The Ducati Marlboro Team jets into Australia very much on form, with three pole positions, two victories, one second-place and one third-place finish from the last four races. Riders Loris Capirossi and Carlos Checa therefore can't wait to get to grips with Phillip Island, possibly the most looked-forward-to racetrack of the MotoGP season.
Capirossi has a particularly strong record at the Australian circuit and the Italian needs all the points he can get because he's fighting for the 'silver medal' in the 2005 MotoGP World Championship, currently just 11 points down on second place. Checa meanwhile lies ninth in the points standings, having recently scored his first podium finish with the team.
"We've had a great run recently, which proves that our partnership with Bridgestone is growing really well, though Qatar showed that we still have work to do together," says Ducati MotoGP manager Livio Suppo. "We always look forward to Phillip Island, it's a fantastic track and we've always gone well there, with Loris taking podium finishes in 2003 and 2004, as well as a new lap record last year. These results prove that it really suits the Desmosedici."
Fast and open, Phillip Island has always allowed ultra-close racing, which ensures that this event is also much enjoyed by teams and fans. "Riders love this track because it is full of fast corners, and we really enjoy watching races here," says Ducati Marlboro Team technical director Corrado Cecchinelli. "It's a very flowing, high-speed track with only one area of heavy, prolonged braking, at Honda corner. You need a very stable set-up to give your riders confidence through all the fast sections. The other big thing about Phillip Island is that it's very hard on the left side of the rear tyre. Bridgestone have done some incredible work in recent months so we look forward to trying the new tyres they've prepared for this circuit."
ON-FORM CAPIROSSI LOVES THE ISLAND
Ducati Marlboro Team man Loris Capirossi is MotoGP's man of the moment. With two wins, one second-place and a tenth-place finish from the last four races he's scored more points than anyone since the end of the World Championship's midseason break, so that second overall is now very much in his sights. The hard-riding Italian has also scored three pole positions at the last three races.
Capirossi has always enjoyed Phillip Island, ever since he won his first world title on his first visit to the track, way back in 1990. Since then he has enjoyed plenty more success here, including podium finishes at the last two Australian GPs. He is also the current circuit lap record holder.
"I love Phillip Island, it's so nice to ride, so long as the weather isn't too bad," he says. "I always love fast corners and Phillip Island has many beautiful corners. My favourites are turns one and three and up the hill through Lukey Heights. The only corner I don't like is Honda corner! It is the kind of track where the rider can make the difference. It's also good for our Desmosedici, we have always been fast here, so I hope that we can are able to fight with the best as we were able to do at Motegi and Sepang. Bridgestone has done some great work recently, so we'll wait and see what evolution tyres they bring to this race. I hope we've got a good package because I really want second place in the championship!"
CHECA CELEBRATES 33rd BIRTHDAY
Carlos Checa turns 33-years old on Saturday at Phillip Island, so the Ducati Marlboro Team man will be out to celebrate with the best-possible race result on Sunday. Third at Sepang last month, where he helped achieve the team's first double podium finish, Checa is working well with his Desmosedici and knows that the bike really likes the Island's high-speed curves.
"Phillip Island is a really nice track and also a really nice place, the only thing that can spoil it is the weather," says Checa who has already ridden his Desmosedici at the track during off-season testing. "The main character of the circuit is very fast turns, and the high-speed run back to Lukey Heights is especially tricky because there are many fast changes of direction. The rest of the track isn't so tough, though it's always hard work for the rear tyre, mainly because of the last two lefts. You always have close racing at this track, which is nice for us and also for the fans. We have made some great progress over the last few races with Bridgestone. It's a great feeling to be able to race for the leading positions again, even though we weren't quite there at Qatar. Like everywhere, so much depends on tyre performance, so we'll be working very hard to get the best package with Bridgestone."
Phillip Island is the fastest currently used for motorcycle GP racing (now that Dutch GP track Assen is undergoing a major redesign) and demands much of machines and tyres. There are three essentials for a good result at the Victorian state venue: guts, determination and a sweet-handling motorcycle. Most riders count the track as one of their favourites because unlike many modern circuits that have been built to contain the speed of F1 cars, the Island is dominated by super-quick curves that test rider skill and daring to the limit.
The Australian GP's only negative is the area's unsettled early spring weather that can whip up dangerously strong winds off the nearby Bass Strait. Situated 130 kilometres south east of Melbourne, Phillip Island hosted its first motorcycle races way back in the 1920s, when riders competed over a dusty 12-mile street circuit and the only access to the island was by boat! The circuit fell into disrepair but was redeveloped in the late 1980s and hosted Australia's first bike GP in 1989. Since then the circuit has been renowned for creating ultra-close racing action.
PHILLIP ISLAND DATA
Lap record: Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team), 1m 31.102s, 175.768kmh/109.217mph (2004)
2004 pole position: Sete Gibernau (Honda), 1m 30.122s
DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM RIDER DATA LOGS
Age: 32 (born April 4, 1973)
Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP5
GP victories: 25 (3xMotoGP, 2x500, 12x250, 8x125)
First GP victory: Britain, 1990 (125)
First GP: Japan, 1990 (125)
GP starts: 230 (60xMotoGP, 59x500, 84x250, 27x125)
Pole positions: 39 (6xMotoGP, 5x500, 23x250, 5x125)
First pole: Australia, 1991 (125)
World Championships: 3 (125: 1990, 1991, 250: 1998)
Phillip Island 2004 results: Grid: 3rd. Race: 3rd
Age: 33 on Saturday! (born October 15, 1972)
Lives: London, England
Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP5
GP victories: 2 (500)
First GP victory: Catalunya, 1996 (500)
First GP: Europe, 1993 (125)
GP starts: 182 (62xMotoGP, 92x500, 27x250, 1x125)
Pole positions: 3 (2xMotoGP, 1x500)
First pole: Spain, 1998 (500)
Phillip Island 2004 results: Grid: 13th. Race: 10th
Source: Ducati Corse s.r.l.