Australia MotoGP: Pre-Race Rider Speak
Phillip Island MotoGP
When practice begins Friday for the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, Round 16 of the MotoGP Championship, riders will be put to the ultimate test of bravery. The track just south of Melbourne features the quickest corners on the 18-race schedule. And besides the unpredictable weather, there are many elevation changes that will test rider input.
Heading into Phillip Island, Fiat Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo wears the crown, the Spaniard clenching the title last weekend, four rounds early at Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
He will still be focused, looking to keep Yamaha ahead of the manufacturer’s standings. His biggest rival of the year, Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa, will return this weekend after a two-race hiatus due to recovering from a practice crash at Motegi.
Pedrosa holds second place in the championship by 47 points over Nine-Time World Champion Valentino Rossi. The Italian, who took last weekend’s race at Sepang on his Fiat Yamaha M1, has been running solidly the last few races, and will be looking for his third win of the season.
In fourth just one point behind Rossi is Casey Stoner. The Ducati Team rider will be looking for victory at his home track, and has won at Phillip Island the last three years. Just one point behind Stoner in fifth is Pedrosa’s teammate, Andrea Dovizioso.
Here’s what the riders were saying leading up to this weekend’s GP race in Australia.
Jorge Lorenzo says: “I am one of the happiest people in the world! We got it! I am very proud of my team, partners and sponsors, but it is not really ‘game over’ because we have to continue, we still have three more races. We have to focus in the same way as we have until now, fighting for the podium and without the pressure of the championship we hope to get some good results.”
“I like Philip Island, it’s one of my favorite tracks and maybe the fastest on the calendar. It’s always amazing to ride there, so close to the sea, but the weather is very different to Malaysia, always very cold.”
Valentino Rossi says: “Sunday was a truly fantastic day; to win again was wonderful, my 46th for Yamaha and I think one of the best victories of my career, I am so happy. Now I really want to try to finish the season strongly and I’m excited about getting to Phillip Island, which is one of the most fantastic places in the world to ride a motorcycle.”
“I haven’t won there for a few years and I would really like to change that. It’s always special to go there because many of my team are Australian and the fans are great. I can’t wait!”
Casey Stoner says: “I’m looking forward to going back to Phillip Island- we have had decent results there for the past three years and with the way the bike is working now we can expect to be competitive. After last weekend in Malaysia we go there feeling a little disappointed but we will do our best to improve our situation and hopefully fight for another victory.”
“I am sure it will be a close race there. It is one of my favorite circuits but that’s the same for a lot of riders and as always I imagine it will be a fun race to watch.”
Nicky Hayden says: ”Phillip Island is definitely one of the highlights of the season. I think all the riders love the country and especially the circuit and I am not exception. I have had some good results there in the past, a few podiums and pole positions.”
“The weather is usually pretty unpredictable, with low temperatures and very different conditions to Malaysia, but the track itself is awesome, one of the best on the whole calendar, so we’re looking forward to it and we’ll see what we can do. This track works the tires really hard so we’ll need to find a set-up that helps deal with that and make sure they last the whole race. You spend a lot of time at full lean and you need to have good traction.”
Dani Pedrosa says: “It was hard to take the decision to not go to Malaysia, but after another week I feel it was the right thing to do because during these days my condition has improved quite a lot. So I’m looking forward to getting to Australia and finding out how I feel on the bike.”
“I will arrive at Phillip Island on Wednesday to have some time to recover from the flight and rest a little bit. I know it will be tough because Phillip Island is a very demanding track and also the weather conditions can play a big part, but I really believe it’s time to come back with my team and try to return to the high level of performance we had before the crash in Japan.”
“After the operation I began rehabilitation immediately. The surgery was very successful and the plate was well fixed, so the main problem was not the collarbone but the stiffness in my neck and all around my shoulders.”
“I’ve been ha ving massage and doing exercises with my physiotherapist and I will keep this up in Australia. The championship is decided, but for us it’s still not over. The target now is to retain second place in the standings and continue working on the bike so that we arrive in good shape for the winter tests, when we will start working for next year.”
Andrea Dovizioso says: “We arrive in Australia in a strong position with two consecutive podium finishes under our belts from two tracks with very different layouts and race day temperatures. This means that we have made a big step forward.”
“We have improved things a lot in terms of set up and electronics, and now we are able to fight for wins. On Sunday in Malaysia we finished just two tenths from Valentino, and we need to stay at that level and be consistent. Also, in the last two races there were two different winners, while we have been consistent in second place.”
“So I’m confident that we can also be competitive at Phillip Island; a very demanding and technical track, and one of the fastest on the calendar. We aim to finish third in the world championship this season, so we need to score good results in the remaining races. Phillip Island is a very spectacular place; the circuit is very close to the ocean and this makes it unique.”
“The atmosphere on race day is always really good because there are a lot of fans who are truly passionate. The real unknown is always the weather as it’s always very changeable and it can be really cold. Anyway, cold conditions are not an issue for us so we are very confident for the Australian GP.”
Álvaro Bautista says: “I’m looking forward to going to Australia, it is a track I like a lot and after the last few races we are going there with a lot of confidence. I have never ridden a MotoGP bike at Phillip Island so that will be a whole new experience for me and it has some very fast corners so I will need to learn my braking points and get my references very quickly.”
“I think that we can do well there, because the bike is going well and we have some good developments that should make the Suzuki GSV-R work a lot better around the track.”
Loris Capirossi says: “I am still in some pain from my foot, but most of the bruising has come out now and I feel like I can move about a bit easier, so when we get to Australia it should be a lot better.”
“It is good we have a race so quickly after what happened in Malaysia because we need to get over that disappointment straight away. I want to go back from this trip with a good result to help us towards the last races of the year. Australia is always tough for us, but I am sure we can do something there this year.”
Marco Simoncelli says: “I am nice and relaxed going to Australia because apart from the final result at Sepang I learnt a lot and I think I made an important step forward. It definitely wasn’t easy at a circuit that hasn’t been kind to me in the past and where we had a disastrous winter test, but I managed it and that means we are on the right lines.”
“Phillip Island, on the other hand, is a circuit I really love and so I am very confident I can have a good race there. I am not saying I have made it because we still have work to do but at Sepang we made some important progress.”
Marco Melandri says: “If it wasn’t for that off track excursion at Sepang it could have been my best race of the season. I am still disappointed by it because of the problems we had over the first few laps, which caused me to make mistakes.”
“I still had a more consistent pace than a lot of my rivals. However, overall I am satisfied and confident that at Phillip Island, a circuit I love, I will have the chance to make up for it. I want to end the season on a high and take some good memories with me and I am sure after Sepang that I can do that. We will be working with the guys in the team in the hope that we can start from Friday on the right path to a good race.”
Aleix Espargarò says: “Doing three races is really tiring, but it should not be an excuse. I never got the possibility to ride with a MotoGP bike on Philip Island’s track, but like other occasions I’ll try, since Friday, to better understand the route that I have to follow to be ready for Saturday’s afternoon qualifying session. The circuit is one of the most environment fascinating and should not be prohibitive for my riding characteristics.”
Mika Kallio says: “With the shoulder in such conditions, racing for two races in a row is very difficult, think of three race will be more difficult. I’ll try to do my best and shake my teeth until the end to repay the work that my Team has always done to meet my needs.”
“I hope to have less pain on Friday, so that I can ride my bike in the best way and be competitive for this Grand Prix that promises to be very interesting also for the possible climatic conditions.”