The following is from Honda…The 2009 MotoGP World Championship begins the longest road trip of the year with its annual visit to the picturesque and challenging Phillip Island road course for the Australian Grand Prix. Followed a week later by the Malaysian Grand Prix in Kuala Lumpur, these two final flyaways, on different continents on consecutive weekends, could well determine the outcome of the MotoGP World Championship.Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa will be looking to build on fine third place finishes in the previous two races in Estoril and Misano as he tries to solidify third in the championship. The Estoril result was his eighth podium of the season, three of which came in the last four races, as he gains strength for the final push. Pedrosa had an off day at Phillip Island last year – he crashed on the first lap – but the track is one of Honda’s most successful. Of the 15 Australian GP’s run at Phillip Island, nine have been won by an eclectic mix of Honda riders, including victories by Australia’s 500cc World Champions Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan, 1999 500cc World Champion Alex Criville, Japanese star Tady Okada, former 250cc World Champion Marco Melandri, and three by Valentino Rossi en route to his three premier class titles for Honda. The fastest lap record of the fastest track on the calendar was also run by a Honda rider.Only Rossi or teammate Jorge Lorenzo can win the 2009 world title, with Pedrosa locked in a battle for third with Ducati’s Casey Stoner, the winner here the past two years. Pedrosa has been successful at Phillip Island in the 250cc class-his 2005 win here helped cement the second of his two 250cc crowns-but he’s yet to crack the podium in the premier class.Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) will look to Phillip Island as a springboard to solidifying fifth place in the championship in his first season as a factory rider. Last year the British GP winner improved on his qualifying position to finish a deceptive seventh. It was deceptive because he was in the mix of a furious four-way fight that might have landed him in fourth. Instead he finished just over a second from the fourth place finisher. Like Pedrosa, he’s been successful in the smaller classes; he won the 125cc GP here in 2004 and was on the podium aboard a 250 in 2007.Aside from individual glory, the teammates from southern Europe are well positioned to take runner-up in the Team championship.Now that he’s been confirmed to stay with the LCR Honda team for a third season in 2010, Frenchman Randy De Puniet can concentrate on racing. De Puniet hasn’t been able to build on his lone podium of the season in Great Britain, but lists Phillip Island as one of his favorite tracks. Currently eighth in the championship, De Puniet is among six riders separated by nine points with only three races remaining. There will be fierce competition to finish seventh-sixth place is likely out of reach-which means the veteran will have to call on his vast experience to stay ahead of the pack.The San Carlo Honda Gresini teammates arrive in Australia separated by only two points, with both Toni Elias and Alex De Angelis aiming for seventh in the championship. Elias has been on the podium in Australia and would like to be there again on Sunday afternoon. But he knows he’ll have to improve on his qualifying performance at Portugal-he was 13th on the grid-if he’s to give himself a chance at glory Down Under.Since finishing second at the Indianapolis Grand Prix, Alex De Angelis has hit a patch of bad luck. The San Marinese crashed on the first lap of his home grand prix in Misano, which ended a perfect season of scoring points in every race. Following Misano he was forced out of the Portuguese Grand Prix with a mechanical issue. De Angelis twice visited the Phillip Island podium during his 250cc days.And the team has history on its side. The San Carlo Gresini Honda team has the distinction of being the only non-factory team to win at Phillip Island. Marco Melandri, who will return to the squad in 2010, enjoyed a spectacular, nearly ten second win in the 2006 race.Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda MotoGP) continues a rookie season of visiting tracks for the first time on the Honda RC212V. Having only ever ridden a 125 at Phillip Island, the Hungarian will quickly discover it’s a different track on a MotoGP machine and will be hoping for a dry weekend if he’s to get enough track time to properly set the machine up for Sunday’s race. It will take a team effort if Talmacsi hopes to crack into the MotoGP top ten for the first time.Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) arrives in Australia with the mathematical possibility of winning the 250cc World Championship. Given the quality of the field, it isn’t likely. But Aoyama is in control of his own destiny and can secure the title by scoring 50 points over the final three races, regardless of where his competitors finish. This year the Japanese rider has been the model of consistency, with front row starts and top four finishes in all but two races, including six podiums and three wins, a career best.Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) is looking forward to racing at his favourite track late in what is guaranteed be his best ever end of year result in his first year in the highly competitive 250cc class. Prior to a non-finish in Portugal, De Rosa had scored points in every race. That consistency has put the 22-year-old from Naples seventh in the championship and only four points out of sixth.Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG) is hopeful of rebounding from a crash in Estoril that aggravated a prior back injury. The prognosis for the 26-year-old Spaniard is that he won’t be at 100% fitness for the final two flyaways, but expects to be fully fit for the season finale in Valencia, a track where he’s won twice on a 125cc machine.
Solid finishes could propel him up the championship ladder; he’s one of five riders capable of finishing sixth overall. Faubel has a career best finish of second at Phillip Island in 2007, the year he was the 125cc World Championship runner-up.Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) has had a feast or famine season. Five non-points paying finishes in the year’s 13 races have relegated him to 14th overall. The upside is that the races he does finish are consistently the best of his career and a strong final three rounds would assure a career best championship placing. Wilairot is coming off a sixth place finish in Portugal, the second best of his career. More than Australia, he’s looking forward to the following round in Malaysia, which the Thai rider considers something of a home race.Shuhei Aoyama, the younger brother of championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama, rode a Repsol Honda to the 2006 Rookie of the Year award. The 24-year-old from Chiba, who raced in the World Superbike Championship last year, made his full-time return to the paddock in Portugal with a 12th place finish on the Racing Team Germany Honda RS250. Two years of experience at Phillip Island on a 250, with a best finish of fifth, should ease his return to the circuit.The CIP Moto-GP250 team of Shoya Tomizawa and Valentin Debise have been threatening to score more top ten finishes ever since Tomizawa finished 10th in his home grand prix at the Twin Ring Motegi. At 17 years of age, Debise has had a steep learning curve, while Tomizawa, 30, has done himself no favors by failing to score points in six races. Both are looking forward to visiting Phillip Island for the first time.Phillip Island is one of the great race tracks of the world, the favourite of many in the MotoGP field for its fast, flowing nature, and the favourite of fans for its picturesque location on cliffs above the Bass Strait.Located 130km southeast of Melbourne, Phillip Island staged Australia’s first ever round of the 500cc World Championship 20 years ago, in 1989. Before a highly partisan crowd of 90,000, Rothmans Honda’s Wayne Gardner, the Wollongong Whiz, scored a popular and emotional win by fending off Wayne Rainey and Christian Sarron in an instant classic, the top three covered by just .470 sec. It’s that sort of close racing that has been the hallmark of the 4.448km circuit.The track rewarded Gardner for his heroism, popularity, and 1987 World Championship by affixing his name to the 900m straight. The straight leads into the daunting turn one, named after another Australian legend, Honda’s five-time 500cc World Champion Mick Doohan. One of only five right-hand turns, to go along with seven lefts, Doohan Corner is a 215kph fourth gear corner that truly begins the rollercoaster ride that is Phillip Island.Next comes the first of the left-handers, the 180 degree Southern Loop that leads onto the Bass Strait. Then the track drops quickly to the a first gear right hand hairpin Honda Corner, from which riders accelerate hard up to the looping left hand Siberia. Two long flowing fourth gear corners follow, a left then a right, before the riders encounter Hayshed, a third gear left at the top of Lukey Heights that leads to the second of the first gear hairpins.A rush through the gears up to third leads to the first of the two fast lefts that complete the lap, the second of which, Swan Corner, is taken in fourth gear at roughly 175kph onto the Gardner Straight.The preponderance of sustained lean angles in the fast, left hand corners demands the use of dual compound tires. Still, late race heroics on worn tires provide some of the best racing on the calendar. With only two choices of control Bridgestone rears, a favorite should quickly emerge in Friday practice, allowing riders Saturday’s two sessions to fine-tune machine set-up. With hard braking in only the track’s two slow corners, Phillip Island puts a premium on high-speed stability and changes of direction, but offers a wide variety of challenges that play to the strengths and magnify the weaknesses of the diverse MotoGP field.The wild cards here are the weather, with unpredictable winds and rain blowing off the Bass Strait, and sea birds. Phillip Island is a well-known destination for bird watchers-the nightly Penguin Parade of “Little Penguins” draws birders from around the world-and more than a few riders have had unfortunate encounters with sea gulls and various other airborne friends.HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTESDani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) says: “I’m really looking forward to racing in Australia again. It feels like one of the most important races of the season for me and I’m very motivated to do my best there, get a good result and hopefully challenge for the win. I’ve had mixed experiences at Phillip Island but there have been some very good memories and those are the ones I’ll be focusing on going into this weekend. The objective for the remainder of the season is to keep third place in the championship and score at least one more victory, so if that can come in Australia, all the better. The circuit is great to ride and the atmosphere is also unique and special. The track itself is a little bit bumpy in a few places and that combined with the really fast curves makes set-up very important because you need to be able to ride aggressively here to go quickly. I’ve had podium finishes in the last two races at Misano and Estoril and this weekend we’ll be looking for that little bit extra to give us a chance of winning. The weather can be unstable in Phillip Island, but it’ll be good to get out on track on Friday.”Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) says: “Phillip Island is one of the best places to race because of the track layout and laid-back atmosphere. It’s a beautiful place – very green -and the circuit is right by the sea which creates an unusual feeling. Unfortunately, we race here at a time of the year where it’s usually cold and windy, but still it’s an event I always look forward to. The race track is really spectacular and it’s always a big challenge to race here. The fast corners and elevation changes make it a circuit that’s technical and demanding to ride, and it’s one of the tracks where the bike slides a lot, so achieving good machine control is essential. There are always a lot of fans at Phillip Island whatever the weather and they are really passionate about MotoGP. At the end of the race they all come under the podium and this makes for a very special atmosphere, so I hope I’m up there to enjoy the reception. I usually have decent results here and so I’m confident of having a good race. I’m certainly looking forward to getting back to this special track and pushing as hard as possible.”Toni Elias (San Carlo Gresini Honda) says: “Phillip Island is a wonderful track and I love it there, it’s a great track to ride when you’ve got traction. Unfortunately, that has been our main problem at a lot of the circuits we’ve been to this season and I’m concerned we’ll be struggling this weekend, because if you don’t have grip you can’t do the lap times. I’m expecting a difficult weekend, but we’ll give it our best shot and see what happens when we get there.”Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Gresini Honda) says: “Alongside Sachsenring, Philip Island is my favourite track on the calendar, without a doubt. It is fast and flowing, which suits my riding style, and it gives me an opportunity to really get the full potential out of my bike in the fast corners. After scoring zero points in the last two rounds we go there with the will and determination to do a good job and our potential is high so I’m confident. I’m thinking positive also because I’ve come really close to victory on many occasions here in both the 125 and 250 classes and I feel that after the good form we showed in the middle of the season we are overdue another good result.”Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda MotoGP) says: “Phillip Island is a fast and difficult track. We must have a setup that helps me better. We are working hard to find it.”The following is from Suzuki…Rizla Suzuki MotoGP is on its way over the equator for the only Grand Prix on the calendar held in the southern hemisphere, as the team embarks on its trip ‘down under’ to Phillip Island for the Australian Grand Prix.Chris Vermeulen is eager to get to his home circuit and perform in front of his countrymen at the 4,448m Australian circuit. The 27-year-old will be hoping for better luck than he had at last year’s corresponding event, when a first lap collision pushed him off the track and ruined any chances of a good result. Vermeulen has happy memories of Phillip Island, as it was the scene of his first MotoGP podium for Suzuki in 2006, a feat that he would certainly like to repeat this time around.Loris Capirossi has an enviable record at Phillip Island, having competed at the antipodean circuit 11 times and recording six podium finishes and five front row starts, including victory there in his first Grand Prix season in 1990 riding a 125cc on his way to the World Championship title. Capirossi will be looking to repeat that sort of form as he heads to Australia following some promising developments onboard the Suzuki GSV-R at recent events.Philip Island is the fastest circuit of the season and possibly the finest race-track in the world. Its amazing position overlooking the Pacific Ocean is simply breathtaking, added to the awe-inspiring series of turns that the track has to offer and the ultra-fast straight, this is one of the must-see events on the racing calendar. It is a real examination of both man and machine and an ultimate test on tyres due to the long corners that are taken at high speeds and powered around.The antepenultimate round on this year’s schedule will be the first of a Pacific Rim double-header with the race at Sepang to follow just a week later. The action gets underway on Friday with the first of two free practice sessions – the second the following morning – with an hour of qualifying scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Sunday’s 27 lap race will start at 16.00hrs local time (05.00GMT).Chris Vermeulen:
“A home GP is always very exciting because all my friends and family will be there and it’s always good to race in front of your countrymen. The last time out at Estoril we made improvements in the longer corners with the GSV-R, so hopefully that will help us at Phillip Island. That long straight is going to be hard work, but we’ll certainly be trying as hard as we can to keep in the slipstream. I really love racing at Phillip Island and hopefully we’ll have a good time there!”Loris Capirossi:
“I am still disappointed by what happened in the race at Estoril, but I am confident of doing much better at Phillip Island than we have in the past on the GSV-R because of the developments we made in Portugal. I had a tough race in Australia last year, but we did improve on lap-times and with the new bike I think we should be aiming for an even better result this year. We have struggled at Phillip Island in the past, but we are certainly going there in a much better state of mind than we have done for previous visits.”The following is from Yamaha…The victorious Fiat Yamaha Team make the long trip down under this week for the Australian round of the MotoGP World Championship, fresh from sealing the Teams’ title at the last race in Estoril. Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have dominated the field this season and the moment of truth is fast approaching – one of the two is now guaranteed to win the title and with just 18 points lying between them this weekend’s action in Phillip Island promises to be exciting.Rossi suffered a huge disappointment last time out when he was plagued with rear grip issues, which stopped him from making a competitive challenge. He has taken six wins so far this season and holds a cushion of 18 points over Lorenzo, but he knows that a lot can happen in three races and therefore he and his crew will be working tirelessly to ensure that they do not suffer a repeat of their Portuguese difficulties. Rossi cites Phillip Island as one of his favourite tracks and he has stood on the podium ten times in all classes, including an unbeaten five-year winning streak in MotoGP and title winning rides in 2001 and 2004. Last year he blasted through the field from the fourth row to finish second and will be hoping to go one better this time, having not won there since 2006.Lorenzo heads east on cloud nine, having dominated every session in Portugal before taking a commanding win in the race, his fourth of the season. The Mallorcan drastically narrowed his point deficit in the process and there is now all to play for – and nothing to lose – in the fight for the championship. He won at ‘the Island’ in his 250cc title-winning years of 2006 and 2007 and he, too, says it is one of his favourite places to ride a motorbike. Last year he just missed out on a podium spot but he knows that he needs another top result in order to capitalise on the ground he made up with his Portuguese victory and also confirm the runner-up spot in the championship.Phillip Island is undoubtedly one of the most dramatic racetracks in the world, perching on the cliffs above the Bass Strait, which always makes for changeable and often cold weather. The circuit is also one of the sternest tests of rider and bike, 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.Valentino Rossi”TWO OF MY BEST TRACKS” “Estoril was a great disappointment but we have to look at the positive and consider that we still came fourth and took 13 points in these conditions. I know that Yamaha have been studying the data very hard to understand what went wrong for us, and we hope that the situation in Phillip Island will be very different. I love this track and have some of the greatest memories of my career there and I really want to be in the best shape for this race. It’s too long since I’ve won there! I think that the championship is going to be a great fight to the end with Lorenzo, but the next two tracks especially are two of my best.” Jorge Lorenzo”THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CIRCUIT” “I am very happy after my fourth victory this year and now my target is to confirm second place in the championship in Australia. I have the chance it if I get a lot of points! This has been my aim all year and I will fight to get it as soon as possible. Phillip Island is a track that I love, it’s always special to race there and in my opinion it’s the most beautiful circuit in the Championship, along with Mugello. You are riding at 250 km/h but you can still see the sea and the birds, it’s incredible! Last year I couldn’t get the on the podium but I will always remember 2007, when I won with 20 seconds gap. All my team is confident and determined to get more good results in these two important weeks!”