2017 Phillip Island MotoGP Preview
If you have yet to watch last weekend’s 15th round of MotoGP at Twin Ring Motegi, stop what you’re doing and go find some highlights on YouTube.
I typically get bored with circuit racing in the rain, but the Japanese Grand Prix turned that boredom into pure energy. That was by far my favorite race of 2017 MotoGP, and it helped tighten the points battle up top between the two leaders: Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso.
That duel continues this weekend during the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, one of the most scenic racetracks on the MotoGP calendar that overlooks the Bass Strait.
As Marquez chases a fourth premier-class title, he is just 11 points ahead of Dovizioso, who claimed the win at Motegi following a bold last-corner pass in horrible conditions as he floated his GP17’s front wheel to the finish line to take the victory by 0.249 of a second.
That was the first time in Marquez’s MotoGP history that he lost a race while leading on the final lap. Marquez, who has won five rounds so far this season, has only claimed one premier-class victory at Australia; that arrived in 2015.
But besides that, he has never finished another MotoGP race in Australia since joining the top class in 2013. He suffered a disqualification in 2013, and crashed out of the lead in 2014 and 2016.
“We go to Australia very motivated after Japan, where we scored good points at a track that’s normally tough for us, and in quite difficult conditions,” says Marc Marquez. “I really look forward to this weekend because Phillip Island is an incredible racetrack, one of my favorites.
“It’s difficult because it’s very physical, with many hard and fast changes in direction, but I enjoy it a lot every year and generally I think it’s a better track for us than Motegi. I hope for good weather, and then we’ll see. We’ll work hard to try and find the best setup and keep fighting hard for this Championship.”
As for Dovizioso, he also has five wins this season, and said he will fight to the end to get Ducati another title to match the one Casey Stoner earned in 2007. Since joining the premier class in 2008, Dovizioso has only finished on the podium once in Australia during the 2011 season while riding with Honda.
Dovi just missed the podium last season, and holds the top-speed record of 216.2 mph at the 2.73-mile, 12-corner circuit
“For sure Phillip Island is one of Marquez’s favorite tracks, and the situation will probably be a bit more difficult for us, but last year we did a good race and so we must try and work in the best possible way throughout the weekend,” says Andrea Dovizioso.
“There are now just three rounds left until the end and anything can happen: we must try and always be fast at every circuit and in every condition. On paper we are not favorites for the win in Australia but we’ll be fighting as hard as ever.”
Dovi also says he’s focused more on training the mind this season: “Everybody now is working on their body, but your mind is much bigger. Everyone has a margin to improve in that area. I found something really interesting and it’s working – that’s one of the reasons we’re competitive this year.”
With 75 points up for grabs at the second of three back-to-back rounds, only four riders have a mathematical chance of securing the 2017 MotoGP Title:
- Marquez (244 points)
- Dovizioso (233)
- Maverick Vinales (203)
- Dani Pedrosa (170)
As for Vinales, the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP pilot is 41 points behind Marquez with three rounds to go. He finished third at Phillip Island MotoGP last season, and has a win there in the Moto2 class (2014). Though 41 points sounds like much, anything can happen with three rounds to go.
Since joining the MotoGP class in 2006, Repsol Honda’s Pedrosa has only claimed two podiums. He also missed last season due to injury.
The only other riders to claim premier-class wins were Ducati Team’s Jorge Lorenzo (1), LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow (1), who won last year, and nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi. The Movistar MotoGP pilot Rossi has the most wins there in the premier class with six, but his chances at a 10th world title are not possible for this season.
The action begins Friday with free practice, followed by Saturday’s qualifying ahead of Sunday’s 27-lap MotoGP that will take riders nearly 75 miles. The race gets underway at 1 a.m. EST Sunday, October 22.
2017 MotoGP Point Standings (after 15 of 18 rounds):