MotoGP: Five things to watch during the Australian GP
Live coverage of the Australian Grand Prix begins at 12:30 a.m. ET Sunday morning on FS1.
Here are five things to watch during the race:
Despite a so-far stellar career, Marc Marquez has never won a MotoGP race at Phillip Island, nor even scored a point in his two starts in the Australian MotoGP race. He hopes to fix his Island black spot on Sunday and he is the clear favorite for the race with a stunning pace in race trim during practice. In 2013, Marquez was disqualified when he missed making a mandatory pit stop for a tire change and he crashed out of the 2014 Island GP when holding a four-second lead. He is chasing a fifth win of the season to consolidate third place in the championship.
Rossi will carry an 18-point lead into this race over Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo, which gives him the upper hand in the title chase. Despite his stellar 20-year career and reputation for clever race craft, Rossi reckons it is not enough for him manage the gap to secure the title. Rossi is adamant that he needs to win one of the final three races, although on qualifying form even he admits that is tough task at the Island.
Lorenzo has qualified third on the front row for this crucial race, four spots ahead of the man he must chase down for the championship. But despite being the overall fastest and winningest rider of the season so far with six victories, Lorenzo knows how crucial this race is. He faces two big hurdles, the first being to beat Honda rival Marquez to win the race and then finish ahead of Rossi to claw back points.
The fastest circuit:
The iconic 2.76-mile, 12-turn Phillip Island circuit is in a spectacular location, perched on a cliff top overlooking Australia’s Southern Ocean. But it is exposed to the elements and strong sea winds and often-dramatic drops in temperature during a late-afternoon race can play havoc with setups and tire wear. But the fast and flowing layout has a history producing some classic slipstreaming races and all riders are hoping for sunny and calm conditions. Marquez’s average lap speed in qualifying of 112 mph makes Phillip Island fastest of any current grand prix circuit.
Australia’s MotoGP rookie Jack Miller is primed to try and grab a top 10 finish to deliver on one of his preseason goals. He may not get a better chance than in front of home fans at Phillip Island, where he qualified 15th, a season best. There have been huge expectations on Miller this season after he was signed to a three-year Honda contract to make the huge leap from Moto3 to MotoGP. Delivering on his top 10 ambitions will not be easy aboard an Open class Honda RC213V-RS against a squadron of factory prototypes.