MotoGP Phillip Island Previews:
The Championship, the weather, and fighting to the last corner: the Australian GP is open for business
Ahead of track action for the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, there was one last chance for something a little more out of the ordinary as some of the grid came face to face with some locals – of the furry or scaly kind. The animals were a koala, a kangaroo and a black headed python from Maru Koala and Animal Park – guess which critter was the least popular – and the humans were Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Moto3™ title challenger Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), home riders Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) and Broc Parkes (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), and Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing). When it came down to it, only Gardner was brave enough to go face to face with the python – but there was something else bothering Petrucci, as he later explained in the Press Conference: the kangaroo was going to give him a kiss…and then got put off by his beard.
After the encounter with the wildlife, it was time to talk shop in the Pre-Event Press Conference – with Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) joined by the man who trails him by just 11 points, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), third in the Championship Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Motegi podium finisher Petrucci, Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Andrea Iannone and home hero Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), who comes back from injury after missing the Japanese GP following a leg break in training.
The reigning Champion was first to talk, with the first topic the Championship and the duel last time out. “We’re at a very important moment, Motegi was a great weekend and some great last laps. We lost only five points so this was important too. Anyway, here in Phillip Island is normally a track I enjoy more than Motegi. We’ll see how the result and level are but as always try to be on top from FP1, work well for the race and then we’ll see – because the weather is also something interesting here. In Australia, I’ve had some ups and downs, especially in 2014 and 2016 when I crashed when leading with some seconds of advantage. When I win at Motegi I crash here but this time I was second at Motegi! We are fighting for the Championship so the approach of the race is much different to last year and we’ll try to compensate our level with the risk because that’s important to manage well. We’ll see after qualifying if we can fight for the victory or it’s time to think about the Championship. Dovizioso is the most dangerous rival but I still have half an eye looking at Viñales because he’s far but not far enough – so we need to control Dovi more, but the strategy and mentality is the same: push and if we can take one more point we’ll try to the final corner – like at Motegi.”
Dovizioso was the next to weigh in, also doubting the weather this weekend but marking more his speed in Japan than the win: “Eveyrbody enjoyed the battle, it was really nice last weekend the way we worked and how we arrived in the race – we arrived ready and we managed it in the best way. The fight was really nice and it’s important to continue like this and work in the same way. We know here a lot of riders are very fast and Marc especially on paper, so it will be difficult but we’re enjoying the moment and we have to work in the same relaxed way and improve in the weekend, like we have done in many weekends this year. This is the target, but like Marc says, the weather looks unstable as it can be here, the wind and the rain, everything can happen. So we have to go day by day. During the races, winning has a big effect on the rider but especially the team. Mugello was very important to win for myself but also for the team. We’ve created a really good situation in the box, small things have a big effect by the end of the season and we’re fighting for the Championship. The last race, more than the battle we won on the last lap, I was happy about the speed I had during the race, and me and Marc did different during the race. That was important for me and my team in terms of being competitive in the Championship – more than the fact that we recovered 10 points.”
It’s not a two horse race just yet, however, with Viñales a little further back with a 41 point deficit – but it isn’t over until, mathematically, he can no longer challenge. The focus is now simply winning, with no pressure: “Here is a track I like, in preseason it was the track where I was fastest and most consistent but we arrive here in a different way with a completely different bike. I can’t wait to start and it’s a track I enjoy. I’m thinking only about riding. Motegi was a difficult race, we tried everything at 100% and finally we didn’t get a positive result but we have to forget it. There’s no pressure now. Now it’s not in our hands, our opponents would have to make a mistake so it would be difficult. Now we’ll just try to enjoy it, get the Yamaha at the maximum level and try and get another win. We hope for a dry race because it’s when we’re more competitive but in the wet we have to improve, and we do for next year. We can’t change the situation, we just have to improve it.”
Danilo Petrucci is one man who doesn’t want the situation to change – with another podium last time out; his fourth of the season. And in the wet – so would he prefer a repeat with the weather in Australia?
“I think I could be one of the happiest guys,” says the Italian. “But I would prefer a fully dry weekend and I was cold a lot during Motegi. Jokes aside, I think arriving here five days after my last podium is a good thing. I have nothing to lose! I haven’t had a good result here and the long corners don’t help me with the tyre consumption. But this situation is a bit different this year and for sure I think I can be fast in the dry, but we can enjoy it!”
Another rider whose result in Motegi was a huge boost is Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who got his best result of the season so far and the best result of 2017 so far for the Hamamatsu factory – fourth. “For sure Motegi was the best weekend of the season for us. I finished the race in fourth, we have worked hard throughout the year, especially at Aragon test. When you arrive in this position you see the hard work, but it was a strange race due to weather, I don’t know the potential in the dry. I am very charged up for 2018 because we’ve work hard.”
Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was the final man in the hot seats, as he gets ready for his home GP – and comes back from injury after missing Motegi.
“I even think I surprised myself with the turnaround,” said the Australian. “It was a small accident and it snapped. Maverick asked me just then how I broke it as he was with me at the time. It’s been a busy time for me trying to get it back to working order. I probably could’ve made it to Japan but the quick turnaround wouldn’t have been good by the time we got here or to Malaysia. I want to finish the season in the best way possible for my team and Honda.” The former Phillip Island Moto3™ winner also said he’s had some pressure to come back quickly after the incredible performance of Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) after his leg break – and that two-wheel Australian legend Chad Reed had even texted him to start the countdown to beat the Italian to it. But Miller is thrilled to be able to race at home again: “It’s a great race for me, the fans are crazy, the weather is crazy. As we have seen today, it’s Baltic and yesterday it was hot. I’m really looking forward to getting the weekend underway. I sat on a bike yesterday at the pre-event and it felt good, so I think we’re in good shape.”
The Australian GP is certainly in good shape, with the Championship still a scorcher and the battle set to go down to the wire. Don’t miss another classic battle on the Island, with the MotoGP™ race set for 16:00 local time on Sunday (GMT +11).
Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo back on track again at the spectacular Phillip Island circuit for the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix
Just a few days after an exciting Grand Prix of Japan, in which victory went to Andrea Dovizioso after a battle with Marc Marquez right down to the last corner, the Ducati Team has regrouped in Australia at the Phillip Island circuit, the venue for round 16 of the MotoGP World Championship and the second of the three challenging end-of-season fly-away races.
Following on from that fantastic win at Twin Ring Motegi, his fifth of the season, Andrea Dovizioso is now gearing up for another crucial race at the Island, with just three rounds to go in the championship battle.
Dovizioso has stepped onto the Phillip Island podium a total of three times in different categories, scoring a win in 125 in 2004 and a third place in MotoGP in 2011, while last year he was involved in a terrific scrap with Viñales, finishing in a good fourth place. In the nine editions of the Australian GP in which he has taken part, Jorge Lorenzo has won once and finished runner-up on four more occasions, while last year he finished the race in sixth place.
Situated close to the Bass Strait in the state of Victoria, the Phillip Island track runs in a counter-clockwise direction with a series of extremely quick curves that make it one of the fastest on the world championship calendar. Despite the fact that weather conditions in spring in the southern hemisphere are often unpredictable, the event is always a favourite for teams, riders and fans alike. Like Motegi, the Ducati Team has also notched up four wins at Phillip Island, all at the hands of Casey Stoner.
With three rounds remaining in the championship, Dovizioso is currently second overall with 233 points, 11 down on Marquez, while Lorenzo lies seventh on 116 points.
The weekend schedule at Phillip Island kicks off on Friday morning with the first free practice session at 10.55am local time (01.55 CET), while the 27-lap race is scheduled for Sunday at 4pm (07.00 CET).
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 2nd (233 points)
“For sure Phillip Island is one of Marquez’s favourite tracks, and the situation will probably be a bit more difficult for us, but last year we did a good race and so we must try and work in the best possible way throughout the weekend. There are now just three rounds left until the end and anything can happen: we must try and always be fast at every circuit and in every condition. On paper we are not favourites for the win in Australia but we’ll be fighting as hard as ever.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 7th (116 points)
“The race at Motegi didn’t go the way we had expected, but now we’re fully focused on Phillip Island. This year, in the races where we had high expectations we weren’t able to do a good race, and yet sometimes, where you least expect it, we have managed to make big improvements. In Australia we should make a step forward from the winter tests, where we simply didn’t have enough pace. We are coming back here better prepared than eight months ago and so we must continue to give our all if we want to improve”.
The Phillip Island Circuit
Phillip Island, which is situated around 150 km south of Melbourne, is steeped in motor racing tradition, with the first car races having been held there on public roads in the 1920s. The first motorcycle races took place in 1931 and a permanent track was built in 1956. The circuit fell into disrepair during the late 70s and early 80s until it was bought in 1985 and given a major facelift. MotoGP returned in 1989 and 1990 before becoming a regular fixture once more from 1997 onwards. The Phillip Island circuit is blessed with breathtaking scenery and beautiful ocean views and is one of the fastest tracks on the calendar.
Fastest Lap: Lorenzo (Yamaha), 1’27.899 (182.1 km/h) – 2013
Circuit Record: Marquez (Honda), 1’28.108 (181.7 km/h) – 2013
Best Pole: Lorenzo (Yamaha), 1’27.899 (182.1 km/h) – 2013
Top Speed: Dovizioso (Ducati), 348.0 km/h – 2015
Track Length: 4.4 km
Race Duration: 27 laps (120.1 km)
Corners: 12 (7 left, 5 right)
Race Start: 4pm (07.00 CET)
Podium: 1st Crutchlow (Honda), 2nd Rossi (Yamaha), 3rd Viñales (Suzuki)
Pole Position: Marquez (Honda), 1’30.189 (177.547 km/h)
Fastest Lap: Crutchlow (Honda), 1’29.494 (178.925 km/h)
Bike: Ducati Desmosedici GP
Race Number: 04
Age: 31 (born on March 23rd 1986 in Forlimpopoli, Italy)
Residence: Forlì (Italy)
Races: 273 (175 x MotoGP, 49 x 250cc, 49 x 125cc)
First GP: 2001 Italian GP (125cc)
Wins: 16 (7 x MotoGP, 4 x 250cc, 5 x 125cc)
First Win: 2004 South African GP (125cc)
Pole Positions: 18 (5 x MotoGP, 4 x 250cc, 9 x 125cc)
First Pole: 2003 French GP (125cc)
World Titles: 1 (1 x 125cc)
Bike: Ducati Desmosedici GP
Race Number: 99
Age: 30 (born on May 4th 1987 in Palma de Mallorca, Spain)
Residence: Lugano (Switzerland)
Races: 265 (171 x MotoGP, 48 x 250cc, 46 x 125cc)
First GP: 2002 Spanish GP (125cc)
Wins: 65 (44 x MotoGP, 17 x 250cc, 4 x 125cc)
First Win: 2003 Brazilian GP (125cc)
Pole Positions: 65 (39 x MotoGP, 23 x 250cc, 3 x 125cc)
First Pole: 2003 Malaysian GP (125cc)
World Titles: 5 (3 x MotoGP, 2 x 250cc)
A year on from Cal Crutchlow’s fantastic victory at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix, and the LCR Honda Team return to the magnificent cliff-top venue of Phillip Island with the hope of getting back to those dizzy heights once more. The Victorian track is one of the most exciting race circuits in the whole world, with a super-fast layout and picturesque location lending itself to thrilling action, and Crutchlow demonstrated in last year’s race that he has the mastery of its challenging nuances.
After three difficult races, and changeable weather forecast for the whole weekend in Australia, the hope is that confidence from that brilliant performance 12 months ago can bring the squad back to their customary level of fighting for the top positions in the MotoGP World Championship.
“Obviously, we are really looking forward to Phillip Island after three difficult races. We had such a great result here last year as a team, so hopefully we can do similar again this year.
“As always we will give 100%, but I think it will be an even more difficult race this year considering the fact that everybody is so competitive and riding at such a high level in MotoGP at the moment. Nonetheless, we will give our very best at a circuit we all love to race at.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Prepare to Push on Phillip Island
Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi had little time to rest after last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP teammates arrived in Victoria, Australia, just a few days later for the second race of the triple header.
Viñales continues to show great determination as he enters round 16 of the MotoGP World Championship on Phillip Island, one of his favourite circuits. Currently third in the championship standings, he aims to keep fighting to close in on the rider in second place, who is 30 points ahead of him.
The Spaniard got to lift a trophy after a race in Australia three times prior. He scored a Moto3 second place in 2013, secured a Moto2 win the year after, and stood on the premier class podium last year celebrating a third place.
Teammate Rossi is eager to bounce back from the misfortunes he experienced in Motegi last week by scoring a top result in Australia this weekend, in order to climb up from fifth place in the championship rankings.
After securing 250cc victories in 1998 and 1999 and a 500cc third place in 2000, the Doctor continued to work on an impressive résumé, enjoying a five-year winning streak from 2001 to 2005 in the premier class. This was followed by five more consecutive podium finishes, taking second place in 2008 and 2009, and third place in 2006, 2007 and 2010. The Italian revisited the Australian podium in 2013, 2014 and 2016, claiming a third, first and second place respectively.
Phillip Island began staging motorcycle races in 1931 and became a permanently constructed circuit in 1956. It continued to host motorcycle Grand Prix events until an extensive renovation took place in 1968. The circuit made an intermediate comeback in 1989-1990, to become a regular fixture once more from 1997 onwards. Thanks to its terrific location, right next to the ocean, and its flowing lay-out (featuring seven left and five right corners and a 900m longest straight), the Phillip Island track is a very popular destination for MotoGP fans, who travel from far and wide to cheer on their heroes.
Championship: 3rd – Points: 203
“We did our best in Japan, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. Now it’s time to focus on Australia in order to make another important step for the championship. For me, Phillip Island is one of my favourite tracks, I like the lay-out a lot and I love being here, it’s amazing. When I was here in February I was the fastest on my YZR-M1, so I’m really motivated for the race. The championship isn’t over until all the points have been distributed, so anything is still possible and I can’t wait to be on the bike again to give my 100%.”
Championship: 5th – Points: 168
“I have arrived in Australia after a complicated race, but I’m in a good mood because I want to work in the best way possible with my team and fix the issues we had in Japan as quickly as possible to do nice races again. Phillip Island is a circuit I really like and I hope that the weather here will be good to start working straight away in dry conditions. After the crash in Japan I’m feeling pretty good, just a little bit of pain. Now I hope for good weather for the entire weekend!”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“The team has travelled straight to Australia after the race in Motegi. Last Sunday didn’t go according to plan, but we have another race to look forward to this weekend. We will use the Japanese GP as a source of motivation to get good results at the Phillip Island circuit, which is one of the team’s favourite tracks on the MotoGP calendar. Not only does the sweeping lay-out suit our bike more, but also the atmosphere there – with the track being so close to the shore – is really enjoyable. Earlier this year, we collected quite a lot of data during the pre-season test on Phillip Island and this week we will add on to it. We look forward to putting the free practice time to good use, and hope to hit the ground running on Friday.”
Zarco Primed for Australian Grand Prix Challenge Parkes to Step in for Folger
Fresh from the gruelling Japanese Grand Prix, Johann Zarco confidently eyes up the second back-to-back race at the legendary Phillip Island circuit. The high-flying rookie had a strong weekend in Japan, where he clinched his second pole position of the year. Last winter, he produced some impressive performances at the Australian track during the testing, and as a result, he firmly targets a top-tier finish this Sunday.
Meanwhile, local hero Broc Parkes will fill in for the recovering Jonas Folger, who is undertaking medical tests in Germany. Parkes, who has achieved many successes and competed in the MotoGP World Championship in 2014, aims to build up his confidence over the weekend and then seal a point scoring finish in front of his fans.
Championship: 6th – Points: 125
“The Australian Grand Prix is already approaching, immediately after Japan, and Phillip Island is a wonderful track which I think every rider loves. I really like it too because it’s very impressive to ride. I am happy that we tested here at the beginning of the season when I was discovering the bike, but now that I have more experience, I am curious to see how competitive I will be this time. Let’s see what happens with the weather, because it can be very cold in that region during October. So I will take it easy but the race in Japan was good, as was the whole weekend, so I need to stay on the pace and I hope for a nice result in Australia.”
“Of course, I would like to thank the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team for giving me the amazing opportunity to race at my home Grand Prix in front of all of my supporters, fans and family. I am really looking forward to getting on the Yamaha YZR-M1 at Phillip Island and giving it my all!”
Monster Yamaha Tech3 – Team Manager
“It’s now time for the Australian Grand Prix which will be another interesting round for the whole Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team. After the great qualifying performance and start of the race, by Johann Zarco, I expect another very strong showing. Hopefully, the weather will be dry this time and we know that the Yamaha YZR- M1 is a bike that is always fast at Phillip Island. Therefore, everyone is looking forward to the weekend with Johann. Due to the unfortunate illness of Jonas Folger, we will have another new rider joining Tech3 at this round. He is a local boy from Australia and his name is Broc Parkes, who is already a Yamaha and Monster Energy sponsored rider. He has previously tested the M1 on Michelin tyres at this track so everything will not be completely new for him. We are more than happy to welcome Broc and to give him the chance to show his true potential. Clearly, an Australian rider will bring more media attention to the team and that is something that is going to be exciting for us. Phillip Island is always a very special circuit that many MotoGP riders regard as the best track in the world. It’s just incredible with amazing scenery and there are also a lot of enthusiastic fans here in Australia. So let’s start on Friday and hopefully, the weather will be kind to us.”
Michelin is heading over the equator for only the second time this season as the French tyre company and MotoGP™ descends upon Phillip Island for the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and the 16th round of this enthralling season.
With a race bearing its name as the official sponsor, expectations and pressure is high for Michelin as it moves to one of the most challenging events of the season. The 4,448m circuit is a fast and flowing layout that gives one of the ultimate tests to tyres throughout the whole calendar. With high-speed turns such as Doohan and Stoner Corners and the awe-inspiring turn-12 – a corner which generates the highest tyre temperature on any circuit in MotoGP and leads on to the famous Gardner Straight – this is certainly a track that supplies constant excitement. These incredible corners create high stresses on the tyres and to combat this Michelin has developed a range ideally suited to these unique conditions. The MICHELIN Power Slicks for both the front and rear will be in a soft, medium and hard compound and will feature an asymmetric design with a harder left-hand shoulder to cope with the extra demands faced by that side of the tyre and the increased heat.
Phillip Island has been a permanent fixture on the MotoGP calendar since 1997, before that the track had the distinction of staging the first two Australian Grands Prix in 1989 and 1990. Racing has been happening on the Island for almost 100-years, with the current circuit opening in 1956. The stunning setting on the cliff-tops overlooking the Bass Straight and out to the Tasman Sea, gives one of racing’s great backdrops and adds to the spectacular splendour that the circuit provides. Due to its open position, weather can also be an issue and has given rise to the legend of Phillip Island having four seasons in one day, so the riders and teams need to be prepared for any eventuality. With the possibility of this becoming fact there is every chance the MICHELIN Power Rain tyres will be put to good use during some part of the weekend. This allocation will be matched to the demands of this challenging circuit and the rain tyres will have to work just as hard as their slick counterparts to produce the best performance if the wet weather appears. The available rain tyres will be extra soft and soft symmetric for the front, with an asymmetric extra soft and symmetric soft for the rear.
The MotoGP combatants take to the track on Friday 20th October to begin the preparations for Sunday’s 27-lap race. With three-days of exciting action ahead, Phillip Island – which is only 9km long and 26km wide – will become the centre of the motorcycling universe and when the main event gets underway at 16.00hrs local time (07.00hrs CEST, 06.00hrs BST, 05.00hrs UTC) the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix will be the biggest sporting event on the planet.
Piero Taramasso – Michelin Motorsport Two-Wheel Manager:
“Although every race is important to Michelin, the Phillip Island event has an added significance in that it bears the company’s name as the official sponsor. This gives a lot more involvement and added interest from all involved, not just from within the two-wheel sector, but throughout the whole company. The Asian-Pacific market is very important to Michelin, so to have a race under its name in that region is a great honour and has a lot of significance.
“Phillip Island is one of the one of the most demanding tracks on the calendar and this adds to whole narrative for us as we have the added pressure of such a complicated and challenging circuit, alongside the association of being the title sponsors, so we obviously want to provide good racing and a strong performance from our tyres. We’ve created a range for here that must contend with high lap-speeds and very fast corners, so we need good grip and durability, as well as the facility for the tyres to warm up quickly as it can be quite cold at Phillip Island. This year’s selection has been produced from the data we gathered last season in our first race here for seven-years and from February’s winter test. We have created tyres that will be able to perform at whatever limits Phillip Island can supply – which knowing the history of the track, that could be very extreme in either direction.”