Valentino Rossi can’t add a seventh MotoGP championship to his storied career this season, but he shows he still has what it takes to register a fighting win.
The indefatigable Italian stood tall as others fell away in a tumultuous Australian grand prix, sending his many fans into delirium.
Chief among those to lose their nerve was race leader Marc Marquez, tumbling down Lukey Heights on the famed Phillip Island circuit with just ten laps remaining.
For Rossi, this turned a creditable second into an exhilarating first win in Australia since 2005.
“When I saw Marc crash, it was a surprise,” he said with a wide grin.
“On one of the best and more important tracks and beautiful tracks of the season, after ten years from my last victory is a great achievement.”
This was a great day too for Yamaha, which clinched a 1-2-3 result with Jorge Lorenzo and podium debutant Brad Smith behind Rossi.
Rossi’s podium celebrations were more like a man celebrating his first win, rather than a 35-year-old winning for the 82nd time in his 250th start.
He explained that his emotional reactions came from a close bond with the coastal circuit.
“I love this track, here I won the two most important championships of my career: 2001 and 2004,” he said.
Like Australian MotoGP winner Jack Miller, Rossi won from eighth on the grid.
Rossi’s second win of the season puts him in prime position to finish second in the championship behind winner Marquez.
He is eight points ahead of Lorenzo who is in third place, with retiree Dani Pedrosa a further 17 points back.
Rossi said to be crowned best of the rest was still worth fighting for.
After throwing away a chance to equal Mick Doohan’s record of 12 race wins in a season, Marquez was left flabbergasted.
“I don’t know what happened, I was pushing all the time,” he told the BBC.
For his part Lorenzo lamented a poor tyre decision, which cost him speed and left him with “the luckiest second place of my life”.
“On the wrong tyre, it was impossible to fight for position,” he said.
Such was the late commotion, third-placed Smith said he struggled to take in the best MotoGP finish of his career.
“I saw ‘third and Smith’ and I thought there’s no chance of that happening, something wrong with that screen,” he said.
“Then I saw Valentino and Jorge and I thought, `well, I’m the only one here’.”
Smith’s podium finish came courtesy of his countryman Cal Crutchlow’s tough late crash from second place.
Crutchlow was one of nine forced retirements, including Marquez, Pedrosa, and Aleix and Pol Espargaro.
Australian Broc Parkes was also forced to pit and retire half way through the race.
AUSTRALIAN MOTOGP RESULTS
1 Valentino Rossi – Yamaha
2 Jorge Lorenzo – Yamaha
3 Bradley Smith – Yamaha
4 Andrea Dovizioso – Ducati
5 Hector Barbera – Ducati
6 Alvaro Bautista – Honda
7 Scott Redding – Honda
8 Hiroshi Aoyama – Honda
9 Alex De Angelis – Yamaha
10 Nicky Hayden – Honda
MOTOGP STANDINGS (After 16 rounds)
1 Marc Marquez – Honda – 312 points
2 Valentino Rossi – Yamaha -255
3 Jorge Lorenzo – Yamaha 247
4 Dani Pedrosa – Honda – 230
5 Andrea Dovizioso – Ducati -166
6 Aleix Espargaro – Yamaha – 117
7 Pol Espargaro – Yamaha – 116
8 Bradley Smith – Yamaha – 108
9 Andrea Iannone – Ducati – 102
10 Stefan Bradl – Honda – 96