MotoGP 2012 – Round 17 – Phillip Island
— Pedrosa within reach as Stoner chases six at Phillip Island MotoGP™
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.
World Championship Standings MotoGP™
1- Jorge Lorenzo SPA Yamaha 330
2- Dani Pedrosa SPA Honda 307
3- Casey Stoner AUS Honda 213
4- Andrea Dovizioso ITA Yamaha 195
5- Alvaro Bautista SPA Honda 154
As the Moto2™ grid reaches Phillip Island for the penultimate round of the world championship at the AirAsia Australian Grand Prix, Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez stands a very good chance of winning his first ever intermediate class title.
The Spaniard, who holds a 48-point advantage over nearest title rival, Tuenti Movil HP 40’s Pol Espargaró, can only not win the title this weekend should his rival win the race and Márquez not collect any points. And as unlikely as this may have seemed, with Márquez’s uncharacteristic crash in Malaysia last weekend, it just shows that every scenario is still possible. Espargaró, who was down in 11th in the wet, will be hoping for dry conditions, as he stated his bike is great in the dry, but not fully up to scratch when it rains.
With the two Spaniards dicing up front, an entertaining battle for third in the championship is brewing, with Speed Master’s Andrea Iannone and Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi only separated by 11 points. The Swiss rider, who is known to be good in the wet, crashed out of the Sepang round, and will be looking to make amends at the fast and flowing Australian circuit, while Iannone will look to fight at the top once more, to get some more podiums to his name before his switch to the Junior Ducati Team in MotoGP™ next year.
In a lonely fifth in the table, Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding still has a mathematical chance of third in the table, but will have to rediscover his good form that has seen him take numerous podiums already this season. His teammate Mika Kallio, and Tech 3 Racing’s Bradley Smith will also be ones to watch, having gone well last weekend in Sepang. Should the weather turn on the Moto2 field once more, all eyes will not doubt once again on NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Alex de Angelis, QMMF Racing’s Anthony West and Federal Oil Gresini Moto2’s Gino Rea, who were in a class of their own in treacherous conditions in Sepang, with all three taking to the podium.
World Championship Standings Moto2™
1- Marc Márquez SPA Suter 283
2- Pol Espargaró SPA Kalex 235
3- Andrea Iannone ITA Speed Up 188
4- Thomas Luthi SWI Suter 177
5- Scott Redding GBR Kalex 148
With the title already sealed by Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Sandro Cortese last weekend in Sepang there is now another honour to fight for at this weekend’s AirAsia Australian Grand Prix in Phillip Island, namely that of Rookie of the Year, which currently sees Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Rins and Team Italia FMI’s Romano Fenati neck-and-neck only two points apart.
Rins, currently fourth in the table, has been more consistent of late, finishing in the points in the last seven races, while Fenati has had two DNFs in the same period. Fenati will however be the slight favourite, as he has shown that when on song, he can fight with the best of them. Away from the Rookie melee, and RW Racing GP’s Luis Salom looked to have second place in the table firmly tied up, after the shock announcement by Maverick Viñales that he had quit his Blusens Avintia the evening before the Malaysia round. Viñales was however quick to issue a formal apology, and has stated he will turn up in Phillip Island to fight for second place in the table.
His future plans remain unclear at present, and the team is yet to announce whether a replacement rider will contest the Australian round. With a competitor such as Viñales out of the way, this will lend further impetus to the likes of AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Red Bull’s Danny Kent, who have both shown terrific form of late, and will no doubt see them in the podium hunt once more.
One of the main protagonists however could be Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger, with the German having led most sessions in Sepang, only to miss out on the win due to what he claims was a wrong direction in bike set-up. And whilst his compatriot Cortese has already been crowned world champion, there is no doubt he will continue fighting for the win to highlight not only why he is the title holder, but also why he deserves his already sealed spot in Moto2™ next season.
There will be two wildcards taking part in the race in the form of British rider Sam Clarke on his Fastline GP Racing Suter and K1 Racing’s Australian Lincoln Gilding on a Honda. IodaRacing Project’s Luigi Morciano will not take part due to injury and will not be replaced.
World Championship Standings Moto3™
1- Sandro Cortese GER KTM 287
2- Luis Salom SPA Kalex KTM 207
3- Maverick Viñales SPA FTR Honda 199
4- Alex Rins SPA Suter Honda 128
5- Romano Fenati ITA FTR Honda 126
— Ducati Preview
Fresh off an eventful race at the Malaysian Grand Prix, the Ducati Team makes its way to Australia for the final weekend of a three-round overseas stint. Among the riders, the spectacular Phillip Island circuit is one of the most popular on the MotoGP calendar, thanks in large part to its spectacular layout. Situated next to the Bass Straight, it features a variety of corner types, though it’s best known for its thrilling faster turns.
In the past, the Ducati Team has tallied four wins at the Australian Grand Prix, and both riders have successful records there as well. Valentino Rossi has accumulated five victories and an additional six podiums, while Nicky Hayden has two poles, three podium finishes, and the lap record, set in 2008.
Phillip Island is also famous for offering inclement weather conditions, and forecasts indicate that the tendency could well hold true for this weekend’s event.
VALENTINO ROSSI, Ducati Team
“Phillip Island is always a fantastic track, as it’s special and unique. It’s very fast and is near the ocean, which opens up in front of you after the main straightaway, and there are corners that are different from each other, with varying speeds and steepness. It’s a track that a rider has to love. Racing a MotoGP bike there is a lot of fun, but it was a difficult weekend for us last year, so we’ll have to try very hard to do better. In addition, the forecasts show that there will be inclement weather, with rain and cold, so we’re expecting challenging conditions. We’ll really have to do our best.”
NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Team
“Phillip Island is always a great GP, one of the best. The track is really fast and flowing, and I’ve had some good results there in the past. I really like so much about it: the atmosphere, the fast corners, and the fact that it runs counter-clockwise. We’ve also got some work to do. I’ve liked the new chassis since I’ve been on it, but now it’s time to find a direction for improving it further. We also want to figure out how to regain the advantage we used to have in the rain, and judging by the forecasts, we might get a chance to work on that in Australia.”
VITTORIANO GUARESCHI, Team Manager
“Phillip Island is a track where we’ve done well in the past. We’re coming off a strange weekend at Sepang, where the race was affected by the weather conditions, and where—although we could have done better—we had a decent race. The forecasts indicate it could also rain in Australia, and it’s always cold when we’re there. If that’s the case, we’ll start with a setup that wasn’t bad in Malaysia, but we know that we’ll have to improve, because the others are now more competitive in those conditions. We’ve identified some ideas that we hope could improve our performance in the wet, and we’ll try them on the track if the track conditions are similar to those that we had at the last race.”
— HRC Preview
The penultimate round of the MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend at the majestic Phillip Island Circuit, with Repsol Honda team-mates Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner hoping to win for different reasons. Pedrosa would like to win his personal best seventh MotoGP race of the season in pursuit of the MotoGP World Championship, while native son Stoner hopes to win his sixth consecutive Australian Grand Prix before retiring at the end of his final campaign.
Pedrosa has been on an unparalleled roll since the end of the summer break. The 27-year-old from the outskirts of Barcelona has won five of six races, starting with the Indianapolis Grand Prix and continuing through last weekend’s rain-lashed Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. Not only did Pedrosa earn his first ever race win in the rain in Sepang, but he scored a personal best 14th podium in a single season. That allowed him to pull back five more championship points on title leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha).
With Stoner having won the past five MotoGP races on Phillip Island, it does not leave much chance for others to excel. Pedrosa’s success began with a win in the 2005 250cc race. He was third in the 2009 MotoGP race and fourth last year. Pedrosa knows that he needs to finish in front of Lorenzo to carry the title fight back to his fellow countrymen in the season finale in Valencia, Spain.
Stoner’s fifth victory on the Island last year was magical. Not only did he win the race for the fifth time, but the win secured his second MotoGP World Championship on his 26th birthday.
The two-time world champion has had two races to round into form following the right ankle injuries he suffered in qualifying for the Indy GP. He began his comeback by fighting physical fatigue to fifth place in the Japanese Grand Prix. Last weekend he rode a measured race to finish third, his eighth podium in a season in which he missed three races. Phillip Island is left-biased track, which will be less taxing on his still recovering right ankle. Despite his injury lay-off, Stoner should finish third in the championship.
If he never turned another wheel on the racetrack, Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V) would end the season with his best championship placing. Already this year he’s scored more points than his first two seasons in MotoGP combined. And he is in a strong position to finish fifth overall.
The reason is his second half resurgence. The 27-year-old Spaniard earned his first MotoGP podium in the team’s home race in Misano and followed it up with a third in the Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi. To continue at that level in Bautista can call on his memories from 2006, when he won the Australian 125cc GP to secure the 125cc World Championship, or the next two years when he was runner-up in the 250cc class.
Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V) is looking to return to the consistency he enjoyed early in the year when he finished in the top nine in 12 of the first 13 races. He has failed to finish two of the past three races, including in Malaysia, where he fell victim to the horrific conditions.
Nonetheless, Bradl won the 2012 Rookie of the Year title, which has been assured for some time. But that is not enough for the ambitious German in search of his first MotoGP podium. Now Bradl returns to Phillip Island where he finished third last year, his second podium at the seaside circuit.
Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR) visits Phillip Island for the fourth time, but the first on a MotoGP machine. Like team-mate Bautista, the Italian, who races a Honda CBR1000RR-powered FTR motorcycle, has been on a run in the second half scoring points in the past four races. One more and he will match his longest streak from earlier in the season. The constantly developing machine gets better every weekend and Pirro has set the ambitious goal of being top CRT bike before the end of the season.
Team CaixaCatalunya Repsol – Suter rider Marc Marquez needs only two points in the final two races to win the 2012 Moto2 World Championship regardless of what title rival Pol Espargaro (Tuenti Movil HP 40 – Kalex) does. Marquez’s first chance ended in tears when he crashed in the rain during last week’s Malaysia Grand Prix. His next chance comes this weekend at Phillip Island, where he finished third in the Moto2 race last year after having won the 125cc race in 2010.
Espargaro was not able to capitalise on the Marquez crash in Malaysia. The conditions were atrocious and the Spaniard did not feel confident pushing beyond his limit. Instead, he finished 11th and only gained four points on Marquez. The gap is now Marquez 283, Espargaro 235.
Andrea Iannone (Speed Master-Speed Up) is a distant third, and unlikely to advance, with Interwetten-Paddock Suter’s Thomas Luthi ready to take advantage in fourth place.
Iannone is no stranger to the Phillip Island podium, having finished third in 2010. Last year he was eighth in the Moto2 race. Luthi was last on the podium in 2005 when he won the 125cc race. In each of the past three years he finished 11th.
The top three Honda riders in the Moto3 class are all newcomers to Phillip Island, their third new track in three weeks. Estrella Galicia 0,0 – Suter Honda rider Alex Rins and Team Italia FMI – FTR Honda rider Romano Fenati are both in their first world championship campaign, while Estrella Galicia 0,0 – Suter Honda rider Miguel Oliveira is in his second year, though he only rode a partial season in 2011.
Rins and Fenati, both 16-year-olds, are locked in the battle for Rookie of the Year honours; they are separated by two points. Fenati was stronger early in the season, but Rins has been more consistent in the second half, finishing no worse than seventh in the past seven races.
Oliveira has also been stronger since the summer break, with improving placements in the past three races and top nine finishes in the last five.
Phillip Island is one of the few tracks on the calendar that is universally admired. The 4448m circuit southeast of Melbourne typically produces the fastest racing of the year. The 2011 Australian Grand Prix was the second fastest race of the year-Mugello was narrowly faster-with Stoner averaging 177.401Km/h in the race. That was an aberration. Stoner averaged the exact same speed, 175.990Km/h, in winning both the 2008 and 2009 Australian races. No races in MotoGP history have been faster. (By comparison, the fastest ever grand prix was held at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium in 1977, with the great Barry Sheene prevailing at an average speed of 217.370Km/h.)
The 4.448Km track has a number of iconic corners mixed among its seven lefts and five rights, some named after Honda legends. The first turn right is the Doohan Corner, after Honda’s five-time 500cc World Champion. Leading to Doohan Corner is the Gardner Straight in honor of Honda’s 1987 500cc World Champion. The looping left Southern Loop follows Doohan Corner, which, from this year on will lead into one of the more harrowing corners on the track, the third turn kink left. On Thursday morning, that stretch of tarmac will be renamed in honor of home country hero Casey Stoner.
The one criticism of the track is the surface. Last paved in 1998, the occasionally irregular tarmac will be repaved this December. Despite that, Phillip Island produces the highest track temperatures of the season. That despite an ambient temperature, which is often cooled by near constant winds off the Bass Strait. The right shoulders of the asymmetric tyres are not heavily taxed, but the final two corners are taken at such speed and lean angles that the temperatures on the left shoulders soar to over 120 degrees C.
Honda riders have won ten of the 17 races at Phillip Island, including the first eight of nine. The first Phillip Island grand prix was won by Wayne Gardner in 1989, with the 1987 500cc World Champion repeating his PI victory in 1990. The grand prix was moved for six years before returning in 1997 in a race won by Honda’s 1999 500cc World Champion Alex Criville. Five-time 500cc World Champion Mick Doohan won his home grand prix in 1998. Japanese ace Tady Okada, now a Honda test rider, won the race in 1999. Valentino Rossi gave Honda their next three wins, from 2001 through 2003, all in world championship-winning seasons. Marco Melandri won his lone Australian Grand Prix in 2006 aboard a Honda and Stoner won last year’s race, the final race of the 800cc era.
The spectacular setting produces not only great racing, but unique hazards. Sea gulls who venture in from the Bass Strait have been known to fly into the path of oncoming motorcycles, often with unpleasant results for both parties.
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says: “Phillip island is a great track, especially on these machines, where you can usually see rear slides. The layout of the track makes racing very nice, so I hope we have good luck and that the bike is working well there also. I have very good memories from my championships back in 2004-2005 and I hope I can have a good race.”
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner says: “We’ve really struggled with the bike setup in the past two races and I’m pretty disappointed with this. We always seem to find our rhythm in Phillip Island, but I don’t expect it to come easily this year. Thankfully the track goes to the left and we’re having a lot less issues with chatter when it goes this way. Also, there aren’t so many sharp turns, so my right leg might be able to deal with it a little better. I’m still nowhere near 100% physically and I still need time to be back to full strength, so I’m not really sure what to expect this weekend. We’ll do our best and see what happens.”
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista says: “The result in Malaysia was positive and it gives us confidence for the future even though we know that we need to keep working with the same level of enthusiasm so that we can improve further. Phillip Island is a circuit I love because I have great memories of winning the 125cc world title there. Of course we have to work hard to find a good setting because it is a high-speed track and you need a stable bike. We will keep working along the same lines as recently and hopefully we can be as competitive as we were at Motegi.”
LCR Honda MotoGP rider Stefan Bradl says: “Hopefully we’ll have a better racing weekend in Phillip Island than I did last weekend. We had an issue with the engine mapping that we’ve never had before. The first priority will be to resolve that issue, which I’m confident the team will do. Phillip Island is fast and flowing and I’m looking forward to racing there in the MotoGP class. I’ve had good results in the past and I expect to finish these flyaways strongly.”
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Michele Pirro says: “I was very happy with the result Sepang, especially because I was hoping for a dry race after the pace we showed in warm-up. That was a shame, but hopefully we get good conditions at Phillip Island this weekend, even though the temperatures will be chilly. I really like this track and if we get the same feel from the bike that we had on Sunday morning in Malaysia then I could have a good race. There are two races left and I would really like to take a CRT win, that would make me really proud.”
— Bridgestone Preview
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium. Rear: Medium, Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main), Hard (Alternative)
Round seventeen and the penultimate round of the 2012 MotoGP™ season takes place at Australia’s Phillip Island circuit, where the picturesque setting of the track belies its status as one of the cruellest on Bridgestone MotoGP tyres.
At roughly 4.44 kilometres in length, the majority of the Phillip Island circuit does not impose significant load on tyres, but the final section through the left-handed turns 11 and 12 are taken at high lean angles under continuous throttle opening, resulting in wheelspin and the generation of extreme temperatures. In fact, Phillip Island’s last corner creates the highest tyre temperature recorded during the entire MotoGP™ season.
This large variation in operating conditions over the course of a lap make asymmetric rear tyres a necessity at this windswept circuit. The left side of the rear slicks feature rubber that is much harder than the right shoulder, and the rear slicks also employ a special heat-resistant construction – like that used at Sachsenring and Indianapolis – to keep tyre temperatures in check.
The front tyre compounds for Phillip Island are the soft and medium compounds which offer the best combination of cornering stability and warm-up performance at a circuit that is renowned for highly variable weather. Phillip Island’s vulnerability to very cool temperatures also means that the main wet tyre for the Australian Grand Prix will be the soft compound option.
Hiroshi Yamada – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department
“Phillip Island is one of the most impressive circuits on the calendar with its fast speeds and spectacular seaside location. This year’s Australian Grand Prix will be a particularly special occasion as it marks Casey’s last home race and although he already boasts an impressive record at the Island, undoubtedly he will give everything he can to score his sixth straight victory at the circuit in front of what will be a large home crowd. The championship battle is continuing right to the end and the three way battle between Casey, Dani and Jorge this weekend should make for exciting racing. Also, it is a shame that Ben’s injuries means he can’t ride this weekend, I wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him back on his bike at Valencia.”
Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
“Phillip Island is a circuit with a very high average speed, however for the most part it is not demanding on the front and rear tyres because of the generally low temperatures encountered and flowing nature of the track. The last section of the circuit, culminating in the high speed last corner creates the highest rear tyre temperature of the season in the left shoulder and it is this characteristic that is the main consideration when developing tyres for this circuit. It is long and fast with the riders accelerating at high lean angles, and the stresses demand a special heat-resistant construction so that the asymmetric rear tyres can cope with the excessive forces.
“We have seen in the past that the cold and rain can be important factors so softer compounds are generally required to generate good grip. Warm-up performance in the right shoulders is also important as the stresses on this side of the tyre are fairly low.”