The penultimate round of the MotoGP championship awaits as riders prepare for the third race of the demanding triple header at the ever-popular Phillip Island track for the AirAsia Australian Grand Prix.
Much attention will be on the Repsol Honda Team duo of Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner, with both having very good reasons for chasing a win. Pedrosa, after his dominant and first-ever wet race victory in Malaysia, now lies only 23-points off Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo, and knows that a victory is a must to cut the deficit, or capitalize on any mistakes his rival might make. Yet despite being in the best form of his career, victory at the circuit could prove though for the Spaniard, as local hero Stoner will not only look to make it six victories in succession at the track, but also to bow out in style at his final MotoGP race in front of his home fans.
Lorenzo, who can afford to finish second or third in both of the coming races and still win the title will be very aware of the threat posed by the Hondas, and will most of all avoid becoming complacent. The Mallorcan missed last year’s race due to a nasty finger injury in practice, and as such is very aware of the potential risks his title bid could yet face. Help from his teammate Ben Spies to mix it up with the Honda pair is now out of the question, after the Texan suffered an AC shoulder separation, a cracked rib in the upper chest area and bruising to the lung in a crash in Malaysia. He is back in the US receiving treatment, and Yamaha has stated it will not field a replacement rider.
Their satellite counterparts, Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, on their Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machines, will however be rearing to go after a Sepang race to forget, which saw both of them crash out. Dovizioso was a podium sitter at last year’s Australian round, and will no doubt be building on this experience to keep himself in contention for third spot in the championship. San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, who last year was caught out by a freak rain-shower on the track, will be aiming to continue his good run of form of late, which sees him lead the race for fifth in the table. His satellite counterpart, LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, has been off colour somewhat recently, and will no doubt look back on his Moto2™ form from last year, where he finished second at the track.
Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden both put on good displays on the wet Sepang circuit, and will be hoping that such form can carry over to Phillip Island, regardless of the track conditions. Rossi will have his sights firmly set on Bautista, with the Italian only six points off him in the battle for fifth. Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham and Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá both scored respectable top-ten finishes in Malaysia, and will aim to squeeze a similar performance out of their Desmosedicis in Australia, as they look to keep up with their factory counterparts.
The CRT battle is intensifying as it heads into the penultimate round of the class’ maiden season. Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró is the favourite to take CRT top honours, after his teammate Randy de Puniet has endured a difficult last few rounds. The Frenchman will however not give up without a fight and will line up at the circuit alongside NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci, Speed Master’s Roberto Rolfo, San Carlo’s Michele Pirro, Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison and Avintia Blusens’ Iván Silva. Silva’s teammate Yonny Hernández, who missed the last round due to a dislocated left collarbone, will also miss this race, with a replacement rider due to be announced soon.