Marc Marquez Ready to Conquer Phillip Island with Championship Smile!
The 2018 Australian Grand Prix has arrived, the weather is sweet and the riders eager to get on track. The weather at Phillip Island is notorious as it is fast changing. It can be raining, baking hot, cloudy and freezing all in a day’s work. The riders have to be aware of the conditions at all times in order to determine how the tyres are performing, whether their set up is on target for lights out on Sunday and if they are comfortable enough to push hard. Marc Marquez is all smiles as he arrives with another Championship tick next to his name. The Spanish rider is focused regardless of the success and has not really had time to celebrate. In fact, the turnaround time during the flyaway races is very quick, so Marquez is looking forward to bringing out his dancing shoes come Valencia. Marquez: “Now, it is time to focus on Phillip Island. The tactics is to try and concentrate myself. I won in 2014, arrived here and I thought I could do everything and crashed. In 2016, I felt different and crashed in the race. I need to control myself this weekend and it is a circuit I love. I feel more relaxed and will approach starting to think of the 2019 season. Focused.” There are many things Marquez feels he is not good at, for example playing table tennis. “The mechanics beat me, I was angry, though they did beat me”. His personality does shine through in amongst the competitiveness which is nice to see.
Chasing Marquez is Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso who are also battling for second in the World Championship. Every year Rossi arrives in Australia, he looks refreshed and happy. The Italian rider is fully aware of the Yamaha performance issues and is hoping to finish second. Valentino Rossi: “I think that Phillip Island is one of the best circuits during the season for everybody, more or less every rider. It is important to understand the weather. We hope for good weather and last year I was quite strong. The track is good but every year it is different. We have to work and have a good balance. You have to ride the bike in a good way, fast, long corners and see if we can be competitive. Phillip Island is really different, the only one like this and here you are very fast in the corners and also you have a lot of change in direction with high speed. It is a big effort physically. The track is mainly on the left but also fast corners on the right. You have to manage the temperature of the tyre and braking.” The fans are already in full swing and looking forward to seeing their hero out on track. At this event, Rossi is capable of pulling a rabbit out of a hat. To the day, one of his favourite battles is with Lorenzo in Barcelona at the 2009 Grand Prix. Rossi: “The battle started from Friday morning, every practice, the fight for pole position, fight for first in the warm up, fight all the race and right up until the last corner. Best battle. We were at a very similar level.”
In contrast, Jack Miller is wanting to put the bad results behind him and come in strong. He would be satisfied with a third place finish. The Australian rider is fully aware of where he failed in Japan. It will be a test of courage, confidence and stamina for Miller with his family, friends and fans waiting for that celebration on the podium. Miller: “I like coming to this race, staying in Melbourne for a couple of days and it is a great event to be a part of. We had the front row start in Japan, we tried to the soft option, have a gamble and by the third lap the edge of the tyre got too hot and I was rolling around, as I slid in to the corner, I landed on my head. Try not to do that this weekend”. Miller looks hungry this weekend with a little smashed avo on toast (aussie slang for avocado) on the menu as his breakfast of champions. According to Cal Crutchlow, he is not a fan of the shortened words! Miller was rubbing in the avo like he was making it on the spot. A good bunch of banter between the two racing friends.
This weekend is a serious opportunity for Crutchlow who is on a very fast Honda machine. He has the potential to win with his strongest rival being Marquez. Crutchlow: “We have to take on board that we had a great race in Japan. The team did a great job for me to finish second place. The momentum is there. To repeat 2016 is very difficult. That gap does not usually happen. If you look on paper now, there are potentially ten riders who could win this race. I think we will all enjoy, have a good battle and see where we finish come Sunday afternoon. The key – I have no idea. I won the race. I know how I won it though it is easier said than done. You can be slipstreamed. It is a tactical track and there are a few tricks of the trade that you can do. I think it is important to lead. Look at the race from last year with Marc, he took the opportunity at the right time and went away.” Crutchlow was full of jokes on Thursday and is aware that Marquez will be going full speed ahead regardless of the title victory. The British rider is excited to play games! Crutchlow was asked at the press conference if he could flip the role and ask any rider a question, what would it be? He asked where they each would finish this weekend. The answers were as follows: Jack 3rd, Cal 1st although he thought Marquez said 3rd which was an awkward funny moment, Marquez 1st, Rossi 2nd, Rins to fight Rossi for 2nd and Bautista 4th.
In Switzerland, Jorge Lorenzo is recuperating and taking it easy after having some surgery to fix up his injured wrist. The Spanish rider is being replaced by Alvaro Bautista this weekend who looks good in red. He is happy about the opportunity at his last Phillip Island Grand Prix in the MotoGP premier class. Alvaro Bautista: “For sure in Japan, I am so happy for the result. We worked well all weekend. This opportunity arrived in my best moment. I feel very strong with the bike, so it will be a new challenge for me this weekend. There are new people, new bikes and I have to adapt to the GP18. I also think that this track is not the best for Ducati, we did struggle a lot in the past. I will try to enjoy the weekend.” We must keep in mind that Bautista is learning from the moment he steps on the bike. It is all new territory. With the weather a guaranteed topic of discussion, who do you think will excel at one of the most picturesque race circuits in the world!