Oct 23, 2012
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Jorge Lorenzo (99).
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 Ãlvaro 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 HÃ©ctor BarberÃ¡ 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 EspargarÃ³ 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' IvÃ¡n Silva. Silva's teammate Yonny HernÃ¡ndez, 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.
As the Moto2™ grid reaches Phillip Island for the penultimate round of the world championship at the AirAsia Australian Grand Prix, Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol's Marc MÃ¡rquez stands a very good chance of winning his first ever intermediate class title.
The Spaniard, who holds a 48-point advantage over nearest title rival, Tuenti Movil HP 40's Pol EspargarÃ³, can only not win the title this weekend should his rival win the race and MÃ¡rquez not collect any points. And as unlikely as this may have seemed, with MÃ¡rquez's uncharacteristic crash in Malaysia last weekend, it just shows that every scenario is still possible. EspargarÃ³, who was down in 11th in the wet, will be hoping for dry conditions, as he stated his bike is great in the dry, but not fully up to scratch when it rains.
With the two Spaniards dicing up front, an entertaining battle for third in the championship is brewing, with Speed Master's Andrea Iannone and Interwetten-Paddock's Tom LÃ¼thi only separated by 11 points. The Swiss rider, who is known to be good in the wet, crashed out of the Sepang round, and will be looking to make amends at the fast and flowing Australian circuit, while Iannone will look to fight at the top once more, to get some more podiums to his name before his switch to the Junior Ducati Team in MotoGP™ next year.
In a lonely fifth in the table, Marc VDS Racing Team's Scott Redding still has a mathematical chance of third in the table, but will have to rediscover his good form that has seen him take numerous podiums already this season. His teammate Mika Kallio, and Tech 3 Racing's Bradley Smith will also be ones to watch, having gone well last weekend in Sepang. Should the weather turn on the Moto2 field once more, all eyes will not doubt once again on NGM Mobile Forward Racing's Alex de Angelis, QMMF Racing's Anthony West and Federal Oil Gresini Moto2's Gino Rea, who were in a class of their own in treacherous conditions in Sepang, with all three taking to the podium.
With the title already sealed by Red Bull KTM Ajo's Sandro Cortese last weekend in Sepang there is now another honour to fight for at this weekend's AirAsia Australian Grand Prix in Phillip Island, namely that of Rookie of the Year, which currently sees Estrella Galicia 0,0's Alex Rins and Team Italia FMI's Romano Fenati neck-and-neck only two points apart.
Rins, currently fourth in the table, has been more consistent of late, finishing in the points in the last seven races, while Fenati has had two DNFs in the same period. Fenati will however be the slight favourite, as he has shown that when on song, he can fight with the best of them. Away from the Rookie melee, and RW Racing GP's Luis Salom looked to have second place in the table firmly tied up, after the shock announcement by Maverick ViÃ±ales that he had quit his Blusens Avintia the evening before the Malaysia round. ViÃ±ales was however quick to issue a formal apology, and has stated he will turn up in Phillip Island to fight for second place in the table.
His future plans remain unclear at present, and the team is yet to announce whether a replacement rider will contest the Australian round. With a competitor such as ViÃ±ales out of the way, this will lend further impetus to the likes of AirAsia-SIC-Ajo's Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Red Bull's Danny Kent, who have both shown terrific form of late, and will no doubt see them in the podium hunt once more.
One of the main protagonists however could be Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3's Jonas Folger, with the German having led most sessions in Sepang, only to miss out on the win due to what he claims was a wrong direction in bike set-up. And whilst his compatriot Cortese has already been crowned world champion, there is no doubt he will continue fighting for the win to highlight not only why he is the title holder, but also why he deserves his already sealed spot in Moto2™ next season.
There will be two wildcards taking part in the race in the form of British rider Sam Clarke on his Fastline GP Racing Suter and K1 Racing's Australian Lincoln Gilding on a Honda. Ioda Racing Project's Luigi Morciano will not take part due to injury and will not be replaced.