Phillip Island once again promises exhilarating MotoGP action against a breathtakingly picturesque postcard backdrop this weekend as the uniquely demanding 4.448km track hosts its 13th premier class motorcycle event. Casey Stoner, one of three ...
Phillip Island once again promises exhilarating MotoGP action against a breathtakingly picturesque postcard backdrop this weekend as the uniquely demanding 4.448km track hosts its 13th premier class motorcycle event. Casey Stoner, one of three Bridgestone-shod Australian riders, heads to his home GP as 2007 MotoGP world champion after clinching the crown aboard his Bridgestone-shod Ducati in Japan a fortnight ago. Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen and Kawasaki's Anthony West will also be looking to use a home advantage with the rest of the championship still wide open with just three races of the season remaining.
Vermeulen scored a fine second place on his Bridgestone-shod Suzuki in last year's weather-affected event to become the first Australian to finish on the podium in an Australian GP since Mick Doohan back in 1998. Bridgestone will be aiming to take its recent podium successes at Phillip Island one step further this weekend following Vermeulen's result and the third place finish for Carlos Checa and Ducati in 2005.
Phillip Island is one of five tracks on this year's MotoGP championship that Bridgestone has not previously enjoyed race-winning MotoGP success with one of its riders, along with Mugello, Assen, Sachsenring and Estoril. Bridgestone has, however, claimed Australian victory in other classes. The team's field technician for the Suzuki team, former 125cc rider Masao Azuma, was twice victorious at Phillip Island in 1998 and 2000.
Tyre Talk with Hiroshi Yamada - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Motorcycle Sport Unit
What challenges does the Phillip Island track pose for tyre manufacturers?
"Phillip Island is arguably one of the toughest tracks on the calendar, and very challenging from a tyre point of view. It has the highest average speed of any track on the calendar with last year's top qualifying average at almost 180km/h, around 7km/h quicker than the next highest (173km/h at Mugello). The final corner is one of the circuit's most distinguishing elements, a very long and demanding left-hander heading on to the main straight. This creates a lot of intense and prolonged heat which is quite severe on the left-hand side of the tyre. At the same time, with the asymmetric layout of the track, the right-hand side of the tyre does not experience such heat, so we have to ensure good warm-up performance for the right-handers. Track temperatures will also play an important part, as we expect cooler conditions at Phillip Island at this time of the year"
How does Bridgestone combat the issue of tyre temperatures at Phillip Island?
"We will require harder compounds for Phillip Island tocombat the higher temperatures on the left-hand side of the tyre, but we must also find a compromise for the riders through the right-handers to give them confidence to attack over the entire lap. The performance ratio between tyre grip, performance and durability is a delicate balance at this circuit, but we hope to build on our performances in recent seasons, and from results obtained at the pre-season test earlier in the year, to achieve the best possible results this weekend."
With the championship all sewn up with Casey Stoner and Ducati, what are Bridgestone's targets for the remaining three races of this season?
"It isstill a great feeling that we have helped Casey and Ducati secure the riders' championship title with three races remaining but our approach to the race weekend does not change; we are heading into each weekend with the aim of providing each of our five teams with tyres competitive enough to challenge for victory and podium results. Several riders are still embroiled in close championship battles, not least the competition for fourth with John, Chris and Marco separated by just eight points in positions four to six, and Loris's Motegi win closing his gap to the top six significantly."
Riding Perspective with Casey Stoner (Ducati Corse) - 2007 MotoGP World Champion
"It is going to be a very special feeling to race in front of my home crowd this weekend with the championship decided, but that doesn't mean that we are going to ease up. Phillip Island is my favourite track, it's fast and flowing and it's one of the few places where you can get a MotoGP bike really wound out, it's a lot of fun coming off those fast corners. We went well there in testing, we had to work pretty hard to make the tyres last the race-distance runs but Bridgestone have done an amazing job this year, so I think we can look forward to having good tyres for the race. I have been close to victory at Phillip Island in the past but it is still one of the results which has eluded me in my career, so I would like to think we can aim to put that right this weekend."