Buckle up to rumble Down Under as the fight for the crown reaches fever pitch
It’s an overused phrase, but there truly is nowhere like Phillip Island. A Grand Prix circuit so perfectly poised to deliver great racing – and serve up an incredible experience in the saddle – that it’s almost a myth unto itself, there could be no better stage to kick off the next double header.
If that wasn’t enough, there are also now five riders within 40 points, with 75 still up for grabs. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) remains the Championship leader, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) is now within just two points, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) within 20, Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) 39 and, last but by absolutely no means least, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) is the rider at a deficit of 40. But they say there’s no place like home…
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Miller will be firmly in the spotlight this weekend as he rides with the factory Ducati on home turf for the first time, and he has chance to turn that into even more momentum. Of the top five in the title fight he's scored the most points across the triple header – 56, with the next best being Bastianini on 42 – and over the two flyaways it's a whopping 45/50 for the number 43. For comparison, across Motegi and Buriram Bastianini has scored 17, Bagnaia 16, Quartararo eight and Aleix Espargaro just five points. It's closed at the top as one rider or another has faltered, but Miller has chased down that gap because he absolutely hasn't. So what has he got on home turf?
Far enough back to ride without too much pressure from the standings and with good speed shown at the Island, he'll be one to watch, and in terms of pressure the same can be said of Bastianini, although the Italian doesn't have the best record at the track. Aleix Espargaro has a pretty good one and Bagnaia impressed the last (and first) time he rode a premier class machine there, and then there's Quartararo. The Frenchman hasn't had the best results or luck Down Under, but he'll be hoping to turn that around at a circuit that should be much more Yamaha, flowing territory.
When it comes to track records, however, there are two names that immediately stand out. The first is Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing), who brought a Yamaha win drought to an end in 2018 and was then the only rider able to stay anywhere near Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in 2019 before a crash out as they battled on the final lap. Viñales returns to the track on a newer machine to him, but one he's getting more and more consistently fast on. Is Phillip Island underlined as another real shot at victory? At Silverstone he was less than half a second shy.
The other name is the aforementioned Marc Marquez, and the number 93 has been miraculously, poetically fast Down Under. As his return continues to gain momentum, it would be no surprise to see Marquez fire up a little Jaws music for the rest of the field this weekend. Is it too soon? Is it just soon enough? Physically, the circuit flows in a kinder layout to take on when not at 100%, and it's a leftie tailor-made for the king of anti-clockwise circuits. It would be quite a story, but if there's anyone who loves writing a story on a motorcycle, it's Marc Marquez.
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Experience could also work in the favour of the more veteran riders on the grid – including Marquez – as the field once again prepare for a first visit since 2019. The list of those who've never raced Phillip Island in the premier class is longer than just the 2022 rookies, with even the likes of 2020 debutants Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) facing it down for the first time. In terms of racing you can also add Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) to that list as he was unfit for Sunday on our last visit, and even, arguably, Quartararo. The Frenchman didn't make it to Stoner Corner on Lap 1.
In terms of the full-blown rookies, it will be a big weekend for Remy Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) as he races on home turf, and the Aussie will want some more points after a tougher season. Phillip Island could prove be the deciding showdown in the fight for Rookie of the Year, with Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), fresh from his first premier class pole position, facing another shot at that title.
The Teams' Championship is on the line too, with Ducati Lenovo Team ahead and needing to outscore Aprilia by 16 points to tick off two out of three in their mission to take the triple crown. Top Independent Team rider could also be wrapped up by Bastianini, although the Italian isn't too far clear of Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) as it stands. Zarco is also in play as Prima Pramac look to secure the Independent Teams' title. Finally, another one to watch of a different kind is the return of Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), as he plans to try and get back on track at Phillip Island, a track that holds some good memories for the two-time World Champion.
Five riders, 40 points, and one ribbon of poetry written in tarmac. This weekend the Animoca Brands Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix promises much and will likely deliver even more, with too many headlines already drafted as we make the journey south to Phillip Island. Join us for another stunner on Sunday at 14:00 (GMT +11) as the screw turns on the title fight once again.
Despite torrential conditions that seemed tailor made for either Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) or Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) to blink first in the brutally close 2022 Moto2™ Championship fight, both remained poised and pretty fast at Buriram – and they finished right next to each other once again. With half points awarded, it’s now just 1.5 splitting the two with three rounds remaining, and it’s quite literally never been closer at this stage of the season.
Now, it’s time for Phillip Island. Experience could be key for many as the paddock returns to the track for the first time since 2019, but Fernandez and Ogura will likely remain pretty closely matched. That said, it is Fernandez who’s got the lap count Down Under, and in Moto2™…
1.5 isn’t much to separate two riders as the Moto2™ field prepare to fight it out for the final 75, so tune in for the first showdown of the deciders as the intermediate class take on the stunning Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit at 12:20 (GMT +11).
After a stunning season so far, Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) heads into Phillip Island with his first match point in Moto3™. With two rounds remaining, 50 is the magic number in terms of the points advantage he needs by the flag – and he’s got 49 on the way in. Still, the challenge is a real one as the number 28 rides Phillip Island for the very first time, with key rivals already counting on a little more experience.
Guevara’s closest rival is now Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) as the Italian took another impressive win at Buriram, and he was joined on the podium by Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Mx Racing Team) once again – who remains fourth overall but is getting closer. Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team), meanwhile, crashed out in Thailand through no fault of his own, but had been left back in the pack after a difficult qualifying. Can he fight back at Phillip Island?
With 50 needed and 49 in hand, Phillip Island is quite the playing field for Guevara to face down his first match point. Tune in as Moto3™ go racing at 11:00 (GMT +11) to see if the first World Champion of the season will be crowned!