MotoGP™ headed south in the latest swing of the transcontinental stage of the 2022 season and with the quick, sweeping and majestic Phillip Island circuit, close to the city of Melbourne staging the first Australian Grand Prix since 2019.
Short, narrow but also technical and spectacular; Phillip Island is an eagerly anticipated oddity on the world championship schedule thanks to the demands of the layout that emphasises corner speed, slipstreaming and very few hard braking points.
The Sterilgarda Max Racing team came into the event with Ayumu Sasaki having taken five podium finishes in the last seven events with his FR 250 GP motorcycle. The Grand Prix got underway in positive style as Sasaki topped FP2 and then FP3 by a lengthy three quarters of a second and looked in flying form for qualification. The Japanese continued his lap-record breaking pace (having shattered the eight-year distinction) to seal his second Pole Position of the season. John McPhee was down on the sixth row in 16th.
Moto3 was played out across 23-laps on a sunny but breezy Sunday morning. Sasaki was part of a gripping dice with three riders in the lead group. The show saw numerous position changes for the win. The tussle went all the way to the chequered flag with only half a second dividing the quartet at the line and Sasaki was 4th, pipped to yet another trophy by a tenth of a second.
McPhee rode to 6th. The experienced Scot was just seven hundredths of a second away from heading the second group and the classification marked the second-best of the season.
Two rounds and a maximum of 50 points remain in the 2022 Moto3 contest. Sasaki is still 4th and 16 points from the top three. Sterilgarda Max Racing hold 3rd in the teams championship while McPhee is 16th and can still reach the top ten in the races remaining.
The penultimate Grand Prix of the season will be staged by the Sepang International Circuit for the Petronas Grand Prix of Malaysia next weekend. The frequent MotoGP testing venue is a short distance south from Kuala Lumpur and is typically a busy and popular stop on the world championship trail.
Ayumu Sasaki: “It was a crazily difficult race! It was a bit damp in the beginning so we kept it steady but then the front guys started to push and I could go as well. It was a good pace and we made a small group. It was an incredible fight and unfortunately I ended up 4th when the podium was so close. It was tricky because the positions changed every lap but I gave my best. I’m satisfied with the weekend; we were strong and fast.”
John McPhee: “I think 6th was a positive step in the right direction and I was able to enjoy riding the bike again. It had been a tough weekend and one of the hardest of the year in terms of finding my feeling here. I wasn’t making too much progress until qualification and then had a lot of moments in the race…but I was determined to push until my absolute maximum for a good result here. I gave it everything so I hope we can be in much better shape from FP1 in Malaysia.”
Results – 2022 Moto3 World Championship, Round 18
1. Izan Guevara (GASGAS) 37:38.762, 2. Deniz Öncü (KTM) +0.345, 3. Sergio Garcia (GASGAS) +0.460, 4. Ayumu Sasaki (Husqvarna) +0.560, 6. John McPhee (Husqvarna) +7.496
Moto3 world championship standings
1. Izan Guevara (GASGAS) 290pts, 2. Sergio Garcia (GASGAS) 225, 3. Dennis Foggia (Honda) 223, 4. Ayumu Sasaki (Husqvarna) 207, 16. John McPhee (Husqvarna) 72