Marquez Set for Thrilling World-Title Fight at Thrilling Phillip Island
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Marquez Set for Thrilling World-Title Fight at Thrilling Phillip Island
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The most thrilling battle for a MotoGP crown in more than a decade enters its final stages in Australia this weekend. Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix at the magical Phillip Island circuit is the 16th of 18 races, with only 11 points separating title contestants Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati).

In Japan last Sunday the pair fought an unforgettable race-long duel in appalling weather conditions, battling until the final corner, with Dovizioso taking victory from Marquez by just two tenths of a second.

Therefore 24-year-old Marquez comes to Phillip Island fully aware that he need to beat his Italian rival to further increase his points advantage before the final two races, at Sepang, Malaysia, next Sunday and at Valencia, Spain, on 12th November.

And reigning champion Marquez – who is chasing his fourth MotoGP World Championship in just five seasons – has good reason to believe he can have a great race at this glorious circuit, situated off Australia’s spectacular south-east coast.

Phillip Island is one of five anti-clockwise MotoGP circuits, so Marquez’s training regime of going fast and turning left around dirt-track ovals should be a big help this weekend. Already he has emerged victorious at each of the three anti-clockwise circuits – the Circuit of the Americas, the Sachsenring and Aragon – that have featured on this year’s calendar.

Phillip Island is also the scene of one of the greatest of Marquez’s 34 MotoGP victories. In 2015 he produced one of the best final laps of his life to win a memorable four-rider battle at this super-fast circuit. But Marquez, who hails from Cervera, in the north west of Spain, has twice crashed out of the MotoGP race: last year he slid out while leading and he also fell in 2014.

Marquez comes to Australia in scintillating form. From his past seven outings, Marquez has amassed 140 points from a possible 175, including four wins and two second-place finishes, with his RC213V competitive at every track and in all conditions. The youngster continues to break records at a breathless rate too: his second-place finish at Motegi was his 100th Grand Prix podium, with 60 of those results race victories. He is now the ninth most successful rider in the 69-year history of the Grand Prix racing championships, a remarkable achievement for one so young.

Marquez’s ever-growing list of success isn’t only growing his own legend. He also continues Honda’s proud record as the most successful manufacturer in the history of Grand Prix racing. Right now Honda leads the Constructors World Championship, while Repsol Honda is ahead in the Teams World Championship. The goal of riders and constructor is obvious: the triple crown of rider, constructor and team success.

Team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) still retains a mathematical chance of capturing the riders title, but his retirement from the Japanese Grand Prix with tyre issues all but put paid to those hopes.

This weekend Pedrosa will race in Australia for the first time since 2015, because he missed last year’s race due to a collarbone injury. The super-experienced 31-year old has scored two MotoGP podiums at Phillip Island and one 250cc victory, when he secured a second successive 250 World Championship in 2005.

One man who will be hoping for a repeat of his 2017 Phillip Island performance is Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda RC213V), who won a storming race on the Island last year, his second of the year, which helped Honda take the premier-class constructors titles for the 22nd time. Despite a recent run of difficult results, Crutchlow has been competitive in the dry. And he has already scored one podium so far this year, in Argentina. During preseason testing he was also very fast and consist here.

Local star Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) returns from injury this weekend, fully expectant of a strong showing in front of his home crowd. The Australian fractured his right tibia while riding a trials bike last month. Although not 100 percent fit, Miller is determined to give the vociferous local fans something to cheer about.

Miller’s team-mate Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) secured the last World Championship point at Motegi last weekend, riding through the blinding spray to finish 15th, a fraction of a second behind Hector Barbera (Ducati). The 2014 Moto2 World Champion hopes that Phillip Island represents another opportunity to better his season’s best result of 11th at Le Mans and Mugello.

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Marc Marquez 93

“We go to Australia very motivated after Japan, where we scored good points at a track that’s normally tough for us, and in quite difficult conditions. I really look forward to this weekend because Phillip Island is an incredible racetrack, one of my favourite. It’s difficult because it’s very physical, with many hard and fast changes in direction, but I enjoy it a lot every year and generally I think it’s a better track for us than Motegi. I hope for good weather, and then we’ll see. We’ll work hard to try and find the best setup and keep fighting hard for this Championship.”

Dani Pedrosa 26

“It was a difficult weekend in Japan with the wet conditions, but we have to look forward to the next race. Phillip Island isn’t one of my favourite tracks, so we’ll definitely have to work hard to find a good pace there. Anyway, we remain positive, looking at every race weekend as a new story. We hope for the weather to be fine and to be able to use the tyres in the right way so that we can fight at front on Sunday.”

Cal Crutchlow 35

“The Motegi GP was a bit of a disaster for me, so I am sorry for my team and for HRC because we worked a lot to solve the problems we had in the wet. We arrive in Australia with more motivation because Phillip Island is one of the best tracks on the calendar. Last year I won the race, so I want to think positive ahead this weekend.”

Jack Miller 43

“My recovery has been going really well. I feel extremely positive that I’ll be back on the bike this weekend at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit. It was a tough decision not to race at the Japanese GP. However, it was necessary to ensure I was in the best possible form for Phillip Island. I can’t wait to get back out there in front of my home crowd!”

Tito Rabat 53

“Motegi was such a tough race – so difficult to see where you were going! So in these conditions I was happy to get a World Championship point. Now we go to one of the great tracks – Phillip Island. I have finished on the podium there in Moto2, so I know I can be fast. As usual, I will work with me crew to get the best set-up and hope that we have three days of good weather, without too much wind or rain.”

19-10-2017, 12:42 PM
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