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Hofmann reflects on fast track to eighth

Hofmann reflects on fast track to eighth

Hofmann reflects on fast track to eighth

Alex Hofmann will start from his best ever grid position in MotoGP after qualifying eighth for tomorrow's Cinzano Australian Grand Prix. The German's courage was tested when he just managed to save a massive, 280kph rear wheel slide through the downhill turn three midway through the session but he recovered to seal his first third row start with a perfectly timed slipstream tow from Sete Gibernau on the main straight.

"I did it! I knew this time was possible here after yesterday," said the 24 year old. "I have very good balance with the ZX-RR race set-up and was able to carry that into my fast laps on qualifying tyres. Our top end engine power is not enough at the moment, so I followed Sete Gibernau to keep my speed up on the straight and it worked.

"The wind was constant, but not as strong as yesterday. My biggest problem was a really scary rear-end slide through turn three, that was very fast and got my attention in a big way. I concentrated on improving my riding today and understanding the race set-up. We just need to confirm our rear tyre choice for the race in the warm-up tomorrow.

"Depending on the wind direction you're approaching 330kph as you head down towards turn one, but even if the wind is with you it feels like it's trying to blow you off the side of the track, so it's a good idea to always leave yourself a little bit of space on the left just in case you get hit by a gust; grass tracking at over 300 kph is definitely not my idea of fun!"

Hofman says Phillip Island is one of his favourite tracks and after an intense winter of testing here with Kawasaki before the start of the season he knows his way around as well as anybody.

"As you approach turn one you just touch the front brake and back shift one gear before tipping it into the right hander at Doohan Corner," he says. "It's probably the fastest turn on any circuit we race on and right in the middle, just as you're at maximum lean, there are a few bumps that you have to watch out for. It's a strange feeling having the bike go light under you over the bumps when your knee is on the deck at around 200kph!

"But then you're on the gas again as it's important that you get a good run up to the left hand turn two. Corner speed is important through this long, 180 degree turn. You come right back on yourself and it's difficult to gauge exactly how early you can get on the gas at the exit. Almost every lap you exit this corner with the feeling that you could have got on the gas earlier than you did.

"Once out of the turn it's up through the gears and over the small hill towards what i think is the scariest corner on the track; the ultra-fast turn three. You're travelling at over 200kph with the rear of the bike sliding the whole way round the turn, which is a weird feeling. Although the backend is sliding, there's not much chance of high-siding here - which is a good thing really, because if you went over the top of the bike here you'd most likely land in Tasmania!

"The next turn is the Honda Hairpin so, as soon as you exit turn three, you're hard on the brakes trying to get the bike stopped as you backshift through the box to first gear. You have to watch out at this corner, as the right hand side of the tyre will have cooled slightly through the long left-handers, making a high-side on the exit of the turn a real possibility if you're a bit too heavy with your throttle hand.

"Out of Honda Hairpin you shift up to second, riding the rev limiter as you approach one of the most fantastic corners in the world; Siberia. The positive camber around this turn means you can ride it like a motocross berm, carrying a huge amount of speed through the corner.

"You're accelerating all the time, up through the gears into fourth, and the rear feels like it just wants to keep on spinning all the way around Siberia, through turn seven and all the way to the right-hander at turn eight.

"Turn eight is another very fast corner, and you need to try and carry as much speed through here as possible for the climb up to Lukey Heights.

"Lukey Heights is a bit scary the first couple of times you ride it, because you can't see your exit point as you commit to the corner. You know which way the track goes, but it's not until you hit the crest of the hill that you can actually see it, and the bike has already started to slide by then.

"All your senses are working overtime as you try to look over the top of the hill to confirm that you're heading for the right part of the track on the other side. It's a lot of fun when you get it right, but I wouldn't ever want to get it wrong!

"As soon as you're over Lukey Heights you have to set yourself up for the tight hairpin at the bottom of the hill. It's difficult to judge your braking point here, because there are no real reference points; you have to do it by feel rather than by using a marker. And it's hard braking as well, trying to scrub off speed on a downhill slope before tipping into turn ten, one of the slowest corners on the track.

"The positive camber at this right-hander means you can carry speed through the turn but, just like at the Honda Hairpin, you need to be aware that the right hand side of the tyre will have cooled slightly and the available grip might not be quite as much as you expected.

"It's important that your exit from turn ten gives you a good entry speed into the last two corners on the circuit. You go tight into the apex on turn eleven, before accelerating as hard as the rear grip will let you through the final turn and back onto the start finish straight. The rear of the bike really wants to spin up all the way through the last two left-handers, but while it's good fun to do this - and good for the crowd watching - it's not the fastest way through these two corners.

"You're accelerating hard out of the final turn, trying to carry as much speed as possible onto the start finish straight, but the corner is partially blind. It's not until you hit fifth gear that the kerbing on the outside of the start finish straight comes into view and lets you know you're definitely on the right line.

"And then it's up into top gear and head down behind the bubble for the run back down to Doohan Corner, keeping a wary eye out for Phillip Island's infamous kamikaze sea gulls as you go."

Tags:
MotoGP, 2004, CINZANO AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX, QP2

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