The run in to the end of the 2008 season is upon us. This weekend, at the Circuit of Phillip Island, the sixteenth round will be held, the third to last in the World MotoGP Championship 2008. After last Sunday`s Japanese GP at the Circuit of Motegi, this weekend the riders go to race in Australia, with the title already decided.
Last Sunday the Italian Valentino Rossi was proclaimed World Champion in the top category after a tough battle with Casey Stoner and the Repsol Honda Team rider, Dani Pedrosa. The Spanish rider had a good weekend at Motegi, getting his first podium finish with his new engine, the one with pneumatic valves, as well as with his new Bridgestone tyres. On Monday, after the race Pedrosa stayed one more day at Motegi to test the new solutions for the 2009 season, and to continue getting used to the new combination of engine and tyres mounted on his Honda RC212V.
Nicky Hayden was not able to have a good race at Motegi. Too much tyre wear affected his performance, but in spite of this he finished 5th in a race where he practically rode alone. After his second position in the USA, in the GP held at Indianapolis, the American in the Repsol Honda Team will try to get on the podium again in Australia, a circuit he likes a lot .
Last Sunday at Motegi Julián Simón was very close to getting his first podium in the 250cc category. Simón managed to locate himself second on Simoncelli`s rear wheel, the leader at that time and the eventual winner of the Japanese 250cc GP. But in the end the young rider in the Team Repsol KTM 250cc had to make do with fourth position, less than one second behind the third placed rider on the finishing line. On Phillip Island, a circuit that he likes a lot, he hopes to get the podium that he has set himself as objective before the end of the 2008 season.
For the Repsol 125cc riders the race at Motegi was the briefest that they have had this season. Marc Márquez hardly completed two corners and Esteve Rabat almost did a complete lap. The two young riders have one thing clear, they have to finish the race in Australia and add some points to their overall haul. Dani Pedrosa
“At Motegi I was getting a good feeling from my bike and tyres, and I’m sure my feeling will continue to improve at Phillip Island as we continue to learn more about our new technical package. The big question mark for this race is the weather – it can be quite tough if the weather isn’t good.
Phillip Island is fast, the asphalt is a little old, a bit bumpy in a few places and the grip is not so great. To go fast it is important to start the lap well and keep it flowing, although you still need an aggressive riding style to go fast here. There are a lot of wide and open left-handers through which you use a lot of throttle, so the rear tyre needs to be quite hard on the left side. The track is tough on tyres even when the weather is cold. From a machine set-up point of view, you need a stable bike because there are so many high-speed sections. My favourite part of the track is the final section, it’s very impressive. The circuit is also good for fans, if the weather is okay, and it’s easy to see that the Australians are big fans of motorcycles and motorcycle racing.”
“I love Phillip Island. I don’t think there’s a better racetrack in the world, but I wish we could race there when the weather’s a little bit better – sometimes it can be more like Phillip Iceland than Phillip Island. A lot of tracks they keep slowing them down, adding chicanes for safety, but this one you can really turn it on.
There’s some real fast stuff, so it’s a track where you can get in a rhythm when the bike’s working and go fast, and when the bike’s not working you can be pretty slow. You spend a lot of time on the edge of the tyres, so it’s probably the hardest track in the world for tyres, so we’ll work with my Michelin guys to get the best tyres for the race. I’ve had some good results there: a couple of pole positions, a second and a third, but I’ve never won one there. You need a bike set-up that saves the tyres, plus you need to be able to steer through the long corners and change direction too. It’s easy to lower the rear and soften things up to get traction, but then you lose the steering.”
The following is from Yamaha…
The Fiat Yamaha Team make a triumphant return to Australia this week with the triple crown of riders’, teams’ and constructors’ titles already in the bag, one year after arriving at Phillip Island in very different shape. Valentino Rossi’s resounding victory at Motegi, combined with fourth place for his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo and top ten finishes for satellite riders James Toseland and Colin Edwards, has secured every major honour available for the Japanese factory, with Lorenzo odds-on to secure the Rookie of the Year title over the remaining three rounds.
Despite a season of record-breaking success, Rossi heads to one of his favourite circuits with his instinctive will to win still intact as he looks to settle a score in front of his Australian fans. Over almost a decade of racing at Phillip Island Rossi made it ‘his’ circuit, with nine podiums in all classes including two 250cc wins and an unbeaten five-year streak in MotoGP that included title-clinching victories in 2001 and 2004. However, he has not won there for the past two seasons and he is determined to end that run in the next stage of his quest to equal his record of eleven victories in a single season, set with Yamaha in 2005.
Whilst the most important championship position may have been decided for 2008, Jorge Lorenzo still has a mathematical chance of clinching the runner-up spot, with 51 points separating him from the incumbent Casey Stoner. It is an unlikely target for the rookie although he will approach the final three races with relish having found top form on his Yamaha M1 in both wet and dry conditions recently. The Mallorcan has taken victory in Australia for the past two seasons in the 250cc class and having already tasted the winners’ champagne in MotoGP he is desperate to do so again before the season is out.
The breathtaking scenery of Phillip Island always puts the bike and riders to the sternest of tests, with its sweeping and flowing nature making for the ultimate challenge of machine control and throttle accuracy, not to mention the sheer bravery required from the rider. The track’s exposed location on the cliffs facing the Bass Strait makes for changeable weather, with early forecasts predicting rain for Friday and Saturday but dry, partly sunny conditions for Sunday.
Valentino Rossi – “I want to win for my guys!”
“So it’s been a couple of days and I am starting to get used to being world champion again; it is a truly wonderful feeling! On Sunday we had a great party with my team and my friends who had come out to the race, and then on Monday we were meant to test some things for the 2009 bike but the rain came and we had to cancel it. Actually I was quite disappointed because I was looking forward to seeing what we had, but now we will wait to Valencia. Anyway, now we have three more races, at tracks which I love, and I am so excited to be able to just have fun at all of them. As everyone knows Phillip Island is one of my favourite tracks, maybe the best of all, and it’s an incredible feeling to race there. I have won there so many times in my career and losing for the last two years has made me sad so now I have one aim – to win! It’s a special place, the fans are always fantastic and it’s the home race for four of my team so I want to do it for them to thank them for their work this year.”
Jorge Lorenzo – “Hoping to go one better”
“I love Australia and I am very happy to be spending a couple of days in Melbourne before I go to Phillip Island, a city I fell in love with the first time I came here. Phillip Island is one of my favourite tracks and I can’t wait to ride my M1 there. It’s a place like no other and the only place we go where you can see the sea as you ride! I have won there the last two years in 250 and now I am excited to have the chance to race MotoGP there. I am determined to get on the podium because the fans always come onto the track after the race and it’s an incredible sight! We have had three good races in a row, even if we just missed the podium on Sunday, and I am determined to keep this up to the end of the season and, hopefully, go one better.”
Davide Brivio – “Racing purely for the fun of it”
“For the last three races we can take a new approach to racing, because we’re going for the fun of it and to try to win again. That’s the way we look at this weekend so we’ll see how it turns out. It would be nice to win at Phillip Island because it’s a great track, Valentino loves it and we have some good memories from there. It has not been very good for us for the last couple of years, but hopefully we can change that on Sunday. I think Valentino rides better without pressure because he is riding purely for fun and that is his main motivation for racing. It should be a great race.”
Daniele Romagnoli – “Confidence is really high”
“Confidence is really high in our side of the garage, especially after the last few races. Jorge is back in shape, you can definitely say that! He rode extremely well at Motegi and his performance in qualifying showed how confident he is with the qualifying tyre, even though we had some issues with the front tyre in the race. We were a tiny bit disappointed not to be on the podium but Phillip Island is another story – it’s a completely different layout, it suits Jorge’s riding style and I think he won there last year by almost twenty seconds from the next rider so there is no reason why he won’t be strong again. We’re not really thinking about making the top three in the championship; that is not what is important for us this year. What is important is to be on the front row, on the podium and riding close to the leaders like we did at Motegi.”