2017 Phillip Island MotoGP Round Up: A Race For The Ages As Championships Near A Close

Phillip Island always delivers. If you came to the track on the edge of the world hoping for a spectacle, you got more than your money's worth. Three stunning races at arguably the greatest racetrack in the world. Three races which really mattered: with just two rounds left after Phillip Island, the results had a significant impact on all three championships. And to cap the day off, one of the best MotoGP races of all time, the second here in the space of three seasons. The sun even shone. Well, most of the time, anyway.

Is it a coincidence that two of the greatest Grand Prix races, perhaps of all time, have happened at Phillip Island in the last three seasons? I don't think so. This place, and this time, have conspired to create the perfect conditions for motorcycle racing. Firstly, there has never been a greater concentration of riding talent on the grid at the same time in the premier class. Secondly, performance parity between the different factories, and between factories and privateers, has never been so great. And thirdly, the Phillip Island circuit is simply made for motorcycle racing. A flowing track in a stunning setting, where brave and skilled riders can make passes at nearly half of the corners on the track.

The 2015 MotoGP race at Phillip Island was a four-way dust up which saw Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Iannone, and Valentino Rossi pass each other a grand total of 52 times in 27 laps. The 2017 race saw seven riders slug it out over the same distance, passing and repassing each other a total of 73 times. Blink, and you missed a change of the lead. But you had to blink, just to catch your breath. It is a good job the assiduous Tammy Gorali was willing to go back and tally up the action.

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2017 Phillip Island MotoGP Qualifying Round Up: One Hand On The Trophy?

If there is one thing that you need to ride fast around Phillip Island – apart from an appetite for scaring yourself silly, that is – it is confidence. You have to have blind faith the front will stick as you pitch it in to Turn 1 at 190 km/h, or slide the rear at 250 km/h plus through Stoner Corner. You want to be sure you're going to make it through, because if you don't, you'll fall off at speed, and it will hurt. A lot.

Meanwhile, the elements are doing their best to sap your confidence. Gusts of 40 km/h or more are coming in off the Bass Straight at different angles, picking the bike up in some places, pushing it down in others, getting in under the fairing and trying to pull the front away from you. Clouds rush past, some sprinkling droplets onto your visor, others dumping enough rain onto the track to leave it soaked, most blowing over without leaving a mark. Cold winds suck the heat out of your tires.

When you're in the zone, you can blaze around the track lap after lap, banging in times that should be good enough for the podium. But one misstep and you take a tumble. And one tumble is enough to shake your blind faith in the front end, plant the seeds of doubt in your mind. At other tracks, that might cost you a tenth or two. Phillip Island will find your lack of faith disturbing, and punish you with a second or more on your lap time.

That, in a nutshell, was the tale of qualifying. Marc Márquez is so confident at Phillip Island that he was able to punch in lap after lap during FP4, then toy with his rivals to take pole by a third of a second. Andrea Dovizioso was shaken by a crash in FP4, and that hit his confidence, and left him lapping slower in qualifying than he had in FP2 on Friday. With Márquez on pole and Dovizioso in eleventh, Phillip Island may have helped steal the championship away from the Italian.

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2017 Phillip Island Moto3 FP3 Result: Mir Fast Before Rain Turns Up

The promise of rain and the delivery of clear but significantly chilly conditions instead gave too much confidence to the feisty lot of the Moto3 grid. What that meant was a few unpleasant crashes to start proceedings on Saturday morning, fast men like Nicolo Bulega and Bo Bendsneyder giving their teams plenty of homework.

The cold temperatures made it difficult for the lightweight class to get anywhere near to Friday performance, Jules Danilo being a fresh face at the top of the timings for much of the morning session. The Frenchman kept a charging Joan Mir away until the last quarter of an hour, the world championship leader over a second slower than his own best time from FP2.

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2017 Phillip Island Moto3 FP2 Result: Mir Reclaims Control

Marginally warmer and with some extra layers of rubber on the circuit, the lightweight class did not need a lot of time to drop their times significantly under their FP1 benchmarks all throughout the field. In the improved conditions, one-lap king Jorge Martin stole the show early in the session and left the world championship leader to do all the work to catch up. And so he did, Joan Mir taking over the lead past the halfway mark of FP2.

Even without the late rapid lap nearly nudging the 1:36s and bagging him the session, Mir’s strong pace would be a good enough reason to worry his rivals. Aron Canet kept away from drama this time around and a late lap saw him cut Mir’s advantage in half - to little over two tenths of a second. That caused Bendsneyder to drop to third position in the session, half a seconds down.

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