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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MotoGP 2014 – Phillip Island: Round Up

MotoGP 2014 – Phillip Island: Round Up

Valentine Rossi keeps his rubber side down and arrives victorious at the end of the gruelling 27 laps race on the Phillip Island circuit in Australia.

Phillip Island is a track loved by almost all riders in MotoGP. The view is quite perfect too, with a fantastic vista of the adjacent sea. At the same time, it is a very demanding circuit for the tyres with fast flowing corners majority of which are left handers. Last year’s race was plagued by tyre issues, so Bridgestone came prepared this time on the data they had gathered along with the preseason testing (in March) at the track and brought a new technology asymmetric tyres for the front.

So what is an asymmetric tyre? This new tyre by the Japanese company is made up of two rubber compounds, one of which is softer than the other. Given that the Phillip Island has more left hand corners than the right hand corners (7 left and 5 right to be precise), the asymmetric tyres were made up of the soft compound rubber on the left side and in the middle while the right side were made up of the extra soft rubber for better warmup probability. Other than this, remaining options for the front were symmetric soft and extra soft.

According to Bridgestone, this new asymmetric tyre should provide better overall performance and stability under braking on the Phillip Island circuit. However, things might not have gone according to the plan really. Several riders crashed in the practice sessions, also owing to the cold temperatures, including Jorge Lorenzo as he tried the asymmetric front slicks. Seeing his team mate losing the front, Valentino Rossi decided to stick with the regular symmetric front tyres. It was as if his gut feeling to not go with the asymmetric front at all.

Qualifying brought mixed result for certain riders. Quite as usual, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez who took his second consecutive world title in the last race occupied the pole position and for the first time in his career with Ducati, Cal Crutchlow was on 2nd spot on the grid. This is the best qualifying result for the British rider since he joined Ducati. Finishing off the first row was Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo. Row 2 was headed by Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith, followed by Marquez’s team mate Dani Pedrosa in 5th and finally Forward Yamaha’s Aleix Espargaro on the outside. Andrea Iannone of satellite Ducati headed row 3 from the 6th spot while Valentino Rossi had a disappointing qualifying in the 8th spot.

On Sunday about the time of the race, the temperature was cooler than the day before. Also, given the location and having the sea so near, drastic changes in the temperature in a matter of minutes is quite common at Phillip Island. And as we saw later in the race, the temperature dropped to about 9 degrees straight seriously affecting the performance of the asymmetric tyres. For the race, both Rossi and Lorenzo chose to ride with the regular extra soft front slicks while several riders like Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro and Cal Crutchlow went ahead with the asymmetric front.

As the 27 laps race started under the cool sea breeze, Jorge Lorenzo and Bradley Smith had the best start as they tussled for the lead with the factory Yamaha rider coming out on top as the riders went into turn 1. Marc Marquez followed the lead of these two but was quick to overtake in the next few corners and assume the lead. Behind them, Smith’s team mate Pol Espargaro, Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi all fought to make up the positions. Cruthlow had a pretty disappointing start and relegated to the 9th spot by the end of the first lap.

At the front, the leading pair of Marquez and Lorenzo started to build a gap from others as the laps progressed. Meanwhile, Rossi was consistently taking the riders ahead of him one by one picking up positions. By the end of three laps, Rossi had advanced to the third position besting Pedrosa and both the Tech 3 riders and set his eyes on catching his Spaniard team mate. Another rider Cal Crutchlow was also starting to have a good race as he progressed from ninth to the sixth position.

The riders were now divided into groups. However, with 5 laps down the race, Andrea Iannone met with a disaster as he hit the back side of Pedrosa’s RCV213V and went down eventually. Fortunately enough, the satellite Ducati rider was unhurt. But this incident left a cascading affect on Pedrosa as he appeared to have trouble with his bike in the following laps and had to slow down drastically. He eventually had to ride into the pits to see what the problem was and was forced to retire to his extreme disappointment.

As the race progressed further, Rossi was putting his personal best lap times and continued to close in on Lorenzo. At midway of the race, the Italian had come close enough to now challenge his Movistar Yamaha team mate for the second position. Rossi made his first pass on one of the right handers and made it stick. But Lorenzo came back strongly at the end of the lap. The Spaniard repast his team mate as they entered into turn 1 at the end of the main straight. Rossi and Lorenzo indulged in a fantastic dogfight for the runner up spot on the podium for several laps while Marquez continued to increase the gap at the front. In the following few laps, Rossi finally restricted Lorenzo to attack any further and set his eyes on increasing the gap. Marquez had developed a gap of around 4 seconds by this time.

Crutchlow, as well, was having a pretty fantastic race as he had advanced to the fourth position passing both Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. With 9 laps remaining, Marc Marquez had an unusual crash as he slowed down ahead of one of the right hand corners. It looked like his front wheel got locked and the motorcycle just slipped away under him. Unfortunately, his bike was not in a condition to get the current world champion back in the race. From there on, Rossi rode unchallenged to the finish line.

Behind him, the drama was turning quite hot. Lorenzo’s pace started degrading drastically which aided Crutchlow in closing his gap to the Yamaha rider. The crash of Marquez had put the British rider in the third spot and to finish on the podium for the first time on the Ducati. This was going to be his best result of a not-so-good season so far. Further back, the battle for fourth was taking a very interesting turn with Aleix Espargaro, Andrea Dovizioso, Pol Espargaro and Stefan Bradl all trying to best each other. With four riders fighting so closely, even an inch of a mistake can be quite harmful. As it turned out, Stefan Bradl misjudged his braking on one of the corners and hit the rear of Aleix’s motorcycle. This collision sent Bradl into a crash and damaged Aleix’s bike enough to end his race as well.

At the front with 7 laps remaining, Crutchlow continued to close his gap on Lorenzo quite rapidly while Rossi strengthened his lead further. Two more laps in, Crutchlow passed Lorenzo for the second position. It was clear that Lorenzo was struggling with his front tyre as he couldn’t put up any fight to take back the position he just lost. Crutchlow instantly pulled a decent gap and appeared quite comfortable in second. Lorenzo’s trouble did not end there as his gap to Pol Espargaro (who was riding in 4th) was coming down pretty fast from 4 seconds. It appeared that even Pol might be challenging Lorenzo for the 3rd position but he lost his bike’s frontend at the Honda hairpin with 3 laps remaining.

The drama was not finished yet as Cal Crutchlow, who was well within the reach of his best result aboard a Ducati, crashed out on the last lap. He crashed at the same Honda hairpin where Pol Espargaro had crashed couple of laps before and in a similar fashion. It was extremely disappointing to see Crutchlow’s race ending in this manner and he was totally devastated. He was terribly sorry for his team and for everyone at Ducati to have his race end in a crash after coming so near of the second place finish. I, personally, would have loved to see Crutchlow up there on the podium with the Yamaha guys.

At the end, Valentino Rossi won the race with a gap of over 10 seconds against his team mate Jorge Lorenzo who crossed the finish line in second. Bradley Smith finished in a surprising third position and he was quite overwhelmed with his result all throughout parc ferme and the interviews. It was a delight to see how much that podium finish meant to him. This was also the first all Yamaha podium since 2008.

Another rider who was absolutely delighted with his result was Rossi. His win at the Australian circuit came after almost 10 years. 10 years! That is a long time. On his 250th race appearance, this is Rossi’s 108th career win and his 82nd in the MotoGP class. At the age of 35, his will to fight and his determination to win are unparalleled. This man is something.

Eventually, 14 out of 23 riders finished the race. That is some DNF count for a single race. The three prominent crashes of Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro and Cal Cruthclow are believed to be the result of a sudden drop in the track temperature more than any degradation in tyre performance itself. It is reported that the drop in temperature was by 9 degrees full. That’s like a season change in a matter of minutes! Lorenzo was especially unhappy with the performance of his front tyre (regular extra soft); however, Bridgestone specifically responded to that by saying that his lap times were competitive with Rossi (who was on the same extra soft front) for the 2/3 of the race and that only after 20 laps, there was a drop in performance. That drop in performance as per Bridgestone, though quite severe, was due to the combination of Lorenzo’s riding style combined with the bike setup being unsuitable for the tyre. Later, Bridgestone also said that they were overall satisfied with the performance of their asymmetric tyres and that they will provide such tyres again in future as per the requirement.

Yet, in all this mayhem, there was one rider who got everything right; with his experience and his gut feeling, and emerged victorious against the challenge that is the Phillip Island. Valentine Rossi.

MotoGP Phillip Island Results 2014 
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 
3. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 
5. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 
6. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 
7. Scott Redding (Honda) 
8. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 
9. Alex De Angelis (Forward Yamaha) 
10. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 
11. Yonny Hernandez (Ducati) 
12. Danilo Petrucci (ART) 
13. Michael Laverty (PBM) 
14. Mike Di Meglio (Avintia)

MotoGP Championship Points 2014 
1. Marc Marquez, 312 
2. Valentino Rossi, 255 
3. Jorge Lorenzo, 247 
4. Dani Pedrosa, 230 
5. Andrea Dovizioso, 166 
6. Aleix Espargaro, 117 
7. Pol Espargaro, 116 
8. Bradley Smith, 108 
9. Andrea Iannone, 102 
10. Stefan Bradl, 96

Text By: Sachin Sen
Images Courtesy: www.motogp.com
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Item Reviewed: MotoGP 2014 – Phillip Island: Round Up Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Unknown
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