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The opening round of 2018 saw the field closely packed, with thrilling racing and numerous bikes at the front. It is too early to project the effect of the new regulations, but it is clear that Australia delivered on their promise.

Phillip Island is never the best place to gauge the competitiveness of a field. The Australian circuit is one of the best in the world because it is fast, flowing nature produces close racing.

With only a handful of slow corners during the lap, we regularly see bikes and riders clustered together. That being said the opening round of the 2018 WorldSBK season did produce some notable talking points for the new regulations.

We saw five manufacturers lead a lap, four different manufactures in the top four during Superpole and two exceptional races.

It was a great foundation for the season ahead, but it is important not to get too far ahead of ourselves and think that 2018 will rewrite the form book.

For the 2018 WorldSBK season, we are changing up our coverage format a little bit from last year, in order to provide more useful content for our racing fans.

First up, we are pleased to have Steve English providing coverage from the World Superbike paddock. Regular Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize Steve’s name from a number of stories here on A&R, and he is also a regular host of our Paddock Pass Podcast.

With his day job being the voice of WorldSBK on the commentary feed, Steve’s expert insight will provide for us a preview of each WorldSBK round, as well as a debrief at the end of each race weekend, which will highlight the major takeaways from the racing action.

Additionally for our A&R Pro readers, Steve will be providing us with added racing analysis, as well as interviews with the WorldSBK riders, team members, and paddock fixtures, which you won’t want to miss. -JB

With that out of the way, let’s get to the opening round of the 2018 WorldSBK season, which is now in the books and certainly provided us with plenty of excitement and plenty to talk about.

Because of tire wear issues during Race 1, at the World Superbike season-opener at Phillip Island, Sunday’s Race 2 will include a mandatory pit stop, where riders can come in and change machines.

Due to the extra-abrasive conditions found at Phillip Island this year, these race change will also affect Sunday’s World Supersport race, as well.

Similar to the tire issues we saw in the MotoGP Championship at Phillip Island, back in 2013, Sunday’s race will include a mandatory pitstop before the end of the 12th lap for WorldSBK riders (after nine laps for WorldSSP riders), which will operate under the series’ flag-to-flag rules.

This means that riders will dismount their machine, and mount a new bike, fitted with fresh Pirelli race tires, in order to avoid the tire-wear issues found during Saturday’s race.

Episode 62 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison on the mics, as they cover the three flyaway races for the MotoGP Championship: Motegi, Phillip Island, and Sepang.

MotoGP’s stops in Asia and Australia have proven to be pivotal to the championship standings, as Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez have been battling during the latter half of the season.

Now going into the final round of the season, Marquez leads Dovizioso by 21 points, creating a do-or-die scenario for the Ducati rider at Valencia. There are only a few ways that Dovizioso can win the Championship, but during this episode, we focus on how that came to be.

Examining the results of the top riders in MotoGP, and the highlight of the flyaway races, Neil gives his insights from being at the races, while David provides is usual analysis.

The focus then turns to the Moto3 and Moto2 classes, with the show wrapping up with our winners and losers from the flyaway rounds. It’s another great show from the Paddock Pass crew, and you won’t want to miss it.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Aleix Espargaro will not be racing at Sepang. The Spaniard broke a bone in his left hand when he crashed out of the MotoGP race in Phillip Island, and is to fly back to Barcelona for surgery.

Aprilia will not replace Espargaro, his absence coming at too short notice to find a replacement rider in time.

Espargaro announced he would be missing Sepang with a post on his Instagram feed. The Spaniard expects to be fit in time for Valencia, as he confirmed himself on Twitter.

Phillip Island always delivers. If you came to the track on the edge of the world hoping for a spectacle, you got more than your money’s worth.

Three stunning races at arguably the greatest racetrack in the world. Three races which really mattered: with just two rounds left after Phillip Island, the results had a significant impact on all three championships.

And to cap the day off, one of the best MotoGP races of all time, the second here in the space of three seasons. The sun even shone. Well, most of the time, anyway.

Is it a coincidence that two of the greatest Grand Prix races, perhaps of all time, have happened at Phillip Island in the last three seasons? I don’t think so. This place, and this time, have conspired to create the perfect conditions for motorcycle racing.

Firstly, there has never been a greater concentration of riding talent on the grid at the same time in the premier class. Secondly, performance parity between the different factories, and between factories and privateers, has never been so great.

And thirdly, the Phillip Island circuit is simply made for motorcycle racing. A flowing track in a stunning setting, where brave and skilled riders can make passes at nearly half of the corners on the track.

The 2015 MotoGP race at Phillip Island was a four-way dust up which saw Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Iannone, and Valentino Rossi pass each other a grand total of 52 times in 27 laps.

The 2017 race saw seven riders slug it out over the same distance, passing and repassing each other a total of 73 times. Blink, and you missed a change of the lead.

But you had to blink, just to catch your breath. It is a good job the assiduous Tammy Gorali was willing to go back and tally up the action.