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The Island awaits: Marquez unleashed as Australia approaches

After the shockwaves of Motegi come the curves of Phillip Island – and a return to the scene of 2015’s masterpiece

#AustralianGP Teaser: The Race of the Century

GoPro™ OnBoard lap of Phillip Island

Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit is one of the wonders of the motorsport world. A few hours south of Melbourne in the Australian state of Victoria, the ‘Island’ is a track like no other - a flowing sequence of corners perched above the ocean as the boundaries of the racetrack give way to the cliffs that border it. The Gardner Straight seems to disappear over the edge of the world as the horizon rises up to meet its adversary, before the gas shuts off through Doohan Corner and the ribbon of tarmac somehow continues. Formidable but beautiful, and faithful to the tagline:  place of legend.

There was a ruler of the Island, and that ruler was Casey Stoner. The man whose name adorns Turn 3 of the venue won six in a row of his home GPs, and the Australian 2-time MotoGP™ World Champion’s home domination skews the statistics in his favour to such a degree that the Island could still throw up a surprise for those who return to lower their visors once again in 2016. 2013 saw a black flag incident and a Lorenzo win, 2014 tyre woes and a Rossi triumph, and 2015? 2015 staged one of the greatest races in the history of motorsport – and may prove the best clue as to who will rule Phillip Island this year. The new King could well be the man who just took his third premier class crown in four years: Marc Marquez.

Marquez crowned MotoGP™ Champion!

It was a tough season for Repsol Honda Team’s Marquez in 2015, but the Australian GP was a trademark stunner – a victory taken on the final lap and through the final corner. Making up an incredible margin on early leader Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), the rider from Cervera came, caught and conquered. 2013 was a DNF after a black flag and 2014 a crash out the lead – making 2015 the only hand Marquez has shown over race distance at Phillip Island. If that doesn’t seem quite enough to load the dice in his favour, he has done it before.

Phillip Island 2011 - Moto2 - Race - Highlights

Before Marquez won a wet Moto2™ race from the back in Valencia in 2012, he almost managed the same in Australia a year earlier – in the dry. P33 on the grid in Cheste saw the then Moto2™ World Champion gain 32 places to take that win in his final appearance in the intermediate category, but his rookie Moto2™ race at Phillip Island saw Marquez turn 38th into a podium finish. No tough weather or difficult conditions, and no lady luck. The rider from Cervera simply set off, got his head down and overtook 35 people. There aren’t actually enough riders on the grid in MotoGP™ for Marquez to break that personal record in 2016, but the now 3-time MotoGP™ World Champion doesn’t have to. Motegi saw Marquez still under the pressure of the title fight and keeping his mask of control in place – Phillip Island will see the explosive new World Champion unleashed. And, it would seem there is no better place for Marquez to try and roll a double six.

MotoGP™ Rewind from Phillip Island

The man who ruled the Island before Stoner stole his crown was Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). The legendary 9-time World Champion was Marquez’ biggest title roadblock, but after a costly mistake on the brakes in Motegi will now have his elbows out to ensure he takes P2 over nemesis and teammate Lorenzo. With six wins at the Island and five in a row from his first in 2001, Rossi’s record at the venue is a stunner – and his record in 2016 proves him a contender for every victory. The ‘Doctor’’s modus operandi since the gap to the top of the title standings opened has been simple and effective in most races – put in the laps, push to the limit, and let others’ cards fall where they may. After a loss of face in Japan, the Italian legend will be out to put that right – and knows Marquez may now be willing to take more bait.

MotoGP™ Rewind: Phillip Island 2012

Jorge Lorenzo is another who has a good track record at the Island, with a win in 2013, a P2 the year after and an even harder-fought second place last year making up part of his five-podium tally at the track - a good run behind Stoner when the King could not be overcome. Lorenzo also wrapped up his 2012 MotoGP™ World Championship campaign by taking the crown in Australia, and the ‘Spartan’ can never be ruled out. Still 14 points behind Rossi heading into the final three races, the Yamaha rider’s focus now shifts to the battle for second after the costly crash in Motegi. Bruises from his FP3 highside in Japan will be much more distant by the time the lights go out in Australia, however, and the Mallorcan 5-time World Champion rarely makes the same mistake twice - something he will be aware of as the final corner of the Island approaches with lessons from 2015.

Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) should be another to watch in this year’s battle in Australia. With 2015 protagonist Andrea Iannone’s (Ducati Team) recuperation from a broken vertebra seeing the Italian still out of action and replaced by Hector Barbera, the man seemingly most likely to be cast in his place is Viñales – and Rossi’s future teammate is trying to lock down P4 in the title. Rival for that fourth in the standings is Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) – but the 3-time World Champion will miss the race following his horrific highside in Japan and subsequent broken collarbone. MotoGP™ Legend and Honda World Superbike Team rider Nicky Hayden will stand in for Pedrosa, and won the 2006 MotoGP™ World Championship in Repsol Honda colours.

Agony for Pedrosa after breaking collarbone in crash

Iannone’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso was the man whose calm and well-judged management of Motegi saw him gain the most, taking a well-deserved 20 points at the venue – and moving ahead of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) in the title fight; in range of Pedrosa in P5 as the Spaniard is forced onto the sidelines.  Crutchlow will be aiming for the accolade of top Independent Team rider once again as he continues his vein of rich form following his win in Brno, with Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Octo Pramac Yakhnich duo Scott Redding and Danilo Petrucci sure to make that fight another classic.

Assen winner Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) will be another Independent Team challenger and flying the flag at home. The Australian is now a GP winner and a regular points scorer, and will be looking to put on a show on the Island – the circuit having treated him well in the past.

There are venues that lend themselves to legend, and Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit is one of them. The canvas for MotoGP™’s 2015 masterpiece is already woven into the fabric of history, and the venue now begins to wake for the coming weekend as the freight from the Twin Ring Motegi starts the journey south. FP1 sees MotoGP™ out on track at 10:55 (GMT +11) for the first time on Friday - with Marquez ready to remove his shackles.

The new King is coming, and he’s out for war.

Marquez takes win in race of the year


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