2015 Phillip Island MotoGP Preview

Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo Showdown to Phillip Island MotoGP
Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo

Since winning the opening round of 2015 MotoGP at Qatar, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi has led the points battle. The nine-time World Champion had lost the lead only once when teammate Jorge Lorenzo tied him ahead of Silverstone MotoGP. But that was it; Rossi took the win at Silverstone, and continued his points lead.

At 36-years old, the Italian has shown no signs of slowing down; he finished on the podium at every round except for the San Marino Grand Prix, which includes four wins.

Rossi’s lead was extended last week at Motegi MotoGP – the first in three back-to-back rounds. Rossi finished second behind surprise winner Dani Pedrosa, the Repsol Honda rider earning his 50th-career GP win. Lorenzo, who has won six races so far this season, finished third.

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This gave Rossi the edge, and he now has an 18-point lead over Lorenzo as the series heads this weekend to Phillip Island in Australia. With three rounds remaining, no other riders besides Rossi and Lorenzo have a chance at claiming the title.

Rossi has eight wins across all classes at Phillip Island, which joined the Grand Prix calendar in 1989. This includes a consecutive run of five-straight wins from 2001-2005.

Honda Marc Marquez to Phillip Island MotoGP
Honda’s Marc Marquez

Rossi also won last year’s race by over 10 seconds ahead of Lorenzo. If this same scenario plays out this weekend, Rossi will extend his lead over Lorenzo to 23 points ahead of Sepang. But Rossi can ride smartly, also; if he finishes second at the final three races and Lorenzo wins, he will still claim the tile.

“Phillip Island is a very particular track. I like it, as does the majority of the rider, but it‘s always difficult to find the right setting and the conditions are often tricky with lots of wind and cold temperatures. We hope for a good weekend like last year and we will try to ride a good race to arrive on the podium, in front of Jorge. I think it‘s best to take the championship race by race, focus on Phillip Island and try to make the most of it,” Rossi says.

As for Lorenzo, his luck is much different at Phillip Island. The two-time MotoGP Champion earned the win there in 2013; he also has another win in the former 250cc class in 2007. In the past three years, Lorenzo has never finished lower than second, but he needs the win to earn a third title.

“After another strange race I lost some value points in Motegi but I‘m still in contention for the championship title. It‘s true 18 points behind Valentino is a difficult margin to cut down but I will try with all my efforts. If I‘m able to win all the races and Vale makes any mistake we can win the championship. Now we are facing another nice race. Phillip Island is a track I like a lot but also Vale enjoys it here so it will be interesting. It‘s a very demanding track for the setting of the bike, also because of the tricky weather conditions, so we need to be prepared for anything,” Lorenzo says.

The man third in points, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, is out of contention for a third-straight title. The Repsol Honda RC213V pilot needs 85 points to take the title, but only 75 remain.

Despite riding with a broken finger, Marquez finished fourth at Motegi last week but this put an end to his title hopes. Marquez has never accumulated any points in the premier class at Phillip Island; last year he crashed out while in the lead, and in 2013 he was disqualified following a penalty for not pitting correctly on the then repaved surface.

As for Pedrosa, he also has never won at Phillip Island in the premier class, though his best result was second in 2013. Pedrosa’s new-found speed can play a major role in the deciding of the 2015 title. Last year at Phillip Island MotoGP, Pedrosa was forced to retire due to damage on his RC213V after some contact with Andrea Iannone.

Speaking of the Ducati Team duo, Andrea Dovizioso finished fifth at Motegi, and earned his best premier-class finish at Phillip Island last season with fourth. He won the 2004 125cc race at Phillip Island. As for Dovi’s teammate Iannone, his best MotoGP finish in Australia was eighth back in 2013.

Ducati Team's Andrea Dovisioso heads to Phillip Island MotoGP
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso

The last of the factory bikes – the Team Suzuki Ecstar GSX-RRs – are ready to take on Phillip Island. Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro has only managed two top-10 finishes at Phillip Island, his best eighth back in 2012 (Pramac Ducati). Last year while battling for fifth, with Stefan Bradl, Espargaro crashed out.

Aleix’s teammate Maverick Vinales won the Moto2 race at Phillip Island last year, and will look to rebound after his crash at Motegi.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith has 152 points, and leads the satellite battle by 54 points ahead of LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow. The fight for second in satellites is getting intense; Octo Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci’s (93 points) crashed out at the Japanese GP, and the Italian now finds himself trailing Crutchlow by five points. Smith’s teammate Pol Espargaro also (88 points) is also closing in. In last year’s race Crutchlow crashed out from second on the last lap to gift Smith the final podium spot, while Espargaro also crashed out and Petrucci crossed the line in 12th on the IodaRacing ART. EG 0,0 Marc VDS’s Scott Redding recorded his best result of the season at theAustralian GP last year, crossing the line in 7th on the Gresini Honda.

Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera (30 points) took the Open class victory at the Japanese GP as he finished in an impressive ninth place. Barbera’s career best MotoGP result came at the Australian GP last year when he crossed the line in fifth. His main rival in the class, Forward Racing’s Loris Baz (28 points), was forced to retire from the race at Motegi with front-end issues and now trails the Spaniard by two points. The battle to be the leading Open Honda rider currently sees both Jack Miller (LCR Honda) and Nicky Hayden (Aspar MotoGP Team) tied on 16 points; this will be Hayden’s final MotoGP appearance at Motegi. The Kentuckian heads to World Superbike next season with Ten Kate Honda.

Former QMMF Racing Team rider, Aussie MotoGP alumnus Anthony West will be substituting injured Karel Abraham at AB Motoracing.

2015 Phillip Island MotoGP TV Schedule:

Fox Sports 1 will broadcast Phillip Island MotoGP live from 12:30 to 2 a.m. Sunday, October 18.

2015 MotoGP Point Standings (after 15 of 18 rounds):

1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 283
2. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 265
3. Marc Marquez (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 197
4. Andrea Iannone (ITA) Ducati Team 172
5. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 154
6. Bradley Smith (GBR) Monster Yamaha Tech3 152
7. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Ducati Team 150
8. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) CWM LCR Honda 98
9. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Octo Pramac Racing 93
10. Pol Espargarò (SPA) Monster Yamaha Tech3 88
11. Aleix Espargarò (SPA) Team Suzuki Ecstar 81
12. Maverick Viñales (SPA) Team Suzuki Ecstar 74
13. Scott Redding (GBR) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS 73
14. Yonny Hernandez (COL) Octo Pramac Racing 49
15. Hector Barbera (SPA) Avintia Racing 30
16. Loris Baz (FRA) Forward Racing 28
17. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 26
18. Jack Miller (AUS) CWM LCR Honda 16
19. Nicky Hayden (USA) Aspar MotoGP Team 16
20. Stefan Bradl (GER) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 11
21. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Aspar MotoGP Team 9
22. Mike Di Meglio (FRA) Avintia Racing 8
23. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Repsol Honda Team 5
24. Alex De Angelis (RSM) E-Motion IodaRacing Team 2

2015 Phillip Island MotoGP Preview – Photo Gallery