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Oct 12, 2005

Nicky Hayden Loves Phillip Island


After a rousing ride in Qatar, where Marco Melandri (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) finished tantalisingly close to his maiden MotoGP win, the Italian star is revved-up and ready to make Phillip Island the place where he finally makes the top step of the podium as a winning force in the premier class.

Marco has proved beyond doubt that he has the speed and the will to triumph in the cauldron of MotoGP and he can also bank on the fact that Phillip Island was where he secured his 250cc World Championship in style with a win here in 2002.

Another Honda man who has already tasted victory in the big class is Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V). He won his home race at Laguna Seca in the USA this year and the young man from Kentucky is eager to add at least another to his record this season.

Runner-up position in the MotoGP World Championship is wide open still with a maximum 75 points up for grabs from the remaining three races. Realistically, an incredible seven riders are in with a chance just 43 points cover the men currently lying from second down to eighth place.

Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda RC211V) is the man best placed to steal the prize, but the Roman's wretched run of form (a sixth place and a DNF) in the last two races) suggests he will be overhauled by the form riders Melandri and Hayden.

Max has 159 points to Melandri's 157 with Colin Edwards (Yamaha) on 152, Hayden on 150, Loris Capirossi (Ducati) with 148, Alex Barros (Camel Honda RC211V) on 129 and Sete Gibernau (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) still in the hunt with 126.

Gibernau, although he has the most ground to claw back, is hungry for a win to end this disappointing season with a flourish at a track where he finished second last year, and set the fastest qualifying lap of 1m 30.122 seconds.

This rollercoaster of a circuit is situated 130km south east of Melbourne and is home to one of the climaxes of a 17-race season. Real talent is needed here, perhaps more than at any other circuit. Australia hosted its first Grand Prix race here in 1989 and the racing is almost always spectacular, the crowd vocal and the atmosphere spine tingling.

Tyres will be an issue here. The two long left-hand turns onto the main straight are particularly hard on rubber, so machine set-up will be partly aimed at conserving rubber on this 4.448km long circuit. It has just one short 900m straight, but five right-hand turns and seven lefts including the high-speed series onto the start/finish straight.

Much of the track requires rapid changes of direction at high speed, and sustained periods of high lean-angle test riders to the maximum. Competitors need to be comfortable on worn tyres towards the end of the race, while wind and trouble with wandering wildlife can also be determining factors.

Sete said, "Phillip Island is one of the quickest and most spectacular tracks of the World Championship. It's fun to ride and very technical. During the pre-season tests I went very quickly and we have some very interesting data references for set-up. I'm confident about this Australian Grand Prix. I'm convinced that as soon as we're able to overcome this difficult period with a positive result, we'll go back to being stronger than ever."

"I can't wait to go back racing after the fantastic race in Doha," said Melandri. "After a bit of a difficult moment I finally got back onto the podium. The Grand Prix of Qatar was an important race. I am now third again in the overall standings and I'm ready to give my best. I'm coming to a track I really like, I'm full of energy and yet very relaxed too. After Qatar I went straight to Australia, Brisbane to be exact, for one week of complete relaxation on the beach!"

Biaggi said, "All I can really hope for is that we find something good for this weekend. I've won here in the past and it's an amazing circuit to win at. Every view is just like a post card; it is truly spectacular. I only hope that from Friday morning in first qualifying we can report back some good news to give my fan club, who are always so supportive here, something to be proud of."

Nicky Hayden said, "Phillip Island is a fantastic place. It was somewhere I'd heard of when I was a kid and I was so excited to go there for the first time to test back at the start of 2003. It's a real riders track. If you like riding bikes fast then you have to like it here. The last long fast left hand turn onto the start finish straight is one of my favourite corners on any track in the world."

"Phillip Island is a track I really like," said Barros. "It's one of the best on the calendar ­ quick, technical, with super-fast corners where the front of the bike is worked really hard and has to be set up perfectly. So I hope that, with Michelin's help after a week of being able to analyse the problems we've had in the last few races, we can get back to finding a good set-up with the tyre/forks combination."

Aussie Chris Vermeulen, standing in for the injured Troy Bayliss (Camel Honda RC211V), said, "It's especially exciting to be able to ride Honda's RC211V at Phillip Island. It's always good to ride at home because we only get one race here each year. Phillip Island is one of the best circuits in the world. It's fast and flowing and that really suits my riding style. You get a great view of the ocean coming down the start/finish straight, but maybe I won't get the chance to appreciate that so much on a factory Honda Grand Prix machine at something like 320kph!"

Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) said, "I am ready to give it my best on this track. I'm charged-up and motivated and very concentrated. I want to make up for the negative performance in Qatar together with the all Konica Minolta Honda Team. It will be vital to work well on the bike settings because unluckily during the winter tests done on this track in February, we didn't accomplish what we planned due to an accident."

In the 250cc class Dani Pedrosa (Team Movistar Honda RS250RW) leads the World Championship by 26 points from Aussie challenger Casey Stoner (Aprilia) who can rely on vocal backing from the crowd here.

Dani broke both his ankles here in 2003 while riding in the 125cc class after he had wrapped up his first World title in the class. He finished fourth here last year when he won the 250cc World Championship in his rookie year and knows an emphatic win here this year would help to stall the Stoner challenge.

Dani said, "I'm going out to Australia in good spirits, looking forward to getting ready for the race and prepared to fight as hard as always. I'm aware that certain people will want to beat me at Phillip Island but I also want to win again so we'll see what happens."

His team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama (Team Movistar Honda RS250RW) said, "In Australia we will come up against completely different conditions to the last two races: we're going from intense heat to cold and unstable weather. You never know what to expect at Phillip Island normally it is very windy and there is also a threat of rain. We are capable of doing a good job and fighting for the podium, as we have already demonstrated this year."

"I love Phillip Island," said Andrea Dovizioso (Scot Racing Team Honda RS250RW), 2004 World 125cc Champion, "But I think it's more difficult with a 250cc than 125cc. This track has a lot of fast corners and they're more difficult with a heavier bike. However, last year I won with the Honda 125cc, and this weekend I'll try to do the same on the 250."

Rookie Yuki Takahashi (Scot Racing Team Honda RS250RW) said, "I've learnt Phillip Island on the Playstation which is all very well. But, with the real bike, all that can change in few seconds. But I take courage knowing my rapport with the RS250RW Honda is improving race by race."

The 125cc World Championship is now a straight fight between Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) on 199 points and series leader Mika Kallio (KTM) with a slender lead on 201 points. Gabor Talmacsi (KTM) remains a mathematical contender with 156 points.

"Australia will be a difficult race," said Luthi. "Phillip Island is a heavy race track for all of us. I had a bad race here last year, in fact after my poor season I think it was the lowest point of my career. But look how far I have come since then! I will be confident going into the race because I have had a chance to rest my injuries."

Fabrizio Lai (Kopron Racing World Honda RS125RW), currently sixth overall in the points table, said, "Last year I had a lot of problems at this track. I broke my left hand in a crash. But I like this circuit and I hope to get a good result here with Honda. The most important thing for me now is to finish the season in a good position in the World Championship standings next season, I want to win the title with Honda."

Mike Di Meglio (Kopron Racing World Honda RS125R), who finished fourth in Qatar two weeks ago, said, "After that result I want to continue the trend. In Qatar I was good in qualifying practice on Thursday and Friday. I made a good start and had a good race on Saturday staying with the lead riders. I hope to so the same in Phillip Island and start from the first or second row. And I don't find this track particularly difficult."