Casey Stoner has the chance to end his 2011 season in style by winning the championship at his home race on his birthday.
The 2011 MotoGP Championship is entering its final three rounds as riders prepare for the last fly-away of the season. On the itinerary for this weekend is Casey Stoner’s home race at Phillip Island where the Aussie needs to add only 10 more points to his lead in order to secure his second MotoGP title. Phillip Island is a notoriously difficult circuit largely because of its unpredictable weather. Heavy rain, cold temperatures and strong winds have led to some interesting races in the past few years, so the paddock will be at the mercy of the weather gods for this round.
It will be Stoner’s 26th birthday on Sunday, making it the perfect day for the Repsol Honda rider to exert his dominance. The Australian has a commanding record at his home track, winning the last four consecutive years since his debut in the premier class in 2006. This season alone he’s amassed 14 podiums – 13 of which have been consecutive – and clenched eight wins. Stoner is also set to surpass his best finish in MotoGP this year, outperforming his title-winning season in 2007 which saw him score 367 points. Needless to say, Stoner is the man to beat as the series approaches its finale.
“I love coming back home to race in Australia, it’s always a lot of fun and we don’t get to visit so often,” said Stoner. “The general atmosphere is incredible and I always enjoy the weekend as a whole and the fans are fantastic. Hopefully this weekend we can have a good race, I’m very disappointed after Japan as we knew our potential, I want to go there and win the race, like I wanted to in Japan.”
Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo is on the verge of handing over his No. 1 plate to Stoner as he trails the Aussie by 40 points.
The only rider holding Stoner back from snagging the championship is defending champ, Jorge Lorenzo. Currently second in the series and 40 points behind Stoner, the Spaniard is coming off a strong second-place finish at Motegi under inclement weather and is looking to keep the title within reach. Lorenzo has claimed two 250cc victories at the circuit and took second in last year’s contest behind Stoner.
“I am now heading to Australia after a few days of training in Indonesia,” Lorenzo said. “I’m looking forward to riding at the Phillip Island circuit, one of my favorite and probably the most beautiful track we race on. After the race in Japan, where we had a positive result, we are really determined to be on the podium again. We know it’s not going to be easy because Casey is usually invincible on his home track, but I will try my best and won’t give up!”
But Stoner doesn’t just have the defending champ to contend with – he also has his own teammates. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso have had a season filled with strong results. Between the two are 14 podiums and three wins, with Pedrosa claiming victory at the most recent round in Japan. They will be attempting Honda’s third consecutive podium finish while fighting for third overall in the championship, the duo only separated by a
Dani Pedrosa (#26) and Andrea Dovizioso (#4) are locked in a battle for third and separated by only one point.
single point. They will also be fighting poor results from last year, as Pedrosa struggled with injury and Dovizioso struck out with a technical issue.
“I’m looking forward to going to Phillip Island as the circuit is very nice with many fast corners and a lot of sliding,” Pedrosa said. “The tires play an important role there as the left side of the tire gets used a lot, and therefore durability is always crucial.”
Valentino Rossi and American Nicky Hayden will be tasked with continuing Ducati’s success at the Phillip Island Grand Prix. Since 2007 the team has finished on the podium, but it appears the team has hit a rough patch this year. Despite having one of the most winning riders in MotoGP history on the squad, Rossi and Hayden have only managed two podium finishes this season. The team must also face Rossi not being 100% as the Italian is still struggling with the hand he injured at Motegi. Regardless, the six-time MotoGP champ is optimistic of his progress and looking forward to Round 16.
“Phillip Island is another track where the Ducati has always gone well, as have I, so we hope to be able to work as well as we did in Japan,” said Rossi. “As far as my hand is concerned, the swelling is reduced, and we still have a
Valentino Rossi has a strong record at Phillip Island but will have to contend with an injured hand.
couple of days before we go on the track. We just have to wait for Friday morning to see how it reacts.”
San Carlo Honda’s Marco Simoncelli is just four points behind Hayden in the championship. The Italian had a strong performance in the last round after suffering a ride through penalty, eventually finishing in fourth. Super Sic has also struggled with consistency this season, but his last few races have shown improvement with him finishing inside the top-five. He has two wins in the 250cc class at the circuit, and a fourth-place finish in last year’s MotoGP contest.
“At Motegi I was able to see once again that I can fight with the guys at the front, and at a circuit where I won 250 races in 2008 and 2009 I want to show it,” Simoncelli said. “I was lacking some race consistency, but we have addressed that and if it wasn’t for the jump start at Motegi I would have been fighting for the podium.”
Marc Marquez (above) and Stefan Bradl (below) are separated by one point in the Moto2 Championship with three rounds left.
The 2011 Moto2 Championship is now down to two riders as Team CaixaCatalunya Repsol’s Marc Marquez and Viessmann Kiefer Racing’s Stefan Bradl remain separated by only one point. If anyone looks set to take the title on paper it’s Marquez, who’s won six of the last eight races. Halfway into the season Bradl was leading the series by more than 50 points, but Marquez has since fought back to take the lead for the first time this season.
“Phillip Island is one of the circuits I like the most,” said Marquez. “With the 125cc, at least, it was very good for me, so we will see if we have as much fun with it in Moto2.”
While Marquez’s success has gone through the roof, Bradl has been on a severe downward spiral. Since Silverstone the German has failed to win and has only managed two podiums since.
“I qualified third last year at Phillip Island and I am confident I can put up a real challenge for (Marc) Márquez,” Bradl said. “Now I have nothing to lose, as second place in the world championship is safe already. My strategy is simple for the last three races; I shall be flat out.”