AirAsia Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, 2012
story and photos courtesy of MotoGP
Casey Stoner leads Jorge Lorenzo at Phillip Island, Australia
This weekend’s AirAsia Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island was the setting for not only some tremendous races but also the crowing of two World Champions in the shape of Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo in the MotoGP premier class and Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez in the intermediate Moto2 category.
Despite Repsol Honda Team’s local hero Casey Stoner taking a dominant sixth win in succession in his final-ever home race, an error from the Australian’s teammate Dani Pedrosa and second place from Lorenzo was enough for the Mallorcan to be crowned 2012 MotoGP World Champion.
It was Lorenzo that got the holeshot into turn one after a lightning start, with Pedrosa close on his tail in front of Stoner. Pedrosa was boisterous from the off and pushed past Lorenzo within a couple of turns as he tried to pull away. Local hero Stoner was soon all over Lorenzo and took him on the home straight heading into lap two. Shortly after there was huge drama as Pedrosa pushed too hard and lost the rear of his bike, with Stoner and Lorenzo closely behind. The Spaniard was able to remount, yet had to pit with the bike too damaged, leaving Lorenzo in a strong position to take the world title.
As Stoner pulled away at the front in dominant fashion, an entertaining battle for third ensued being led by Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, followed by teammate Andrea Dovizioso, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista and LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl. In the meantime, Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison crashed out of the race, while NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards had to retire due to a technical issue. With 18 laps remaining Crutchlow was on a charge as he was lapping faster than Lorenzo, dropping off Dovizioso slightly, who had Bautista stuck to his rear wheel. Behind them, Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi was leading a battle of the Desmosedicis ahead of Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham and Ducati’s Nicky Hayden.
Stoner was leading at the front with Lorenzo and lonely second and Crutchlow a lonely third, yet Bautista, Bradl and Dovizioso were at each other’s throat throughout. With eight laps to go Speed Master’s Roberto Rolfo retired with a mechanical issue. Further afield and Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró was tussling with teammate Randy de Puniet in their battle for CRT supremacy, with the two swapping positions frequently. With five laps remaining Dovizioso went past Bradl into fourth, whilst Bautista capitalised on this and also squeezed past the German for fifth. And two laps before the end the trio provided fairing-to-fairing action with Dovizioso leading into the last lap, and keeping this position until the line.
Yet ultimately it was Stoner who made it six wins in succession at the Australian track on his final bow at his home circuit, with Lorenzo clinching his second premier-class title with one round to go – the only Spaniard to have more than one. Crutchlow put in a terrific ride as he stormed to his second ever GP podium, despite suffering from illness. Dovizioso was the first non-podium finisher, followed by Bautista, Bradl, Rossi, Hayden, Abraham, as well as Espargaró, who came out on top in the CRT battle with his teammate.
The race was a huge draw for the Australian crowd as an estimated 53,100 fans descended on the track on Sunday, making the estimated three-day attendance a record breaking 122,470.
Lorenzo made history as he became the first Spanish rider to win the premier-class title more than once, after coming second and securing an insurmountable 43-point cushion with one race left.
Spanish Rock Star Jorge Lorenzo crushed the MotoGP competition
Jorge Lorenzo’s journey to his two MotoGP premier class titles began at the age of three when he entered in minicross competitions in his native Mallorca, followed by junior motocross and a 50cc Copa Aprilia title in the Spanish Championship – an entry he was only granted with special permission. Lorenzo subsequently became the youngest ever rider to enter a World Championship race. Turning fifteen – the minimum age for Grand Prix participation back then – on the second day of practice for the 2002 Spanish race at Jerez, he made his debut on board a Derbi 125cc at a track where he would enjoy much success over the next few years.
In just his second season he took his first Grand Prix victory at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where his impressive “round the outside” overtaking manoeuvre on Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa won him the nickname “Por Fuera”. In 2004 he sealed a further three triumphs, before making the move up to the 250cc category a year later and taking four poles and six podiums in his maiden season. 2006 was to be the coming-of-age year for the Mallorcan, who switched to Aprilia machinery and immediately became the favourite for the World Championship. He justified the hype with an impressive eight victories, equalling the pole position record in the process with ten, and lifting the title in an emotional final race of the year at Valencia.
Another dominant year in 2007 saw Lorenzo retaining the quarter-litre title, with all nine of his victories coming from pole. At just twenty years old, he was a two-time 250cc World Champion and took on his biggest challenge to date by signing for the Yamaha factory team in MotoGP alongside Valentino Rossi. Lorenzo made an immediate impact in the premier class with a stunning first five races. He took pole on his debut – becoming the first man to do so since Max Biaggi ten years previously – and finished second in an astounding performance in Qatar. He followed up the feat with pole at the next two races, becoming the first rider to go ‘three from three’ in his rookie season and turning both top spots into podium finishes.
Unfortunately his debut MotoGP season in 2008 was also marred by a few big crashes and injuries, including two broken ankles in China that eventually forced the debutant out of action for his home race in Catalunya. However he regained his fitness and confidence in the latter part of the season, and picked up the pace to finish fourth overall and become Rookie of the Year. Lorenzo went from strength to strength in 2009, pushing his then colleague and fierce rival Rossi all the way for the title. Their battle at Catalunya was a season highlight, and Lorenzo picked up four wins as part of a 12-podium haul for the year, with five pole positions as well. Ultimately he was unable to wrest the title from Rossi’s grip, but his challenge was becoming ever stronger.
2010 saw Lorenzo’s star rise even further, and he was finally able to shake off the ‘inconsistent’ tag by scoring podium finishes in the first twelve races of the season, winning seven of them in the process. He took pole on six occasions that season, and qualified on the front row of the grid for every race except one. Still aged just 23, he become only the second World Champion from Spain in the premier class after Alex Crivillé. 2011 saw the Mallorcan face a new foe in the form of a rejuvenated Casey Stoner on board his Repsol Honda, which proved to be a near unbeatable combination. Yet despite a Yamaha that looked to be lacking in power, he fought his way to three wins and ten podiums, and managed to finish the season in second, despite missing the final three races due to a bad finger injury.
With the switch to 1000cc at the start of 2012 Lorenzo and his Yamaha made a terrific start by winning the opening round in Qatar after a hard fought battle with the Repsol Hondas. From that point on the Spaniard went on to take five further wins and nine second-places, only once failing to finish a race after being taken out by Álvaro Bautista in Assen. The race at Phillip Island proved a dramatic one as his main rival Dani Pedrosa crashed out early on, with Lorenzo needing only a three-point finish or more to clinch the title. He however didn’t hold back and climbed on the podium once more to take his second premier-class title.
Jorge Lorenzo facts:
Lorenzo is the first Spanish rider to win the premier-class world title more than once.
He has finished either first or second at every race that he has finished during 2012. The only occasion this year when he has failed to finish either first or second was when he was knocked off by Álvaro Bautista at the first corner of the Dutch TT.
Throughout the 2012 season only two riders have finished in front of Lorenzo – Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner.
He becomes just the third rider in the 64-year history of Grand Prix racing to win more than a single world title in both the intermediate-class and premier-class of Grand Prix racing. The only other riders to have achieved this are Mike Hailwood and Phil Read.
2002: 125cc World Championship – 21st position on Derbi, 14 starts, 21 points
2003: 125cc World Championship – 12th position on Derbi, 16 starts, 79 points
2004: 125cc World Championship – 4th position on Derbi, 16 starts, 179 points
2005: 250cc World Championship – 5th position on Honda, 15 starts, 167 points
2006: 250cc World Championship – 1st position on Aprilia, 16 starts, 289 points
2007: 250cc World Championship – 1st position on Aprilia, 17 starts, 312 points
2008: MotoGP World Championship – 4th position on Yamaha, 17 starts, 190 points
2009: MotoGP World Championship – 2nd position on Yamaha, 17 starts, 261 points
2010: MotoGP World Championship – 1st position on Yamaha, 18 starts, 383 points
2011: MotoGP World Championship – 2nd position on Yamaha, 15 starts, 260 points
2012: MotoGP World Championship – 1st position on Yamaha, 17 starts, 350 points
Birth date: 04/05/1987
Birth place: Palma de Mallorca
First Grand Prix: SPA – 2002 – 125cc
First Pole Position: MAL – 2003 – 125cc
First Podium: RIO – 2003 – 125cc
First GP Victory: RIO – 2003 – 125cc
Grand Prix Starts: 178
Grand Prix Victories: 44
Pole Positions: 51
Race Fastest Lap: 23
World Championship Wins: 2 x 250cc, 2 x MotoGP
Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez was crowned Moto2 World Champion at today’s AirAsia Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island after coming third in an enthralling race won by Tuenti Movil HP 40’s Pol Espargaró with Anthony West second.
Pole-man Espargaró had a bad start as he was taken by Italtrans Racing Team’s Takaaki Nakagami, Márquez and Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi in the first few bends. Yet within one lap Espargaró was leading Márquez as the Spanish duo started to spar, in front of Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding, Nakagami and JiR Moto2’s Johann Zarco.
A lap later and Espargaró already looked in a league of his own as he had pulled out a significant gap over Márquez in second. With 20 laps to go Speed Master’s Andrea Iannone retired with an engine problem, as Redding made his was past Márquez into second. At the same time, QMMF Racing’s Anthony West led a big group for fourth, with Technomag-CIP’s Dominique Aegerter and Came IodaRacing Project’s Simone Corsi in tow.
With 12 laps remaining Lüthi looked to be struggling as he had dropped into 12th, while Espargaró’s teammate Esteve Rabat had fought his way up to sixth. And couple of laps later Lüthi’s race got even worse as he crashed out, citing a rear tyre issue. Eight laps before the end West had dropped off his group and was edging ever closer to Márquez to challenge for third. The pursuing group fighting for fifth saw Marc VDS’ Mika Kallio and GP Team Switzerland’s Randy Krummenacher join the fight as the six of them were bunched tightly.
With three laps left West made his move on Márquez much to the delight of the local crowd. The Australian then tried a move on Redding, but couldn’t make it stick, as Kallio was forced to drop his bike into the gravel after being bumped by Corsi. The action was then back at the front again as West made a brave move into second, only to then be dramatically followed by Márquez in the final corner, relegating Redding to fourth.
Espargaró took the chequered flag with an enormous margin of over 16 seconds, with West taking his second ever Moto2™ podium in front of an ecstatic home crowd. The final spot on the rostrum went to Márquez, who is now the fifth Spanish rider to have won the intermediate-class, and the first to do so on a Suter bike. The first non-podium finisher in fourth was Redding ahead of Aegerter, Zarco, Corsi, Rabat, Krummenacher and Nakagami.
It was also confirmed after the race that NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Alex de Angelis had undergone successful surgery at the Epworth Richmond Hospital on his finger injuries from yesterday, and was on his path to recovery. His return date has however not been confirmed.
New Moto2 champ Marky Marc Márquez and team
Marc Márquez became the fifth Spanish rider ever to win a world title in the intermediate-class, and being the first ever to do so on a Suter chassis.
Marc Márquez’s debut World Championship campaign in 2008 immediately served notice of his talent, and he took a podium at Donington in his first season despite a shortened campaign due to injury. In 2009 he scored a single podium on his way to eighth overall, before his full talent truly blossomed in 2010 as he scored an incredible 10 victories from 12 poles on his way to the 125cc World Championship title. One of his most notable rides was the fight-back from last on the grid in Estoril to storm to victory.
Stepping up to Moto2 in 2011 the youngster got off to a rocky start, crashing out of the first two rounds. However, a first win in Round 4 at Le Mans laid the way for six more victories as he pushed Stefan Bradl for the title closely, until a crash in practice at the Malaysian GP ended Márquez’s season prematurely. Problems with his vision as a result of that crash cut short his 2012 pre-season, but he was well on the pace in the final Test at Jerez and was an instant favourite for the 2012 title.
And Márquez did not disappoint as he took victory in the first race of the season in Qatar, and made his intentions clear with some tough and controversial overtakes in the race. A first DNF after a crash in a wet Le Mans gave his rivals hope, as compatriot Pol Espargaró mounted a strong challenge. Yet after a coming together of the two at their respective home race in Catalunya, where Espargaró crashed out and Márquez collected valuable points, the title race was strongly skewed in the champion’s favour.
A total of eight wins, one of which in Japan saw him fight his way through the whole pack, and 13 podiums ultimately saw the Spaniard take his maiden Moto2™ World Championship title before moving up to the Repsol Honda Team in the MotoGP™ premier class next season.
Marc Márquez facts:
At the age of 19 years 254 days he is the third youngest rider of all-time to win the world title in the intermediate-class.
He is the fifth Spanish rider to win the intermediate-class world title, joining: Sito Pons (1988 & 1989), Dani Pedrosa (2004 & 2005), Jorge Lorenzo (2006 & 2007) and Toni Elias (2010).
Márquez is the first rider to win the Moto2 world title using a Suter chassis.
He has already had eight victories in 2012, which is a new record for most Moto2 wins in a single season.
With 25 wins already in Grand Prix racing, Marquez has won more Grand Prix races than any other rider in the history of the sport whilst still a teenager.
2008: 125cc World Championship – 13th position on KTM, 13 starts, 63 points
2009: 125cc World Championship – 8th position on KTM, 16 starts, 94 points
2010: 125cc World Championship – 1st position on Derbi, 17 starts, 310 points
2011: Moto2™ World Championship – 2nd position on Suter, 13 starts, 251 points
2012: Moto2™ World Championship – 1st position on Suter, 16 starts, 299 points
Birth date: 17/2/93
Birth place: Cervera, Spain
First Grand Prix: QAT – 2008 – 125cc
First Pole Position: FRA – 2009 – 125cc
First Podium: GBR – 2008 – 125cc
First GP Victory: ITA – 2010 – 125cc
Grand Prix Starts: 77
Grand Prix Victories: 25
Pole Positions: 28
Race Fastest Lap: 15
World Championship Wins: 1x125cc, 1xMoto2agraph
Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese leads at Australia
In a thrilling Moto3 race at the AirAsia Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island it was Red Bull KTM Ajo’s World Champion Sandro Cortese who took a strong victory ahead of Miguel Oliveira and local rider Arthur Sissis.
AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin got a lighting start as he led the early stages, followed by RW Racing GP’s Luis Salom, who had made his way up from ninth. Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger and Racing Team Germany’s Louis Rossi were in tow, as Cortese was stalking them from behind. Mahindra Racing’s weekend took a turn for the worse as Ricardo Moretti had to retire after just a few laps.
In a dramatic twist, Folger, Salom, Rossi, Andalucia JHK t-shirt Laglisse’s Alberto Moncayo and Caretta Technology’s Jack Miller were given ride-through penalties for jump-starts. Rossi, before even seeing the board, made an error in the leading pack as he went onto the grass, but managed to stay upright. TT Motion Events Racing’s Niklas Ajo saved a near crash with 16 laps remaining, whilst Cortese had taken over the lead after much of the leading pack had completed their penalties. Also making use of this was Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Miguel Oliveira in second, whilst Blusens Avintia’s Maverick Viñales was tussling with Cortese’s teammate Arthur Sissis for fourth.
13 laps before the end and Ajo was not so lucky again as he dropped his bike in the gravel. Meanwhile, Team Italia FMI duo of Romano Fenati and Alessandro Tonucci, Oliveira’s teammate Alex Rins, JHK t-shirt Laglisse’s Efrén Vázquez and Red Bull’s Danny Kent had joined the group chasing the final podium spot. Folger’s teammate Luca Amato retired from the race at the halfway point. With eight laps remaining it was drama for Viñales as he crashed his bike, putting an end to his charge.
Two laps later and Oliveira made his move on Cortese to take the lead for the first time. On the same lap, Racing Team Germany’s Toni Finsterbusch suffered a mechanical issue and retired from the race. Khairuddin then suffered a similar fate, as Cortese re-took the lead. The last two laps proved a thrilling affair in the fight for the final podium spot between Rins, Sissis, Kent, Fenati and Vázquez, with the riders going fairing-to-fairing at times.
In the end it was Cortese who crossed the line first ahead of podium sitters Oliveira and Sissis, with the Australian particularly pleased to get his first GP podium in front of his home crowd. With the country’s MotoGP star Casey Stoner retiring at the end of this year, the crowd will be happy to see that a possible replacement is coming up through the ranks. Fourth place went to Rins, followed by Kent, Fenati, Tonucci, Vázquez, Ambrogio Next Racing’s Alex Márquez and Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Isaac Viñales. Rins now leads the Rookie standings from Fenati by 5 points.
Homeboy Stoner leads Aussie practice
Don’t you wish Rockingham was this picturesque? Casey Stoner at Phillip Island, Australia
As the first day of free practices got underway at the AirAsia Australian Grand Prix in Phillip Island this weekend it was Repsol Honda Team’s Casey Stoner who showed himself as the man to beat in the premier-class with a dominant display ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo.
Set in the afternoon session, Stoner’s time in the high 1.29s was over eight tenths ahead of his teammate Dani Pedrosa, who was nonetheless improving steadily across the session, with his sole aim this weekend to finish ahead of Jorge Lorenzo. Stoner is not showing any signs of his injury, as he looks in breath-taking form ahead of his quest to take his sixth consecutive win at the track. It was Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo, who could clinch the world title on Sunday, that occupied third spot on the timesheets, albeit over a second off the top time set by Stoner.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow came in fourth, with the Brit doing extremely well to overcome flu type symptoms he has been experiencing since leaving Malaysia earlier this week. In fifth, his teammate Andrea Dovizioso had a solid day, though will have to find something extra if he is to take third spot in the championship off Stoner this weekend. Behind him in sixth, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista was on good form, seemingly finding some of the confidence in the bike he had two weeks ago in Motegi.
Seventh place went to his satellite counterpart Stefan Bradl on his LCR Honda MotoGP machine, who was the last of the riders to be within two seconds of the top. Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi ended the day in eighth as top Desmosedici, although the Italian, who has won at this track five times in his career, will no doubt be looking for a lot more.
In ninth, his teammate Nicky Hayden was the only rider in the top ten to not better his time in the afternoon practice session. Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet completed the top ten, with the Frenchman not only finishing as top CRT, but also beating the satellite Ducatis of Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá and Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham.
The only crasher was San Carlo’s Michele Pirro in the morning session, who initially produced an incredibly save from a big highside – only then to fall once he ran into the dirt. He was able to re-join the morning session for the final part. Yamaha’s Ben Spies is absent for the rest of the season as he recovers from surgery on his injured shoulder.
After a second Moto2 free practice session that was cut short by rain at the AirAsia Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island it was Tuenti Movil HP 40’s Pol Espargaró who topped the day’s timesheets ahead of Scott Redding and Tom Lüthi.
Espargaró was instantly on the pace in the second session, not taking long to post his fastest time of 1.34’578, the fastest of the day, before ominous clouds arrived with 20 minutes left and dumped a hefty spot of rain on the circuit. And with many riders still doing set-up work and not focussing on outright lap times until the end, this meant that Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding retained second spot in the combined timesheets, despite only finishing in eighth in FP2. Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi and Redding’s teammate Mika Kallio finished behind the Brit, also thanks to their times from the morning.
QMMF Racing’s Anthony West, fresh from his first-ever podium in Moto2 in Malaysia last weekend, ended the day in fifth, despite setting the third quickest time of the afternoon, ousting Kiefer Racing’s Mike Di Meglio into sixth. Seventh spot went to potential championship winner this weekend, Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez, with the Spaniard’s team fortunate to have resolved an electrical issue, which stopped him from setting a time in the morning. Speed Master’s Andrea Iannone, who despite not looking like his usual self, set the eighth quickest time of the day with a quick run in the afternoon, with GP Team Switzerland’s Randy Krummenacher making a welcome return from injury in ninth.
Completing the top ten was last race winner Alex de Angelis on his NGM Mobile Forward Racing machine, after the San Marino rider improved marginally in the afternoon. Tech 3 Racing’s Xavier Siméon suffered engine problems early on in the second session, while Arguiñano Racing Team’s Ricky Cardús crashed in both sessions, fortunately walking away unscathed. Following the rain, some riders went out on track to check conditions with wet tyres, yet no hot-laps were set, with not much data to be gathered.
Jonas “Mountain Grown” Folger
It was in the second Moto3 free practice at the AirAsia Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island where Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger set the fastest time of the day in front of Sandro Cortese and Maverick Viñales.
Unlike in the morning session there was no sun at the island circuit to greet the riders, however this did not deter the Moto3™ contingent, which once again tested its mettle on the fast and flowing track. Folger left it late to post the best time of the day, a 1.39’213, to jump past Red Bull KTM Ajo’s World Champion Sandro Cortese, who had been the consistently quickest all day. Behind them was Blusens Avintia’s Maverick Viñales, now back together with the team after a public apology by the rider, who did well to recover from a crash in the morning session.
Cortese’s teammate Danny Kent was once again high up the timesheets in fourth, however he was almost half a second off Viñales. Behind him, Team Italia FMI’s Romano Fenati looked to have found some much needed pace after a difficult morning session, ousting AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s star of the last race, Zulfahmi Khairuddin, into sixth. Redox-Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Jakub Kornfeil came in seventh with both JHK t-shirt Laglisse’s Efrén Vázquez and Andalucia JHK t-shirt Laglisse’s Alberto Moncayo in tow.
Racing Team Germany’s Louis Rossi came in tenth, despite being a crasher early in the session. Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Miguel Oliveira suffered a mechanical issue right at the start but was ale to re-join practice, while Rossi’s teammate Toni Finsterbusch also had a problem with his bike. Ambrogio Next Racing’s Alex Márquez had a big crash in the afternoon practice, yet managed to avoid any serious injury.
Technomag-CIP-TSR’s Alan Techer was a crasher in the morning session, with Fastline GP Racing’s wildcard Sam Clarke and Oliveira’s teammate Alex Rins following suit. It was also heartache for Mahindra Racing’s Danny Webb, whose engine blew in the first outing. With no more engines left, the Brit is forced to miss the remainder of the weekend.
MotoGP championship leader Jorge Lorenzo was joined by title rival Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi and James Ellison at the Thursday press conference marking the penultimate round of the MotoGP™ World Championship at the AirAsia Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo, leading the championship with 23-points, is aware of the possibility he has to take the title in the next two races, but is trying not to focus on that, nor the threat Repsol Honda Team’s Pedrosa poses: “It’s only two races until the end, so more than ever we must be really concentrated and really focussed on not making any mistakes. Anyway, we have the opportunity to arrive in Valencia with the possibility to be world champion. We’ll try to finish on the podium this time. In a general view we are thinking about the championship, but for sure it’s better just to concentrate on the next practice, then the next one, qualifying and then the race. It would be great [to win the title here] and we have to possibility to do it, but we are not going to make ourselves crazy just to do it.”
Phillip Island saw Lorenzo’s 2011 campaign end last year with a nasty finger injury, but the Mallorcan is not dwelling on that: “Last year was a really bad year for us, especially after my crash in the warm-up with my big injury, but it could also happen in another track, so I don’t have any bad feelings about this track. Phillip Island is a very special track; very different from another. When you go into the first corner and do a lap you realize how different it is. It’s really narrow, really fast, and the landscape is wonderful. It’s great to ride here, especially when the weather is perfect and there is no wind or rain.”
Pedrosa, who has been on a winning streak recently, and must close the deficit further to catch Lorenzo, is out for the win once more: “There is no difference now from the last races, so I’ll just try to go out, do some good practices, try to enjoy it and keep focussed as usual and ride well. Riding here is always very special. There are many corners where you can steer the bike with the gas. There are some times when it’s really cold, but sometimes it’s wonderful to be here with this horsepower, especially into the last corner going onto the main straight and up the hill.” With regards to taking the title down to the wire at the next round the Spaniard said: “It would be good [to have a title battle in Valencia], as there are two Spaniards fighting for the championship and the final round is in Spain. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this position, fighting until the end.”
His teammate Stoner, who is looking to make it six wins in a row at the track is hoping his injury and fitness concerns do not hold him back: “It’s the last time I’m going to be racing here, as there are only two races to go in the season and my career, so it’s been built up to be a very big weekend. I’m still going to attack it as I have done always. In some ways it’s no different to me than any other weekend, except that I do really enjoy this track, I love it.”
He also stated that his injury is not progressing in the way he had hoped: “It’s definitely worse than when we came back in Japan. We’re having a lot more trouble with it day to day, just getting around on it at all. But I don’t think it will affect me any differently on the bike. The biggest moment I’m having at the moment is flexibility on the bike trying to get it working. Fortunately on this track there are not too many right hand corner that are so critical, so we should be a little more comfortable riding around here. The main fitness problem I’m having at the moment is endurance.”
Ducati Team’s Rossi, also a five time winner at the track, cites it as one of the best venues on the calendar, and hopes for a much improved outing over last year: “Phillip Island is more or less the favourite of all the riders because it is something different and something special compared to the others. It’s very fast and it’s always a great feeling to ride a motorbike here. Last year was a very bad weekend for us. I was very slow, maybe one of the worst. We are very concentrated to give the maximum and do better.”
Paul Bird Motorsport’s Ellison, who has had a tricky season so far, is confident a new engine will see his results improve: “It’s been a difficult season for me, but I’ve just tried to keep my head down and get the results. I’m really enjoying it; really enjoy riding the bike, and developing it. The development’s not coming on as fast as I was hoping. We just got a new engine in Aragón, but it’s just the one and we’re only allowed to use it in the warm-up and in the race. It’s quite a big step, so if we can save it for the races here and in Valencia we can keep closing the gap to the Aspar boys.”
Earlier in the day Stoner was honoured with a slice of the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit, the high speed Turn Three, to be now known as “Stoner Corner”. The naming announced by Andrew Fox of circuit owners, the Linfox Property Group, is in recognition of Stoner’s career, and was marked with a special plaque at the turn. Stoner commented on his exceptional record there and gave an insight into the secret of riding well there: “It is not time on the track that has got my success, because everybody I race against has had as many laps, if not more, than me at the island. The only thing I can explain is that because the track is quite slippery and with such high corner speeds, being fast there has a lot to do with balls – how much you want to hang it out. It’s a place that really gets the adrenaline flowing and I think most riders will say they love this track.” As Stoner has the chance to make it six wins in a row at the track this Sunday, the circuit owners already have a substitute plaque prepared for such an instance.
Following this, he joined fellow Australian riders, QMMF Racing’s Anthony West, Caretta-Technology’s Jack Miller and Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Arthur Sissis in some trout fishing at the island, to get some much needed relaxation in before the busy weekend ahead.
In a separate encounter, seven times premier-class champion Rossi met one of Australia’s stars from a slightly different kind of track in the form of 100m hurdles 2012 Olympic Champion Sally Pearson.
The penultimate round of the MotoGP championship awaits as riders prepare for the third race of the demanding triple header at the ever-popular Phillip Island track for the AirAsia Australian Grand Prix.
Much attention will be on the Repsol Honda Team duo of Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner, with both having very good reasons for chasing a win. Pedrosa, after his dominant and first-ever wet race victory in Malaysia, now lies only 23-points off Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo, and knows that a victory is a must to cut the deficit, or capitalize on any mistakes his rival might make. Yet despite being in the best form of his career, victory at the circuit could prove though for the Spaniard, as local hero Stoner will not only look to make it six victories in succession at the track, but also to bow out in style at his final MotoGP™ race in front of his home fans.
Lorenzo, who can afford to finish second or third in both of the coming races and still win the title will be very aware of the threat posed by the Hondas, and will most of all avoid becoming complacent. The Mallorcan missed last year’s race due to a nasty finger injury in practice, and as such is very aware of the potential risks his title bid could yet face. Help from his teammate Ben Spies to mix it up with the Honda pair is now out of the question, after the Texan suffered an AC shoulder separation, a cracked rib in the upper chest area and bruising to the lung in a crash in Malaysia. He is back in the US receiving treatment, and Yamaha has stated it will not field a replacement rider.
Their satellite counterparts, Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, on their Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machines, will however be rearing to go after a Sepang race to forget, which saw both of them crash out. Dovizioso was a podium sitter at last year’s Australian round, and will no doubt be building on this experience to keep himself in contention for third spot in the championship. San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, who last year was caught out by a freak rain-shower on the track, will be aiming to continue his good run of form of late, which sees him lead the race for fifth in the table. His satellite counterpart, LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, has been off colour somewhat recently, and will no doubt look back on his Moto2™ form from last year, where he finished second at the track.
Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden both put on good displays on the wet Sepang circuit, and will be hoping that such form can carry over to Phillip Island, regardless of the track conditions. Rossi will have his sights firmly set on Bautista, with the Italian only six points off him in the battle for fifth. Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham and Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá both scored respectable top-ten finishes in Malaysia, and will aim to squeeze a similar performance out of their Desmosedicis in Australia, as they look to keep up with their factory counterparts.
The CRT battle is intensifying as it heads into the penultimate round of the class’ maiden season. Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró is the favourite to take CRT top honours, after his teammate Randy de Puniet has endured a difficult last few rounds. The Frenchman will however not give up without a fight and will line up at the circuit alongside NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci, Speed Master’s Roberto Rolfo, San Carlo’s Michele Pirro, Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison and Avintia Blusens’ Iván Silva. Silva’s teammate Yonny Hernández, who missed the last round due to a dislocated left collarbone, will also miss this race, with a replacement rider due to be announced soon.