Phillip Island

WSBK – Rea takes brace at season opener at Phillip Island

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Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea celebrated his 39th and 40th career WSBK wins after winning both races from the season opener at Phillip Island.

Rea claimed pole, and in a dramatic race, the defending champion was part of the leading pack of seven riders which saw the lead change hands almost every lap until tyre wear and performance came into play in the closing stages.

The final lap saw Rea in a scintillating battle with Ducati’s Chaz Davies, with the Ulsterman taking the flag by the narrowest of margins.

The second Phillip Island race saw a small piece of history being made on two main fronts. Firstly, race one front row winner Rea, second placed man Davies and third placed Tom Sykes had to start Race Two from the third row under the new championship regulations – Sykes took over seventh grid place, Davies eighth and Rea ninth, in another new twist to the 2017 season.

The opening race saw the Yamaha of Lowes and the Aprilia of Eugene Laverty involved in a hard fight for first, before the field closed and Rea pounced.

Rea was able to get into the lead as early as lap six, but was unable to pull away, with Davies, Sykes, Fores and Melandri all in the mix.

The final lap was again between Rea and Davies, with the reigning champion winning by a margin of  just 0.025 seconds.

This latest race win gave Rea his magical 40th career victory; a level only reached and then later passed by three other riders in WorldSBK history –  Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss and Noriyuki Haga.

Rea, the 2015 and 2016 champion, also scored the Superpole win on Saturday to open his account with a perfect weekend.

Rea said: “Phillip Island was really rewarding and to win two last lap battles here means a lot because it is a such a hard track to lead from the front on. While that 40th career victory means a lot, it is more important to put a good score on the board for round one.

When I went through to clean air in the lead with three or four to go I was worried that the other riders may be learning too much about the bike. I had to be sure just to change the lines up a little bit but on the last lap, from Siberia corner onwards, I just put my head down and completed a very good back section. I covered my line into the MG hairpin and got myself tucked in as well as I could on the front straight. There was not only one area where we found some pace in the winter tests; we generally just polished the bike. Nothing magic happened but I feel good about this bike. The way things have changed a little bit have suited me. I can ride less on the limit and we have more tyre left to fight with at the end of races, compared to last year.”

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MotoGP – Viñales dominates testing at Phillip Island

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New kid on the Yamaha block Maverick Viñales has done it again at Phillip Island, going even faster on Day 3 to top the timesheets once more.

Fastest on Day 2 and fastest during testing at Sepang and Valencia, the Spaniard has hit the ground running on the Factory Yamaha – ending the Australia test ahead of the Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez in second and Dani Pedrosa in third.

Viñales put in a 1:28.549 early in his impressive day’s work; a time unthreatened until the final flag. Completing 101 laps and able to put in 1:28 laps in a row, the Spaniard also managed to rake in the laptimes in the 1:29 bracket in another ominous show of form.

His teammate – nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi – ended Day 3 in P11 and 0.921s in arrears. The “Doctor” did a best of 1:29.470 in the third session, but is bumped down to P12 on combined times.

The closest chasers to the impressive pace of Viñales were Repsol Honda duo Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa. Marquez, who did 107 laps on Day 2 and is the only other rider in the illustrious 1:28 club, did a best of 1:28.843 as he prepares for his title defence – with another impressive 96-lap workload completed. Pedrosa, who was ill on Day 2 and only went out on track for the afternoon, was back on form on Day 3 and put in 65 laps with a quickest effort of 1:29.033, just missing the 1:28s and slotting into P3 on both Day 3 and combined timesheets.

The fastest rookie on Days 1 and 2 kept his crown on the third and final day of testing, as Tech 3’s Jonas Folger shot up into P4. The German, who did an incredible 1:29.042, also suffered a crash but remained just ahead of 2016 Australian GP winner Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda. Folger’s teammate, double Moto2 champion Johann Zarco, ended the test in P15 on combined times with a 1:29.670.

With Crutchlow locking out the top five, another impressive rookie was hot on the Brit’s tail: Suzuki’s Alex Rins. Beating new teammate Andrea Iannone on the timesheets on Day 2 and repeating the feat on Day 3, Rins put in a 1:29.103 to end up only 0.002 off the number 35 on the combined timesheets – despite a small crash. “Maniac” Iannone ended up P13 overall and twelfth on Day 3, completing 77 laps in the final session with a best of 1:29.547.

Seventh and eighth was a Ducati Team lockout. Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo were separated by less than a tenth, and both completed more than 70 laps. “DesmoDovi” was in full testing mode for the team, with “Spartan” Lorenzo’s focus more angled at adapting to the Desmosedici. The Italian’s best was a 1:29.248, with the Spaniard just behind on a 1:29.342.

Local hero Jack Miller was the next man up, with the Australian impressing once again on the Marc VDS Honda after proving a constant force to be reckoned with in the top ten. 2016 Assen winner Miller did a best of 1:29.358 to line up just behind five-time World Champion Lorenzo.

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro was another who impressed, taking P6 on Day 2 and locking out the top ten on combined times. The Spaniard, whose best lap was a 1:29.361, put in 65 laps on Day 3 for the Noale factory, with rookie teammate Sam Lowes adding another 57. Lowes’ best was a 1:30.200.

Espargaro’s compatriot Alvaro Bautista on a satellite Ducati was one of the few riders to not improve on Day 3, but his time from the second session is enough to keep him P11 on the combined timesheets – just ahead of Valentino Rossi. Former 125 World Champion Bautista’s best was a 1:29.411.

Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci was the final rider in the top fifteen, taking P14 overall – just ahead of Zarco. The Italian, on the GP17 Desmosedici, did a 1:29.615 to end the Australian test just over a second off the best lap by Viñales.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing made a huge leap up in laptime on the third and final day at Phillip Island. Both riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith put in laps under the 1:30 barrier, with the Spaniard’s best a 1:29.857 and the Brit’s a 1:29.978. Both within a second and a half of P1, the timesheets bode well for the Austrian factory as the road to Qatar gets shorter.

Next up is Losail International Circuit for another test – the last – from the 10-12 March, before the lights go out at the same venue later in the month and 2017 hits the gas.

 

MotoGP – Marquez fastest on first day of testing at Phillip Island

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The second official MotoGP test of 2017 saw blue skies greet the riders at Phillip Island, and by the end of Day One Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez topped the timesheets, with the  Spaniard posting a 1:29.497 lap.

Marquez spent the day working with the engine specification chosen in Sepang alongside teammate Dani Pedrosa, and the reigning Champion put in 68 laps and set his best on his 53rd. Pedrosa, who spent most of the day in P4 before a late charge from some others in the top ten, ended the first session in seventh on a 1:30.281, after 55 laps.

The Factory Yamaha squad held second on the timesheets for most of the latter part of Day 1, first with Maverick Viñales and later with Valentino Rossi, with the Italian finishing the day in P2 on a 1:29.683. The rider from Tavullia also saved a potential crash earlier in the session. Viñales, who did a best of 1:29.989 after 64 laps, didn’t better his time towards the end as his new teammate and Rossi’s compatriot Andrea Iannone did, moving Viñales down to P4.

Iannone shot up the timesheets on his Suzuki near the end of the day, taking third overall with a 1:29.926 after having spent much of the session outside the top ten. The “Maniac” completed 70 laps and set his fastest on number 68.

LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow completed the top five with a 1:30.065. Crutchlow was another Honda pilot testing a version of the new specification engine for Honda, and put in a late charge to move up, doing 61 laps and setting his fastest on his final effort.

And what of the Ducatis? Andrea Dovizioso finished the day in eighth with a 1:30.410, while new teammate Jorge Lorenzo continued his progress as he focuses on adapting to the machine, spending much of the day in the top ten and one of the first out on track. The “Spartan” did 61 laps with a best of 1:30.631, taking 11th place.

Testing continues at Phillip Island on Thursday, with the grid eager to head back out and continue their 2017 preparations as lights out in Qatar begins to loom large.

MotoGP – Crutchlow wins with riding masterclass at Phillip Island

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Cal Crutchlow took a stunning second MotoGP win at Phillip Island, as the LCR Honda pilot kept calm and kept his gap at the front ahead of Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and Suzuki’s Maverick Viñales, who finished second and third respectively. The move fully justified Crutchlow’s gamble to use the hard front, and proved his win in the wet earlier this season was no fluke – this boy can ride and deserves to be at the front of the GP pack.

There were no miracle starts for those frontrunners starting further back for the Australian GP, with Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo getting the best from P12 to move up to P9, and teammate Valentino Rossi gaining two places to P13 – with Maverick Viñales moving up only one. It was Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro who got the holeshot from P3 on the front row, with polesitter Marquez the biggest loser off the line before the 2016 MotoGP world champion swept back around the outside of Doohan Corner to take back P2 and then fight off Espargaro through Lukey Heights and down into T10.

Once at the front, the Motegi and Aragon winner found his rhythm and began to build up his lead as the battle for second behind him intensified. The fight for P2 between Crutchlow and Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro saw the Brit emerge on top, and this was the point which also saw Rossi begin to cut his way through the field – picking off Pol Espargaro and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso with clean and clinical precision befitting a doctor.

Rossi then began setting his sights on Aleix Espargaro and soon getting past the Spaniard, and with Crutchlow starting to close the gap to Marquez there was suddenly a Repsol Honda cartwheeling through the gravel at Turn 4 – and Marquez was out of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Crutchlow then found himself in the lead, hoping the 2014 flashback for Marquez wouldn’t touch him after a last lap crash two years ago on the Ducati. The low temperatures were clearly a worry but the British rider dug deep and continued pulling away.

Behind him the battle for second continued to rage with Rossi getting a warning shot at Turn 4 that saw him run deep and lose ground, and the new fight for the final podium spot saw Aleix Espargaro locked in fierce battle with Dovizioso and Viñales.

After swapping positions in a three-way fight, Turn 4 then claimed another victim as Aleix Espargaro lost his Suzuki machine with just five laps to go, before teammate Viñales pounced to take third from an increasingly nervous looking Dovizioso, and this is where they remained as they crossed the finish line.

After his storming start, Pol Espargaro took a solid result as he crossed the line in fifth, ahead of a struggling Jorge Lorenzo, the former champion clearly out of sorts and unable to make up big ground after his good launch off the line.

Further back saw the Pramac duo of Scott Redding and Danilo Petrucci leading a seven rider fight for seventh with home hero Jack Miller on the Marc VDS Honda, Ducati’s Hector Barbera, Aprilia’s Stefan Bradl, Tech 3’s Bradley Smith and Nicky Hayden on the factory Honda.

‘Kentucky Kid’ Hayden, standing in for injured Dani Pedrosa at Repsol Honda, put in an impressive one-off return to his 2006 championship winning colours as he battled well within the points, before Miller took Turn 4 a little overenthusiastically and Hayden was the casualty, sliding out.

Hector Barbera was another crasher, leaving Redding to lead compatriot Bradley Smith over the line for seventh, with the top ten completed by Petrucci and Miller. As well as the solid result for Miller, fellow Australian Mike Jones scored a point on his Avintia Racing machine, impressing once again.

Crutchlow said: “I was terrified of losing heat in the front and I went really weak into that corner for the whole race. I knew it was critical towards the end of the race – I crashed there two years ago when I had 10 seconds behind me also, so I was quite scared to be honest and I didn’t want to make the same mistake but I knew I had to keep pushing or we’d lose the heat in the front tyre. I’m really pleased for my team, I was confident I could have won even with Marc in the race. I look forward to the last two races and then we’ll see what happens next season.”

MotoGP – Marquez claims seventh pole of season at Phillip Island

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Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez has taken pole position at Phillip Island, as the new World Champion chose the perfect moment to head out in the changeable conditions on full slick tyres. It was his 37th pole in MotoGP and the 65th in his career, which is also the new historical record, at just 23 years of age. It’s also Marc’s seventh pole of 2016, meaning that the Spaniard has already won the BMW M Award for the best-qualifying MotoGP rider of the season, a feat he has achieved every year since entering the premier class.

With Q1 seeing some incredibly high profile casualties, it was LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow and Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo who moved through to fight for the front, leaving Suzuki’s Maverick Viñales and Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi behind – with Rossi in P15 on the grid in his worst qualifying since 2011.

The track was drying in Q1, and drier by the start of Q2. With rain forecast to hit halfway through the second qualifying session however, the pressure was on to do a good lap – and choose the right tyre. With some heading out on intermediates, Marquez then came back in quickly to switch to slicks – untouchable from that point on, and 1.5 seconds clear a few minutes later until the grid began to reel him closer. Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro was late to switch, attempting a fast lap on the intermediates, before coming back in for slicks and then taking the front row – as Crutchlow didn’t quite take the full gamble, and set his front row qualifier on an intermediate front and slick rear.

Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro shone in the session to challenge for the front – just beaten over the line by his brother – and will start fourth, ahead of Aussie Jack Miller on the Marc VDS at his home race, who completed the top five in his best ever qualifying result. Locking out Row 2 is Octo Pramac Yakhnich rider Danilo Petrucci.

Nicky Hayden, riding in place of injured Dani Pedrosa at Repsol Honda, took an impressive P7 on his return to MotoGP, ahead of Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider Stefan Bradl – who is also set to become Hayden’s teammate in 2017 at Honda World Superbike Team. Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso is ninth to complete the third row, finding going a little tougher as the track dried. His teammate, Hector Barbera – standing in for injured Andrea Iannone – completed the top ten.

Pramac’s Scott Redding will start from eleventh, ahead of five-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who once again struggled in the tricky conditions after having graduated from Q1.

Marquez said: “I’m happy because, in addition to the pole, I was able to put in five laps and I noticed some things we can improve tomorrow. For example, we can get more grip, especially with the rear and on corner entry. In FP4, in the wet, I felt very comfortable, so this weekend we’re getting things right and we have to maintain this dynamic. Tomorrow’s race is still an unknown because we aren’t sure what tyres we’ll use, nor who our rivals will be, but we’ll try to make the best of any situation we find.”

 

MotoGP – Crutchlow on top at wet Phillip Island

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After a wet morning of action at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, the red flag then came out during the second session for MotoGP – and it was decided to cancel the remainder of the session, as well as FP2 for Moto2.

With few bikes venturing on track during the early part of the session, it was Ducati’s Hector Barbera who went quickest and found himself unthreatened at the top of the timesheets in FP2. His Avintia Racing replacement, Mike Jones, was the next man in the table in his second MotoGP outing to impress once again, with Marc VDS rider Tito Rabat completing the top three. Danilo Petrucci on the Pramac Ducati was only a few hundredths off the Spaniard’s best in fourth, with the other two riders to venture out, Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro and Yamaha’s rider Valentino Rossi, more than two and a half seconds further back.

Times set in a wet but faster FP1 were therefore the only ones representative on the combined timesheets, and LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow led the way from Danilo Petrucci and Marc VDS’ home hero Jack Miller.

Valentino Rossi had set some representative laptimes in the first session of the day, before the Italian was given a penalty by Race Direction. Having used one of the Michelin wet tyres for more laps than the allowed 10 in total, the rider from Tavullia saw his laptimes when set on that rubber deleted – leaving him down in P20 by the end of the day, just behind teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who didn’t put in much track time.

Behind Miller and moving up a place on the combined times after Rossi’s penalty was Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), after the freshly-crowned World Champion put in a lap five hundredths off that of Miller. Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso completed the top five.

 #1Simon, A moment ago

Whatever happened to racer cool?

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So Nicky Hayden will be riding a Factory Honda at Phillip Island this weekend, standing in for the injured Dani Pedrosa, a case of the nicest man in racing deputising for the unluckiest.

I love Pedrosa’s current Samurai lid, and this got me thinking about what has happened to replica paint jobs. Sure, Arai issued a limited edition RX7-GP Joey Dunlop replica a couple of years ago, which looked stunning, and has reissued some classic paint on its Chaser V range – Doohan, Schwantz and Spencer designs – all of which look suitably cool, but there is a distinct lack of eye-catching designs across today’s racing paddocks.

I love a loud lid me – the louder the better as far as I’m concerned – but the helmets today’s racers sport are distinctly dull. Jakub Smrz was proudly flying the flag for cool with a distinctive pink and baby blue number in his WSBK heyday and debut BSB season, but has since reverted to a more subdued number to match his team’s colours.

Cast your eyes across the MotoGP and WSBK paddocks, and Rossi aside, with his regular one-offs, there’s a distinct lack of distinctive designs. Sure, Lorenzo tries, but his ‘Shark’ Shark was about as inspiring as his press conferences.

The only rider who seems to be pushing the envelope in recent seasons is Nicky Hayden, who has worn several versions of Starline Design’s innovative ‘face’ design.

The problem may be that helmet painters are finding their creativity limited more and more by riders (and the teams) sponsors. With an ever increasing number of riders signing sponsorship deals with the same few energy drinks companies, all of which insist on having their logos feature prominently on their riders uniforms, Monster’s green and Red Bull’s red, blue and yellow, are increasingly having to be incorporated into any design.

Compare this with the road racing scene, where the riders stand out far more. The helmets of Michael and William Dunlop, Guy Martin, Lee Johnston, Conor Cummins, Josh Brookes, Ryan Farquhar, Keith Amor, John McGuinness and Ian Hutchinson are all easily identifiable as belonging to that rider, making it much easier for spectators to follow the action. Sometimes less is more…

MotoGP –Hayden gets Factory ride filling in for Pedrosa at Phillip Island

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Former MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden is to roll back the years and  throw a leg over a Factory Honda again, filling in for Repsol Honda’s crocked Dani Pedrosa at Phillip Island.

Pedrosa broke his collarbone in a monster highside during free practice at Motegi, and Honda WSBK pilot has got the call, fresh from filling in for an injured Jack Miller earlier in the season.

Hayden said: “First of all my best wishes to Dani, I’m sure he will come back stronger than ever like he always does. For me it’s crazy hard work but it’s a chance, ten years after winning my world title, to get back to my old “dream team”!

“Doing a weekend in Phillip Island on a factory Honda, it’s pretty emotional for me to even think about it, and I’m very grateful for this opportunity and the trust that Honda gives me. I want also to thank my current team for allowing me to go and do this, and the sponsors. Everybody worked a lot on every detail to make it possible for me so now I’m excited to get on a plane, to get down to Phillip Island and hopefully I can do a good job for the team.

“Regarding Phillip Island there are two things to always consider, the weather and the tyres but it’s a track I love and I can’t wait to ride the bike there. Let’s get started on Friday morning and go forward”.

WSBK – Rea claims second win at season opener at Phillip Island

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Race Two at the season opener at Phillip Island proved to be another scintillating battle between the leading riders, with Johnny Rea again prevailing and securing another race won.
It was Rea’s team-mate Tom Sykes who got off the line strongly from pole position, followed closely by Rea and the rejuvenated Davide Giugliano, Michael Van Der Mark, who is riding the wheels off the ageing Fireblade and Ducati rider Chaz Davies.

Sykes looked strong and was giving a riding masterclass until he ran wide at Turn 4 on Lap 13, losing three places. Reigning world champion Rea needed no second invitation and dived into first place. However, his lead was short lived and Van Der Mark overtook the Ulsterman just one lap later.

Honda team-mate Nicky Hayden was also putting in a strong ride on the Blade, overtaking Sykes and Giugliano to move into fourth.

The leading group continued to push each other hard and on the penultimate lap Ducati rider Chaz Davies attacked race leader Van Der Mark and second placed Rea, taking the lead with a lap to go. Rea struck straight back at the Southern Loop, reclaiming first spot on the final lap but Davies was desperate for the win, climbing all over the back of the Kawasaki. Davies looked like he had the measure of Rea but lost the front pushing too hard into Turn 4 and crashed out.

That left Rea out in front to complete a splendid double win with Michael Van Der Mark behind him, followed by an excellent Davide Giugliano who managed to get past Nicky Hayden in the final series of turns.

WSBK – Rea wins photo finish in Race One at Phillip Island

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Johnny Rea claimed the first win of the 2016 WSBK season after a sensational last lap of a drama-filled season opener at Phillip Island.

The reigning World Champion started the race behind  team-mate Tom Sykes, in pole position, and Ducati rider Davide Giugliano in second,but both ZX-10Rs got the best get away from the light and pushed each other hard as they entered the Southern Loop on the very first lap. They were joined by Ducati’s Chaz Davies, who managed to make a stunning start from ninth on the grid, Giugliano and Honda rider Michael Van Der Mark.

Sykes lead the group as the race unfolded, with the Ducatis squabbling among themselves, closely followed by Rea and the Flying Dutchman Van Der Mark. However, Sykes started to drop back after surrendering the lead to his team-mate, and was soon embroiled in a close fight with Hayden and the Yamahas of Lowes and Guintoli.

Rea continued to set the pace, leading Davies and a rejuvenated Giulgliano on the Ducatis, with Van Der Mark staying in contention on the Honda. However a mistake by Giuliano saw the Italian drop back, and  Davies and Van Der Mark continued push the Ulsterman hard. Rea stayed calm and kept his race rhythm going as those behind him continued to play cat and mouse with each other, and as the laps ticked down, Davies got closer and started to seriously pressure the Kawasaki rider, probing possible passes for a last lap attack.

With the last lap underway, Davies pounced down the hill from Lukey Heights, taking the lead just before the final corner, before Rea took the outside line and blasted around the Ducati through the final turn, the two bikes straightening up on the Gardner Straight with almost nothing between them. In the shootout to the line Rea’s bravery around the outside proved to give him the pace necessary to nudge the nose of the Kawasaki over the line first, separated from the Ducati by just 0.063 seconds.Van Der Mark claimed third, recording his fourth career podium in only his second season, and Giugliano finished fourth in his first race back after a serious injury. Sykes was disappointed to finish fifth after his positive start, but 2014 WSBK Champion Sylvain Guintoli delighted to be the first Yamaha home in sixth, an outstanding result for the YZF R1 in its first WSBK outing. Leon Camier carried through his incredible form from practice to end the race seventh on his MV Agusta, with Jordi Torres on his Althea BMW behind him in eightt ensuring there were six manufacturers classified in the top 10. Series new boy Nicky Hayden struggled to keep the pace in the latter stages of his debut and dropped back to ninth, whereas local hero Josh Brookes made up for a difficult qualifying session to come home 10th.