Oct 25, 2012
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(From left) Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner and James Ellison. Photo courtesy of www.motogp.com
Stoner on a mission as Spanish duo do battle at Phillip Island MotoGP™
MotoGP™ championship leader Jorge Lorenzo was joined by title rival Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi and James Ellison at the Thursday press conference marking the penultimate round of the MotoGP™ World Championship at the AirAsia Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
Yamaha Factory Racing's Lorenzo, leading the championship with 23-points, is aware of the possibility he has to take the title in the next two races, but is trying not to focus on that, nor the threat Repsol Honda Team's Pedrosa poses: "It's only two races until the end, so more than ever we must be really concentrated and really focussed on not making any mistakes. Anyway, we have the opportunity to arrive in Valencia with the possibility to be world champion. We'll try to finish on the podium this time. In a general view we are thinking about the championship, but for sure it's better just to concentrate on the next practice, then the next one, qualifying and then the race. It would be great [to win the title here] and we have to possibility to do it, but we are not going to make ourselves crazy just to do it."
Phillip Island saw Lorenzo's 2011 campaign end last year with a nasty finger injury, but the Mallorcan is not dwelling on that: "Last year was a really bad year for us, especially after my crash in the warm-up with my big injury, but it could also happen in another track, so I don't have any bad feelings about this track. Phillip Island is a very special track; very different from another. When you go into the first corner and do a lap you realize how different it is. It's really narrow, really fast, and the landscape is wonderful. It's great to ride here, especially when the weather is perfect and there is no wind or rain."
Pedrosa, who has been on a winning streak recently, and must close the deficit further to catch Lorenzo, is out for the win once more: "There is no difference now from the last races, so I'll just try to go out, do some good practices, try to enjoy it and keep focussed as usual and ride well. Riding here is always very special. There are many corners where you can steer the bike with the gas. There are some times when it's really cold, but sometimes it's wonderful to be here with this horsepower, especially into the last corner going onto the main straight and up the hill." With regards to taking the title down to the wire at the next round the Spaniard said: "It would be good [to have a title battle in Valencia], as there are two Spaniards fighting for the championship and the final round is in Spain. It's been a long time since I've been in this position, fighting until the end."
His teammate Stoner, who is looking to make it six wins in a row at the track is hoping his injury and fitness concerns do not hold him back: "It's the last time I'm going to be racing here, as there are only two races to go in the season and my career, so it's been built up to be a very big weekend. I'm still going to attack it as I have done always. In some ways it's no different to me than any other weekend, except that I do really enjoy this track, I love it."
He also stated that his injury is not progressing in the way he had hoped: "It's definitely worse than when we came back in Japan. We're having a lot more trouble with it day to day, just getting around on it at all. But I don't think it will affect me any differently on the bike. The biggest moment I'm having at the moment is flexibility on the bike trying to get it working. Fortunately on this track there are not too many right hand corner that are so critical, so we should be a little more comfortable riding around here. The main fitness problem I'm having at the moment is endurance."
Ducati Team's Rossi, also a five time winner at the track, cites it as one of the best venues on the calendar, and hopes for a much improved outing over last year: "Phillip Island is more or less the favourite of all the riders because it is something different and something special compared to the others. It's very fast and it's always a great feeling to ride a motorbike here. Last year was a very bad weekend for us. I was very slow, maybe one of the worst. We are very concentrated to give the maximum and do better."
Paul Bird Motorsport's Ellison, who has had a tricky season so far, is confident a new engine will see his results improve: "It's been a difficult season for me, but I've just tried to keep my head down and get the results. I'm really enjoying it; really enjoy riding the bike, and developing it. The development's not coming on as fast as I was hoping. We just got a new engine in AragÃ³n, but it's just the one and we're only allowed to use it in the warm-up and in the race. It's quite a big step, so if we can save it for the races here and in Valencia we can keep closing the gap to the Aspar boys."
Earlier in the day Stoner was honoured with a slice of the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit, the high speed Turn Three, to be now known as "Stoner Corner". The naming announced by Andrew Fox of circuit owners, the Linfox Property Group, is in recognition of Stoner's career, and was marked with a special plaque at the turn. Stoner commented on his exceptional record there and gave an insight into the secret of riding well there: "It is not time on the track that has got my success, because everybody I race against has had as many laps, if not more, than me at the island. The only thing I can explain is that because the track is quite slippery and with such high corner speeds, being fast there has a lot to do with balls - how much you want to hang it out. It's a place that really gets the adrenaline flowing and I think most riders will say they love this track." As Stoner has the chance to make it six wins in a row at the track this Sunday, the circuit owners already have a substitute plaque prepared for such an instance.
Following this, he joined fellow Australian riders, QMMF Racing's Anthony West, Caretta-Technology's Jack Miller and Red Bull KTM Ajo's Arthur Sissis in some trout fishing at the island, to get some much needed relaxation in before the busy weekend ahead.
In a separate encounter, seven times premier-class champion Rossi met one of Australia's stars from a slightly different kind of track in the form of 100m hurdles 2012 Olympic Champion Sally Pearson.