The Camel Yamaha Team take their global points quest to the southern hemisphere this week as the MotoGP World Championship makes the transcontinental trip from Malaysia to Australia. Round fourteen of seventeen takes place at the Phillip Island circuit near Melbourne almost a month earlier than usual, promising brisk spring temperatures and another unpredictable weekend of top class motorcycling action.
Valentino Rossi arrives Down Under on top form, having clinched his fifth victory of the season just last Sunday in Malaysia. That morale-boosting win over fellow title contender Loris Capirossi (Ducati) has left him just 26 points shy of series leader Nicky Hayden (Honda) with four rounds to go and his most successful premier-class circuit on the horizon. The 27 year old has taken MotoGP victory at Phillip Island for the past five straight seasons, adding to two previous successes there in the 250cc class.
The target for Colin Edwards is a return to the early season form that culminated in a victory challenge at Assen in round seven. Like the Dutch TT circuit, Phillip Island is a place the Texan enjoyed huge success at during his World Superbike career and it provides the ideal scenario for him to work around the set-up problems he has encountered with the YZR-M1 machine in recent races.
Valentino Rossi: A special place;
Valentino Rossi can't wait to get back on track after one of the most exhilarating races of his career at Sepang on Sunday. The Italian is relishing every opportunity he gets to close in on series leader Hayden and can't wait for his next bite of the cherry at one of his favourite venues.
"Honestly I always look forward to this race a lot, and especially now, when my M1 is working so well," says Rossi. "Phillip Island and Australia in general is a special place, very beautiful. This race is very important for my team, because many of them are Australian and it's their home race, like Mugello for me. I want to thank them for all their hard work by doing well!"
"Phillip Island is a magic track for me. I've won a lot of races there and some championships too, I love it! It's one of my favourite tracks, an 'old style' track. We didn't test there this year but anyway the M1 always works well there and I love riding there. It's very cold this year, so it's going to be difficult with the tyres, but I am really looking forward to it."
"After Laguna I didn't entirely believe in my chances for the championship anymore, but then after Brno I said to myself 'okay we still have a chance, we can try.' Now my objective is to win as many races as possible, then we see in Valencia."
Colin Edwards: The next challenge;
Colin Edwards also has a special affinity with Phillip Island having built a strong record at the track during his World Superbike career, finishing on the podium on no fewer than eight occasions, including a win in 2001. The Texan also benefits from the backing of strong local support, with friends and family always amongst the crowd.
"My Dad is actually Australian so Phillip Island is always a bit of a home race for me," explains Edwards. "The Australian fans are amazing and I always have a lot of mates there which makes it fun. I am looking forward to it; I just need to put Malaysia behind me and focus on the next challenge."
"Like Valentino I really love the track and I've had some brilliant races there over my career, with the Superbikes as well. It seems to suit our bike, although it's going to be pretty cold there at this time of year so it's hard to predict the situation with the tyres. Obviously I had a tough time in Malaysia, where I was expecting to go well, so we're going to have to find something new this week. I really need a good result here."
Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;
Camel Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio could not wish for a better venue to be heading to on the back of a successful weekend in Malaysia, with the riders sharing a fondness for the track layout and several of the mechanics hailing from Australasian shores. The second of three races in as many weeks, Phillip Island promises to be another stern challenge of the team's organisation and mettle.
"It's great to be going to a place and a circuit that both our riders love," says Brivio. "A lot of the team are Australian too and for them to be heading home after such a long and demanding season can only help them to recharge their batteries and stay fully focused for another important weekend ahead. From Japan to Italy, all our staff have been working extremely hard to keep the championship alive and that's the goal again this Sunday."
"These three races in such a short space of time put a lot of demands on the team but we are just keeping our heads down, keeping focused and taking each race as it comes. The win in Malaysia was a fantastic emotion for everybody and I'm sure the show will be just as spectacular on Sunday. Hopefully Colin can be involved up at the front too and help Valentino take another step closer to the top of the championship."
Technically speaking: Phillip Island according to Pierre Alves;
Phillip Island demands far more than just a fast bike to make for quick and consistent lap times. The sweeping and flowing circuit is possibly one of the ultimate tests of machine control and throttle accuracy, not to mention the sheer bravery and forcefulness required of the rider. Its exposed location on the cliffs facing the Bass Strait means that weather is a constant talking point, especially this year, when tyre choice will be a crucial consideration.
"It's going to be a big change from what we're used to at Phillip Island because we've never been there at this time of year and we're expecting it to be very cold!" explains Pierre Alves, Michelin Tyre Technician for the Camel Yamaha Team. "Generally for Phillip Island you need a tyre that's quite hard on the left side and much softer, but not too soft, on the right side. Because of the temperature it's going to be much harder than usual to find the right combination and balance for the track, as tyre efficiency will be reduced with such a low track temperature."
"Usually we have quite a good base to work from at Phillip Island, because we test there, but this year we didn't so we don't know so much about how the new M1 will go there. However the biggest factor, as far as tyres go, is the weather; it's quite difficult because we've really never faced a situation like this! It's certainly going to be one of the most challenging, and interesting, races of the year for us!"