More riders cite Phillip Island as their favorite circuit than any other. It is located off the southern tip of eastern Australia, and, as you’d expect of an island in the sea, it is cool and windy.
A look at the layout reveals why riders like the track: It has the most natural mix of flowing corners with a single straight to be found on the MotoGP calendar. It also has the fastest average speed of all the circuits currently in use, a nice counterpoint to grinding endlessly around Sachsenring. By comparison, many other circuits look like too much track folded up tight to fit on whatever real estate was available.
There are one first-gear, two second-gear, four third-gear and four fourth-gear corners within the 2.764-mile circuit. Twenty-seven counter-clockwise laps make 74.6 miles, taking about 42 minutes to complete in the dry. The Wayne Gardner straight makes it worthwhile having 240-plus horsepower, as top speeds are always over 200 mph.
Last year’s Bridgestone preview said Phillip Island “is an unusual circuit in that it manages to be the least demanding venue on the 2011 MotoGP calendar for the front tires and the right shoulders of the rears.” At the same time, the report continued, it the “hardest of the year for the left side of the rears.”
Easy life for the front tires comes from the limited amount of braking. This is quite unlike the schedule’s last two circuits, which present straight after straight, joined by lower-gear corners that require hard braking. Easier life for the right sides of the rear tires comes from the few rights, and hard life for the left sides comes from the constant high-speed turning on the many lefts. Another point is the generally cool temperatures at Phillip Island, calling for softer rubber and fast tire warmup.
Casey Stoner commented, “We’ve really struggled with the bike setup in the past two races, and I’m pretty disappointed with this. We always seem to find our rhythm in Phillip Island, but I don’t expect it to come easily this year. Thankfully, the track goes to the left, and we’re having a lot less issues with chatter when it goes this way.
“Also, there aren’t so many sharp turns, so my right leg might be able to deal with it a little better. I’m still nowhere near 100 percent physically, and I still need time to be back to full strength, so I’m not really sure what to expect this weekend.”
Have a look at Stoner’s results here: five wins in the last five years. Injury or no injury, don’t count him out.
|Temp air/track||68/88 F||63/81||61/88||59/84||57/79|
|Top speed (mph)||201.7||205.1||203.9||203.3||202.5|
The points position is this: Even if Jorge Lorenzo finishes third behind the two now-dominant Hondas of Dani Pedrosa and Stoner, his current lead of 23 points has them covered. Only something unforeseen—like running out of gas, as Cal Crutchlow did in Japan; an example of good racing being sacrificed to an arbitrary and irrelevant rule—can change this.
So much has changed since the first races of this season when the Yamahas had the advantage of smooth engine delivery and agility, while the Hondas continued to suffer from rougher engine delivery, shortened rear tire life, persistent chatter and braking instability from Bridgestone’s then-new “33” front tire. Now, Yamaha has the more abrupt delivery as a result of evident attempts to add power, and Honda, thanks to consistent effort to adapt its bikes to the new tires, has both power and civilized delivery.
The spec tire has reversed the old relationship between bikes and tires. When there was tire competition, tires were quickly adapted to bikes; at the end of the 2005 season, Honda needed more rear-tire traction, and Michelin delivered it in 2006. In the spec-tire world, the tires have become the given, and the bikes must be adapted to them.