Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by Ishani Aziz
After a pair of classics on the Asian continent, Grand Prix motorcycle racing dives further into the pacific, this time touching down on Phillip Island, Australia. This will be the first time since 2019 that the series has raced down under, with Marc Marquez taking victory last time out. Today, however, the picture for the top class of racing looks entirely different - though the island may not.
Located in the natively-named island of Corryong (officially Phillip Island) the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit is one many consider one of the last standing proper old school circuits. Running for 4.45 km the circuit is by no means the longest, however, it's one of the most natural race tracks in the world. Every curve, kink and corner seems like it has existed for millennia, fitting perfectly into the island’s topography.
The circuit is anti-clockwise with most of its legendary corners turning left. Starting from the long Gardner straight riders are greeted by the deceptively fast right hander of Doohan before slowing down for the loop at the south of the track. Then comes the fast and iconic Stoner Corner, made famous by Casey Stoner's dirt track-like antics through the left hander. Then the hairpin at turn four, Honda Corner, provides overtaking opportunities not for the brave but for the calculated. Much of the rest of the circuit follows the same pattern, deceptively fast corners that lure riders into even faster ones before demanding they slow down. In the age of Tilkedromes, Phillip Island is a circuit that breathes.
The islands’ ever changing elevation also tempts riders to either carry that extra speed uphill or, like at Honda corner, will test their judgement as they plough downhill, gravity sucking the bikes into the gravel. If that weren’t challenging enough, the breeze from the sea offers an extra opposition as man and machine must battle fellow man and nature for 4.45 kilometres, only to do it again but with less grip and more fatigue.
Heading into Phillip Island the championship is a far cry from what it was but six months ago. Fabio Quartararo is at serious risk of losing his championship to familiar foe Francesco Bagnaia. The Italian has had a Juggernaut-like run since the summer break, putting him just two points behind the world champion. With his metronomic form and seemingly superior machinery it seems the Italian is favourite but with 75 points to play for, it would be a fool’s error to declare anything.
A further 20 points behind is Aleix Espargaro who, before this season, was yet to win a race and is now in championship contention. Though the Aprilia lacks the form of his immediate competitors, the resilience the Spaniard has displayed throughout the season is cause to believe he still stands a chance.
Further behind is Jack Miller who at no point was considered a title contender. However, heading into his home race the Australian is 40 points adrift and although that does mean he is more dependent on his competitor’s misfortunes than his own prowess, Miller has declared himself a dreamer and he will be looking to flip things on their heads as we head down under.