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Phillip Island feelings from World Champion and home rivals

Phillip Island feelings from World Champion and home rivals

Rider of the moment Valentino Rossi ranks Phillip Island as one of his top three MotoGP circuits, whilst the Australian contingent are out to stop his enjoyment this weekend.

Ask any of the MotoGP riders for a list of their favourite tracks, and Phillip Island is likely to feature prominently in their replies. New MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi is one of those with a particular affinity for the Australian circuit, and revealed that the track was amongst his `top three´ in the pre-event press conference Down Under.

`Phillip Island is a great track, I love it as a lot of other riders do,´ said the Italian on Thursday. `For me it is very difficult to decide between here, Mugello and maybe Barcelona. In any case, these tracks are top level.´

On the intricacies of the isolated circuit, Rossi continued: `It is a strange track, with the highest average speed –close to 200km/h I think- per lap, and very fast and flowing. You have a different feeling here compared to the other tracks, because you stay on the edge at a high speed with the bike coming up and have to pull down with the legs. It´s something very exciting.´

Rossi has an enviable record at Phillip Island, including title-winning victories as part of a five-year unbeaten streak in 2001 and 2004. Rival Casey Stoner could very easily have a similar pedigree at his home circuit, had it not have been for some inopportune mishaps in the lower cylinder categories.

`I´ve had a lot of good results here: I was winning on a 125cc and crashed out, equal second with Jorge Lorenzo (both clocked a race time of 38´02.000 in a dead heat finish) in 2004, then crashed out of the 250cc race when winning. We´ve always been competitive, it´s just that we´ve only stuck it on the top step one time,´ explains the outgoing MotoGP World Champion and winner of the 2007 race in Australia.

`This year we´ve got a very good chance, but the races have been very hard recently and it´s not the best time. We´ll give it 100%, as we always do, and see what happens,´ added Stoner, who has taken the strapping off his injured scaphoid in order to enable him to move his hand more freely.

Also happy to be home is Rizla Suzuki´s Chris Vermeulen, who joined fellow countryman Stoner in the press conference. He explained the sensation of a MotoGP homecoming, and the strange feeling of familiarity that comes after rounds held in all four corners of the globe.

`For Aussies we spend most of the year outside our country in Europe, and to come home it is good for us. To walk around the paddock and hear people speaking…`Australian´, I guess you could say,´ joked Vermeulen.

`Getting my first podium here in 2006 was very special for me, and we´d love to step up there again this weekend.´

The final Australian on the MotoGP grid, Anthony West is particularly keen to get a bit of home comfort, having seen precious little in the way of results this year. The Kawasaki rider is possibly facing his last race at Phillip Island in a while as a MotoGP competitor, and is keen to enjoy the 2008 race.

`Pretty much everybody has said that they´ve already signed their riders for next year. I wish Kawasaki would have let me know about my future a little earlier, so that I could have found something else, but wherever I go I´ll be fighting to get back,´ said the well-travelled local boy.

`It´s good for us to come back here though, especially when results aren´t going our way. I´m just going to try and enjoy myself.´


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