The Tissot Australian Grand Prix got underway today with the regular pre-race conference, where this weekend’s possible title contender, Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez, was joined by his main rival, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo, Repsol teammate Dani Pedrosa, Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Cal Crutchlow, Tuenti HP 40’s Pol Espargaro and Caretta Technology – RTG’s Jack Miller.
Marquez, who could take the title if he outscores Lorenzo by eight points this weekend, is trying not to think of the title too much: “That is true, it will be the first chance, but I think it will be so, so difficult, because Jorge was so fast last year. He finished second but we know how Casey was here. It will just be another race for me. The most important is to try and get it – it doesn’t matter when. I look forward to riding a MotoGP bike here. It will be so exciting and the fast corners will be interesting. I saw some videos from last year, and Casey especially did some incredible lines, so we will see how Phillip Island is on a MotoGP bike.”
Lorenzo however, has vowed to make it difficult for Marquez: “The last two results were not the best. We wanted to win and finish in front of Marc, but we tried everything in Aragon and then finished worse than expected at Sepang. But that is done. We cannot think about the past. We are at Phillip Island with different circumstances and a different track. We will try to be as good as possible and win this race. Braking is our weakest point at the moment and it should be much colder, so in theory, yes, it is going to be a better track for us, but sometimes theory doesn’t work, so let’s see how it goes this weekend.”
Pedrosa, who last year did not finish the race, is hoping the new asphalt will work in his favour: “Last year wasn’t so successful, I crashed early with the cold tyre, but it’s key to get a good practice here and take the time well, especially in qualifying. Let’s see if we can do a good weekend overall. It’s hard to judge now, but obviously the previous one [asphalt] was quite old and there were many bumps. I think we will feel a big different with the new asphalt. We don’t know how the tyres will be, but for sure with these cold conditions it’s a better feeling when the track is new.”
Crutchlow, a podium sitter here previously, is aiming for the same once more: “It’s definitely going to be hard to repeat the performance of last year, when we got a bit fortunate with Dani crashing out. I’ve had a few bad results recently, but as Jorge said it should suit our bike better here. Podium last year and I don’t see any reason why we can’t do it again.”
Espargaro, second in the Moto2™ class at the moment by nine points, believes both he and championship leader Scott Redding will be feeling the heat: “The pressure is on both of us because we’re almost at the finale in Valencia, with just three races to go. For sure we have a pressure, but it’s just about doing the races, but the strategy will be important and it’s just about doing the three races. I will just go for it, but for sure this year has been so different to last, and we also have the new asphalt.”
Local Moto3™ talent Miller joked about the cold weather at the track in reference to it being his “home” circuit: “Home! Sort of. I don’t claim Phillip Island to be part of Australia – we don’t get this weather where I am from! It’s good to be home…‘homeish’ anyway, before we go to Japan! It’s definitely been a difficult year on the Honda. Handling-wise the bike is awesome but we struggle in straight lines. It’s been a good year but we seem to fall off because of tyre wear in the second halves of races.”
To mark the occasion of a possible World Champion being crowned at the race this weekend’s race in the form of Marquez, the 10 contenders across all groups lined up for photos before the press conference. Moto3™ saw Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Luis Salom joined by Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Rins and Team Calvo’s Maverick Viñales, whilst in Moto2™ there was the Marc VDS Racing duo of Scott Redding and Mika Kallio along side Tuenti HP 40 riders Pol Espargaro and Esteve Rabat. In MotoGP™ it was the Spanish trio of Marquez, Lorenzo and Pedrosa.
In separate news, LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, who fractured his right ankle in a crash in Sepang, has been declared fit to ride in FP1 tomorrow morning. He will however will be reassessed after the session.
Yesterday, a group of riders including Tech3’s Bradley Smith, GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Bryan Staring, PBM’s Damian Cudlin and Michael Laverty, Pol Espargaro, QMMF Racing Team’s Anthony West, as well as Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Arthur Sissis, met some of the stars of Melbourne Heart FC at the AAMI Park in the city for a quick training session. Players Patrick Kisnorbo and Iain Ramsay shared some of their on-field wisdom with the riders clad in Heart FC shirts, before being handed a chequered flag of their own to mark the occasion.