Maybe some things are just meant to be. This Sunday, Casey Stoner will line up in front of a passionate home crowd in the Australian Grand Prix, This Sunday, Casey Stoner will celebrate his 26th birthday, and this Sunday, Casey Stoner could be crowned the 2011 MotoGP World Champion.
In a season where just about everything has gone perfectly for the man who grew up in Southport, Queensland, few would be surprised if the stars fall in line for him this weekend either. The task is simple, outscore Jorge Lorenzo by 10 points, but the mathematics are rather complicated.
The simplest (and most likely) way of clinching his second world crown will require Stoner to win the race with Lorenzo off the podium, a scenario that has taken place on four occasions already this year. But just to mark your card, Stoner could find himself with an unassailable lead in a number of other waysâ€¦
- If he wins with Lorenzo fourth or lower
- If he finishes second with Lorenzo sixth or lower
- If he finishes third with Lorenzo tenth or lower
- If he finishes fourth with Lorenzo 13th or lower
- If he finishes fifth with Lorenzo 15th or lower
- If he finishes sixth with Lorenzo out of the points
Mind you, if the last round in Motegi is anything to go by, there may still be another sting in the tail before we hail Stoner as the final master of the 800cc era. With two of his Honda rivals taking themselves out of contention by jumping the start, Stoner looked set to claim another unchallenged victory before an uncharacteristic error.
Whether it was a case of Stoner buckling under the pressure or simply a moment of ill fortune is open to discussion, but the fact is it allowed Lorenzo to pull back four points on his great rival. What's more, the pressure will be cranked up another notch this weekend as the most prestigious prize in motorcycle racing comes up for grabs.
Stoner will not only have the might of Honda fighting his corner, but a whole nation as Australia gets ready to acclaim its' newest world beater while Lorenzo and Yamaha will be giving it everything to try and stop them, and hold on to the no.1 plate for at least another week.
Just to emphasise how daunting a task this weekend is for the defending champion, Stoner has only ever been beaten once on home soil since moving up to the premier class in 2006, and that was in his rookie year. Four consecutive wins have followed and apart from Valentino Rossi two years ago, no-one has even come close to him around the 4.448km circuit.
The deciding factor in terms of the championship could be the performance of the three other factory Hondas. Should Stoner win on Sunday, his best bet will be that two of his stable mates join him on the podium.
Dani Pedrosa will fancy his chances after claiming his third win of the season two weeks ago at Motegi. To a certain extent, the Spaniard inherited the victory after Stoner's slip up but nothing would give him greater pleasure than upstaging his teammate on home soil, setting him up for a season-long title challenge next year.
With his future for 2012 secured, Andrea Dovizioso can also race with no pressure. Tech 3's newest recruit is involved in a private duel with Pedrosa for third in the championship and will be desperate to end his two year victory drought before his Honda career draws to a close.
Marco Simoncelli can look forward to another year with the Japanese manufacturer and got his first taste of the RC213V at Motegi the day after finishing fourth. The Gresini rider is a Phillip Island specialist having won back-to-back 250cc races down under and could muscle in on the fight for the podium. Yamaha's Ben Spies is no slouch around Phillip Island either, something he proved in 2009 when he took pole position on his World Superbike debut.
Amid all the talk about Stoner's supreme record in Melbourne, Valentino Rossi enjoyed his own era of Melbourne dominance in the early 'noughties'. From 2001 to 2005, there was no stopping the Italian superstar but times have certainly changed in this decade.
Rossi has only stood on the podium once all season and Motegi proved that any success the Rossi-Ducati dream team achieve in the future will have come at a cost. The first lap crash involving the two Yamahas not only left him in the gravel trap, but also with a broken finger, forcing him to miss the team's final test day on their 2012 machine.
Rossi will be back in action this weekend with Nicky Hayden joining him as another weekend of GP11.1 development lies ahead. The home supporters will have their eyes on another Ducati though as Damian Cudlin gets another chance, this time for Mapfre Aspar as Hector Barbera sits this race out with a broken collarbone.
After making way for Cudlin in Japan, the fit-again Loris Capirossi makes his return to action as he embarks upon the final three races of his racing career alongside Randy de Puniet at Pramac. Karel Abraham will also be grateful to be racing again after missing the Japanese GP with the effects of a concussion.
Alvaro Bautista endured pain of a different kind two weeks ago when he crashed out of fourth. Rizla Suzuki will be hoping he can keep his bike upright this time but the questions surrounding the team's future may take centre stage this weekend.
Toni Elias and Hiroshi Aoyama are also uncertain of their 2012 career path and will be looking to put themselves in the shop window this weekend while Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow will be leading Tech 3 in their quest for a top ten finish at the very least.
The MotoGP World Championship isn't the only title that could be decided on Sunday as Nicolas Terol looks to secure the 125cc crown. Johann Zarco is the only man that stands in his way but proved in Motegi that he won't go down without a fight, beating the Spaniard to claim his maiden victory.
All could be decided this weekend though, although there are only two scenarios that will settle matters. Terol will win the title this weekend ifâ€¦
- He wins with Zarco tenth or lower
- He finishes second with Zarco 15th or lower
The Moto2 title battle looks increasingly likely to go down to the wire after another gripping race in Japan. Marc Marquez was forced to give best to Andrea Iannone but with Stefan Bradl down in fourth, the Spaniard now holds a one point lead ahead of this weekend's event.
Marquez won here on his way to the 125 title last year and will be hoping history can repeat itself while Bradl has to overcome an overwhelming wave of momentum to keep his hopes alive.
The 125s will kick off the weekend's action at 0:15am UK time on Friday with FP1 and The Checkered Flag will have full coverage of all three classes throughout the weekend.
Phillip Island Former Winners:
|2010||Marc Marquez||Alex De Angelis||Casey Stoner|
|2009||Julian Simon||Marco Simoncelli||Casey Stoner|
|2008||Mike Di Meglio||Marco Simoncelli||Casey Stoner|
|2007||Lukas Pesek||Jorge Lorenzo||Casey Stoner|
|2006||Alvaro Bautista||Jorge Lorenzo||Marco Melandri|
|2005||Thomas Luthi||Dani Pedrosa||Valentino Rossi|
|2004||Andrea Dovizioso||Sebastian Porto||Valentino Rossi|
|2003||Andrea Ballerini||Roberto Rolfo||Valentino Rossi|
|2002||Manuel Poggiali||Marco Melandri||Valentino Rossi|
|2001||Youichi Ui||Daijiro Kato||Valentino Rossi|