The Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix signals the second of the three back-to-back flyaway races and as always, the pre-event Press Conference kicked off the weekend’s proceedings. Joining now seven-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in front of the media were Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), home hero Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) and Alvaro Bautista (Ducati Team) – the latter standing in for the injured Jorge Lorenzo in Australia.
Phillip Island is a rider and fan favourite but this weekend sees several reasons why it’s a particularly different Grand Prix. Firstly, after coming to Australia following title wins in Japan in 2014 and 2016, Marquez failed to see the chequered flag on both occasions after crashing out of the race. This is something the Spaniard pointed out in the Press Conference and it’s a pattern he’s wanting to put an end to this year:
“I won in 2014 at Motegi, I got here and I thought I could do everything and I crashed,” said the Repsol Honda rider. “In 2016 I felt different but again I crashed in the race. So I need to control myself a bit, it’s a track that I love but…now we will start looking towards the 2019 season.”
Rossi has an outstanding record on the Island, having only missed the podium four times in his 21 visits. The Italian was second to Marquez last season and picked up the victory when the number 93 crashed in 2014. But, for Rossi, what makes Phillip Island such a unique event?
“I think Phillip Island is one of the best circuits of the season, for more or less everyone,” affirmed ‘The Doctor’. “For me Phillip Island is really different, it’s the only one like this. On other tracks you’re fast as an average speed but here you’re fast in the corners and there are a lot of high-speed changes of direction, it’s mostly left but you still have to manage the right, and it’s all up and down…”
And what does Crutchlow - benefiter from Marquez’ 2016 crash - think about this circuit? Well, for a start, there isn’t just a couple of names – in his opinion – that can challenge for victory: “On paper right now there are ten guys who could probably win and there are only three spaces on the podium,” explained the Briton.
One of those potential winners is home rider Miller. It’s, of course, a special weekend for the Australian and after leading the early exchanges of last season’s race, can he dream up a win around the Island on board a Desmosedici?
“I love coming to this race, staying in Melbourne for a couple of days and enjoying it. It’s a great event to be a part of,” began the number 43 rider, who will be hoping he can build on his P3 qualifying position in Japan on home soil. “We had the front row start in Japan, we tried the soft option tyre as a gamble and as we kinda had predicted but hoped not that by the third lap the edge of the tyre was too hot, I was rolling around, I had a bit of a slide into the corner and crashed…and I’ll try not to do that too much this weekend.”
In addition, another special topic about this particular Australian GP comes from fellow Ducati rider Bautista, who swaps his everyday Angel Nieto Team colours for the red of the factory Desmosedici team. Stepping in for Lorenzo, what does the Spaniard hope he can achieve on his final visit to Phillip Island on a GP machine?
“I think this opportunity arrives at my best moment because I feel very strong riding the bike,” admitted Bautista. “New people, new bike, I have to adapt to the GP18. This track hasn’t been the best for Ducati and before we’ve struggled a lot. I’ll try to give all the information to the engineers.”
Phillip Island is a special circuit but throw in a few more unique situations like we have on our hands this weekend and it becomes a weekend that is simply unmissable. There are so many other questions that need to be answered, so if you thought the racing would be winding down because the 2018 Championship has been decided then, you’re wrong.
The on-track action begins when the Moto3™ class head out for FP1 at 10:00 local time (GMT +11). Don’t forget to check out the time schedule for Australia as there are a couple of changes to the timings, with Moto2™ heading out on circuit before the MotoGP™ riders this weekend.