PHILLIP ISLAND - Maverick Vinales powered to a dominant victory at the Australian MotoGP on Sunday as newly crowned world champion Marc Marquez was dramatically forced out after a frightening high-speed collision.

The Spanish rider, who started second and took the lead after Marquez retired, scored his first win of the year to break Yamaha’s 25-race win drought, taking the chequered flag ahead of Andrea Iannone on a Suzuki. Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso was third, strengthening his bid to finish runner-up in the world championship as his nearest rival, Valentino Rossi, could only manage sixth.

“It feels amazing,” said Vinales. “I didn’t think I could win, but the bike was perfect. It means a lot to me, particularly in Australia because it’s a place I love to be. “This track suits me really well and maybe that’s why I could give a little bit more. “The season has been difficult, I needed that win, Yamaha need that win to give us the motivation to start again next year,” he added.

While he celebrated, there was disappointment for Honda hotshot Marquez, who sealed his fifth world title in motorcycling’s premier class in Japan a week ago. While he won at Phillip Island in 2015 and 2017, he also has the bizarre record now of failing to finish on three occasions after clinching the world title in Japan (2014, 2016 and 2018). He was lucky to escape injury after Yamaha’s Johann Zarco shunted him on lap six as they were screaming down the track at 250 kph.

The Frenchman skidded off through the gravel, but gave a thumbs up to show he was unhurt.  Marquez managed to stay on his bike but his back seat was mangled and his suspension appeared damaged, forcing him to call it a day. It was his first non-finish of the season, having won the last three races, but he refused to blame Zarco.

“I feel very lucky. I will not complain because it was a racing incident,” he said in the pits. “The most important thing is that we are both okay. Luckily I won the championship last week, but unfortunately another non-finish for me at Phillip Island.”

Marquez started from pole, and in dry conditions on the demanding and picturesque circuit he was super-aggressive from the word go. Dovizioso, who was fourth on the grid, quickly stormed into second behind the Spaniard, with hometown hero Jack Miller third. But then it all went pear-shaped for Marquez, leaving the race wide open.

Vinales took full advantage and began clocking fastest laps, bursting away from the pack, which was left in a dog fight for the minor podium places. Iannone had set the pace during the practice sessions and Marquez had tipped him to win, but the Italian was content to just get on the podium in his best result of the year. “I thought we had the potential to win the race, but when I made a mistake on corner four, I lost four or five positions,” he said. “I started to recover but I felt the tyres were beginning to go a bit.”

In other racing, Spain’s Albert Arenas won an exciting and fierce Moto3 battle on a KTM bike that saw a spate of ugly crashes and several riders taken to the medical centre for check-ups. Another KTM rider, South Africa’s Brad Binder, took out the Moto2 crown for his third win of the year.