2012 Phillip Island MotoGP PreviewTwo races remaining, 50 points available. This is the scenario as the 2012 MotoGP Championship heads into the penultimate round this weekend for the AirAsia Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
But for the top teams vying for the title – Yamaha Factory Racing and Repsol Honda – this scenario means much more that two weekends and 50 points. Rather, it’s the discipline and hard work in the last 16 rounds that these teams produced to make it to the top.And leading these teams are the riders. Jorge Lorenzo, the 2010 MotoGP Champion, wants to bring the title back to the Yamaha paddock. And Dani Pedrosa, who never won a premier title, wants to keep it in Honda’s hands; his teammate, the retiring Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner, is the reigning Champ.As the series lands in Phillip Island, Pedrosa, who is coming off three consecutive wins, trails Lorenzo by 23 points. Pedrosa’s latest win was last week at Sepang – his first victory at the Malaysian circuit, and also his first victory under wet conditions.Pedrosa, who has a total of six wins this season, took a win at Phillip Island while competing in the former 250cc class in 2005, but only achieved third as a best result in the premier class.Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V MotoGP) 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.”As for Lorenzo, he is fighting aggressively to capture a second MotoGP title. In 15 out of 16 rounds so far, he has finished second or better, including six wins. His only DNF arrived at Assen due to San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista bumping into him on the first lap, causing a crash and ultimately a DNF. Lorenzo has two wins at Phillip Island in the former 250cc class, and his top premier-class finish is second.Last year, though, Lorenzo didn’t start at Phillip Island due to injuring his finger during a warm-up lap for the round. He would then miss the remaining two rounds of 2011 MotoGP at Malaysia and Valencia, ultimately finishing the season in second behind Stoner.And it’s just that man who will attempt to prevent Lorenzo or Pedrosa from taking the win in Australia. Stoner has been flawless at his home track, winning the last five consecutive races there. Plus, with retirement arriving at the conclusion of the 2012 MotoGP Championship, Stoner will want to go out in style before his home fans.This week, the 2.764-mile Phillip Island circuit has also named its third of 12 corners after Stoner, honoring the man who says this is his favorite corner on the MotoGP schedule. Stoner, who is in third in the overall championship, 117 points behind Pedrosa, returned two weeks ago at Motegi following a three-race hiatus due to injury.At Motegi, it was evident Stoner continued to heal from the foot injury sustained at Indianapolis MotoGP, the Australian finishing that round in fifth. But he returned to the podium last week at Sepang, finishing third.Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC213V MotoGP) says: “We’ve really struggled with the bike set up 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-percent 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.”Lorenzo would hope for help from his teammate Ben Spies to get between him and the Repsol duo. But unfortunately the American underwent a shoulder operation this week, forcing him to miss Phillip Island. The surgery was due to his crash at Sepang; during the wreck, he also cracked a rib and bruised a lung. Yamaha reports it will not field a replacement rider at Phillip Island due to time constraints.The other Yamaha riders – Monster Tech 3 satellite pilots Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, will be looking to redeem some points following their DNFs at Sepang. Both riders crashed out in Malaysia due to the slick surfaces at the event that was eventually red flagged due to heavy storms.Dovi trails Stoner by 18 points, and will be looking to finish in that third sport in 2012. During last year’s Phillip Island MotoGP, Dovizioso finished third behind Stoner and the late Marco Simoncelli.Following 41 points behind Dovizioso in fifth is the satellite Honda rider Bautista, who has taken two podiums in the last four rounds. He will be looking to fend off the top Ducati rider – Valentino Rossi. The Italian, who will rejoin the factory Yamaha squad next year, trails Bautista by six points.Ten points behind Rossi is Bautista’s satellite Honda counterpart – LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl. The reigning Moto2 Champion finished second last year at Phillip Island. In ninth in the 2012 MotoGP point standings is Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden, followed by Spies in 10th.Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro is leading the charge in the CRT class, 10 points ahead of the man who has encountered a difficult last few rounds, teammate Randy de Puniet.Besides Spies, also missing from this weekend’s Phillip Island Grand Prix will be Avintia Blusens’ Yonny Hernandez, who continues to recover from a dislocated left collarbone.Phillip Island MotoGP on TVSPEED TV will broadcast the 2012 AirAsia Australian Grand Prix at 1 a.m. (EDT) Sunday, Oct. 28. SPEED usually re-broadcasts the event later in the day, but not this weekend. The next airing of Phillip Island MotoGP will be at 2 p.m. (EDT) Tuesday, Oct. 30.2012 MotoGP Point Standings (after 16 of 18 rounds):
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.