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 Speaks…
"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 Speaks…
"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!"
Valentino Rossi : Information
Lives: Tavullia, Italy
GP victories: 103 (77 x MotoGP/500cc, 14 x 250cc, 12 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Czech Republic, 1996 (125cc)
First GP: Malaysia, 1996 (125cc)
GP starts: 224 (164 x MotoGP/500cc, 30 x 250cc, 30 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 58 (47 x MotoGP/500cc, 5 x 250cc, 5 x 125cc)
World Championships: 8 Grand Prix (1 x 125cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 500cc, 5 x MotoGP)
Jorge Lorenzo: Information
Lives: Barcelona, Spain
GP victories: 26 (5 x MotoGP, 17 x 250cc, 4 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Brazil, 2003 (125cc)
First GP: Jerez, Spain, 2002 (125cc)
GP starts: 125 (31 x MotoGP, 48 x 250cc, 46 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 35 (9 x MotoGP, 23 x 250cc, 3 x 125cc)
World Championships: 2 (250cc, 2006/7)
Phillip Island: Record Lap
N. Hayden (Honda) 2008, 1’30.059
Phillip Island: Best Lap
C. Stoner (Ducati) 2008, 1’28.665
Grand Prix Results: Phillip Island 2008
1. C.Stoner (Ducati)
2. V.Rossi (Yamaha)
3. N. Hayden (Honda)
4. J. Lorenzo (Yamaha)