Smith.
Dovizioso suffered late heartbreak after losing out on the drag to the line to both Scott Redding and Dani Pedrosa and coming home 13th, with Karel Abraham and Jorge Lorenzo completing the top fifteen.
Sepang is now ready for business, with the next round soon on the horizon and 33 points swinging the pendulum in Marquez’ favour.
But not everything goes to script, as Dovizioso found out at the Island – and the Italian won at Sepang last season. It’s time for a final stand.
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