Two freshly anointed champions, three impressive winners, and a large crowd of ecstatic and yet wistful fans, come to say goodbye to a departing hero and hope to spot a new one arriving. Even the weather cooperated. That's how good the Australian Grand Prix was at Phillip Island this year. All three races were a lot less intense than the previous two weekends, but even that didn't matter, because of the manner in which the winners secured their victories, and because the Australian crowd had something to cheer about in all three categories.
It started in the Moto3 race, where Sandro Cortese rode one of his best races of the year, the title he clinched last weekend at Sepang clearly a weight off his mind, allowing the young German to ride freely. He had Miguel Oliveira to contend with for most of the race, but in the end, he would not be denied. The home crowd still had much to cheer about, as local boy Arthur Sissis, the 17-year-old former Red Bull Rookie, won an intense battle for third, putting an Australian on the podium for the first time on Sunday.
Valentino Rossi On Ducati: "Biggest Frustration Is Having Same Problems We Had At Valencia 2010 Test"
Valentino Rossi spoke on Sunday of the frustration he has suffered over the past two years with Ducati. After two years with the iconic Italian factory, the gap to the front runners remains the same, and the problems Rossi noted at the first test in Valencia 2010 are still there. Now, he told the press, his focus is on riding the Yamaha M1 again, to assess just what the damage of his two years at Ducati has been. Whether any of the riders heading to Ducati for 2013 would be able to master the Ducati was still open, Rossi said.
The Italian was philosophical after the race at Phillip Island, having finished a mediocre seventh, some 37 seconds behind the winner at a track where Rossi once won five years in a row. He brushed off the question of whether the result was a bad one or not with a quip. "I expected more! Yesterday, I was 2 seconds behind, 2 seconds for 27 laps, I expect 54 seconds! So was a good race," Rossi joked.
Rossi's previous record at Phillip Island was outstanding, but even after two years on the bike, Rossi said, he still failed to understand how come Casey Stoner was so successful on the Ducati where everyone else failed. "Casey was the only one rider who could be fast with the Ducati," Rossi told reporters. "All the other guys that tried have destroyed, not his career but his mind... So congratulations to Casey. But two years ago, I still don't understand why there is this difference between Stoner and the other Ducati riders, and after two years that I ride the Ducati I still don't understand." Rossi did not believe his time on the Ducati had caused him the same problems, however. When asked if the experience had, in his own words, destroyed his mind, Rossi replied "I don't think so. Especially because I have another chance."
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and single tire supplier Bridgestone after the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island:
2012 Phillip Island MotoGP Saturday Round Up - Unstoppable Stoner, Honda's Magic Gearbox, And A Dark Horse
Two championships could be settled at Phillip Island on Sunday. Marc Marquez looks certain to wrap up the 2012 Moto2 title in Australia, as the Catalunya Caixa rider needs just 2 points to put the title out of reach of Pol Espargaro. Marquez' chances of wrapping up the Moto2 title with a win look slim, though. Pol Espargaro has been in a class of his own at Phillip Island, his love for the circuit showing through in the way he has been riding. The only man to get near to Espargaro all weekend has been Scott Redding, Phillip Island one place where Redding's size is less of a handicap. With few places where hard acceleration from low speed is required, Redding can rely on his natural speed to get around the track. Despite still being the youngest rider ever to win a Grand Prix - a title he is likely to hold in perpetuity, since the minimum age went up to 16 - Redding is still winless in Moto2. If he can follow the pace of Espargaro, Phillip Island could well provide him with a real shot at his first win.
The MotoGP title may not be settled in Australia, though. Jorge Lorenzo leads Dani Pedrosa by 23 points, and just needs to finish ahead of the Honda man to wrap up the championship at Phillip Island. The odds of that happening looked much better on Saturday, Lorenzo taking 2nd spot in both the morning's free practice and qualifying in the afternoon, finishing ahead of Pedrosa in both sessions. But Lorenzo's may yet have to leave the box of championship t-shirts in the flight cases, as a closer look at the race pace between Lorenzo and Pedrosa gives the advantage to the Honda man. Lorenzo is lapping consistently in the high 1'30s and low 1'31s, but Pedrosa has been reeling off strings of high 1'30s in race trim.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and single tire supplier after qualifying at Phillip Island on Saturday:
2012 Phillip Island MotoGP Friday Round Up: Confidence, Control, The Half A Second Between The Rider's Ears, And A Minimum Wage
When Casey Stoner was asked on Thursday about the key to his speed through Turn 3 - now renamed Stoner Corner in his honor - he refused to answer, saying only that he might tell everyone after he had retired. To anyone watching Stoner scorch around that corner and the rest of the track, the secret was plain to see: the Australian is completely in his element, totally comfortable and confident in every move he makes at the circuit. Stoner left thick black lines round most of the left handers at the circuit, including daubing them all over the inside of the kerbs at Turn 3. It was a display of mastery that left even the injured Ben Spies in awe, watching at home on the computer. "I gotta say without a doubt Casey Stoner does stuff even GP racers watch and scratch their head at!" Spies posted on his Twitter page. Stoner ended nine tenths of a second up on second-place man Dani Pedrosa, the only man to dip into the 1'29s (just, his fastest lap being 1'29.999), and the only man bar Pedrosa to hit the 1'30s.
Confidence. That's Stoner's secret. And it's the secret of another Australian, a rider almost surprised to find himself at the front of the Moto2 class, Ant West having bagged the 3rd fastest time on the first day of his home Grand Prix. The podium at Sepang had kicked him into gear, West admitted, pointing out the importance of confidence to results. "I must have woke myself up!" West joked. "This class is all about having good confidence, because from 1st to 20th, everyone's fast. I just feel confident, and it makes everything so much easier. Today I feel good, and the bike's working really well." West's success was more than just an overnight transformation, West insisted. Things had slowly been improving since the QMMF team switched from the Moriwaki to the Speed Up chassis, West now able to close the gap the front. "We've been building up the last few races getting better and better, and I'm happy today. It just seem to be going well, even went out the first part of this session on old tires and still had quite a decent time."
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and the single tire supplier after the first day of practice for the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island:
This weekend's Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island is going to be a very Australian affair, more so than most other years. For one obvious reason: this is the last chance to see Casey Stoner race a Grand Prix motorcycle at the iconic venue before he hangs up his helmet and retires from MotoGP. Record crowds are expected, and local media coverage is expanded as everyone gathers to say goodbye to the latest in a long and honorable line of Australian Grand Prix champions who have left an indelible mark on motorcycle racing.
The weekend started off with Stoner's name being added to those of Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan, in a ceremony to rename Turn 3 Stoner Corner. Gardner's name has been given to the front straight, Doohan's to Turn 1, and Stoner's name follows after the Southern Loop. It is a fitting tribute to the man who has started from pole four times in a row, won here five times in a row and achieved some remarkable feats in MotoGP.
The only man to have won on a Ducati MotoGP machine since 2007, when Loris Capirossi won a flag-to-flag race in difficult conditions at Motegi. The only rider to have regained the premier class title after three seasons. Tied with Mike Hailwood for 4th in the all-time list of premier class winners, with 37 MotoGP victories. Tied with contemporaries Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa for 8th in the standings for victories in all classes, the three leading riders in the championship having 44 wins each, though the two Spaniards have vastly fewer wins in the top class.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and the single tire supplier ahead of this weekend's Australian MotoGP round at Phillip Island:
Casey Stoner now has been granted one of the highest honors a motorcycle racer can have bestowed upon him: to have a corner named after him. In a ceremony held on Thursday at Phillip Island, Andrew Fox, on behalf of the circuit owners Linfox Properties, announced the official renaming of Turn 3 at Phillip Island to Stoner Corner, adding the Australian's name to those of Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan, who have the main straight and Turn 1 named after them. The corner renaming ceremony was to honor Stoner's role in Australian motorcycle racing, his two World Championships (in 2007 and 2011) and his string of victories (five in a row) at the Phillip Island circuit. Turn 3 was selected because Stoner has proven to be something very special through that corner, offering one of the most spectacular sights in motorcycle racing, sliding both front and rear tires through the 260 km/h corner.
In the week ahead of Casey Stoner's final race at his home circuit - in MotoGP, at least, though the chances of seeing the Australian at Phillip Island in a V8 Supercar in the next few years are strong - the Repsol Media Service issued a fascinating video in which the 2011 World Champion goes over his motorcycle racing career (and his hobby, fishing) using a few old photographs. The video sees Stoner talk about his path to international racing, his reasons for leaving Australia to race in Europe, and the loss of his trophies to termites. Stoner also talks about his 2011 championship - though, unsurprisingly given that the video was produced by Repsol, there is no mention of his 2007 title - and his joy and surprise at being able to wrap it up at home, and on his 26th birthday.