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The most beautiful racetrack in the world could doubtless be an argument for hours, days or weeks, but however long the debate goes on, Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit will continue to feature. There are few more stunning places to watch motorbike racing and there are few better stages on which to compete, with some more good memories surely just around the corner in the Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. This year at the Island, it's all about milestones and titles (and some of the best racing we've likely ever seen).
AustralianGP: A wild ride
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) may have wrapped up the riders' title, Honda the Constructors' and Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) Rookie of the Year, but there's plenty in still in play. That said, a lot of the spotlight this weekend will first be stolen by one man: Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). Why? 'The Doctor' makes his 400th Grand Prix start.
To say the milestone is a rare one is to undersell it to extremes. Rossi has been the most experienced on the grid and the most experienced in history for some time, but 400 is quite some number. It's 42.5% of all Grands Prix, and he's won 115 and scored points in 353 of them, taking victories on on seven different bikes as the only rider to have won on 500cc two-stroke, 990cc four-stroke, 800cc four-stroke and 1000cc four-stroke machinery. A few of those successes have come at the Island too, so it's a good place to celebrate.
Whether or not he can celebrate again this season remains to be answered. He last won in Australia in 2014, and with teammate Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) having taken the win last year and other podiums since, that's good reason to believe the bike can do it again. And Rossi? Motegi wasn't the best preparation, but you don't get to 400 starts without the ability to bounce back like no one else.
Viñales, though, could be stiff competition - as could Quartararo, also on the Yamaha. The Frenchman has been closest to stopping Marquez’ run of four in a row by some stretch, so could Australia finally see him take that win? It’s a big ask but so was the rest of what Quartararo has achieved this season, and he’s fast everywhere.
Quartararo: "Now we need to set new goals!"
Meanwhile, Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) also has a target on Quartararo’s back. The Australian races on home turf with some serious determination to do well for the home fans and get another top result this season, but that’s also compounded by crunch time in the Independent Team rider standings. Quartararo is currently 38 points clear of the Aussie, so it could well be decided on the Island.
Then there’s the team standings, currently led by the Ducati Team. But it’s only 17 points the difference, and with Marquez on a charge, it could change hands…but Ducati teammates Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Danilo Petrucci will be pushing hard to try and hold onto it. Phillip Island has sometimes been a more difficult preposition for the Borgo Panigale factory more recently, although it has been good hunting grounds. Dovizioso also has second in the standings ready to wrap up, and Petrucci is running out of time to hit back again Viñales and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in the fight for third…
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Rins could be a real force to be reckoned with at fast, flowing Phillip Island, and a serious complication for those who probably already have their sights set high. Last season he was gaining traction, this year he’s fighting for third overall and is already a two-time MotoGP™ race winner…
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) has a stunning record at the Island as a rider so he’ll want to try and get well back inside the top ten, and teammate Mika Kallio will want to score. A familiar face now in different colours will be a huge presence to watch this weekend too, as Johann Zarco debuts in Takaaki Nakagami’s LCR Honda Idemitsu seat. The Frenchman’s in for three races, and what a place to start learning the ropes of a completely new bike…
The Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix has everything: Championships up for grabs, milestones on the horizon, a dash of intrigue and one of the greatest racetracks in the world. You’ve simply got to tune in, and you can do so at 15:00 (GMT +11) on Sunday 27th October.
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