For the second weekend running, the 2012 MotoGP World Championship hangs in the balance with Jorge Lorenzo one victory away from the title but on Sunday, the thousands in attendance will all be looking out for the current number one. Casey Stoner’s final farewell in Grand Prix racing will come at Valencia in two weeks’ time but the upcoming Australian GP is sure to be an emotional occasion for the world champion, friends, family and fans.
Stoner’s last year as a competitive rider hasn’t exactly followed the Hollywood script despite sharing the championship lead after seven races. After a tough time at the Sachsenring and Mugello, the 27 year old won at Laguna Seca to shift the momentum back in his favour before his title chances received a terminal blow at Indianapolis.
Having suffered a broken ankle and torn ligaments after a crash in qualifying, Stoner was forced to revise his objectives for the final chapter of his racing career. With no championship to race for, Casey’s motivation to return from his injury was simple, to race in front of his home crowd one final time.
The first stage of his recovery went to plan with Stoner returning in time for Motegi, giving him two races to get back up to speed before Phillip Island. His performance in Malaysia would also suggest his mission had been accomplished with Jorge Lorenzo’s second place almost certain to have been his had the red flags not stopped the race eight laps early.
A victory this weekend is far from certain for Stoner, especially given the form of his title-chasing teammate Dani Pedrosa but Casey’s record is formidable to say the least. Ever since finishing sixth on his debut MotoGP appearance here six years ago, Stoner is unbeaten and the five successive victories weren’t what you’d call lucky either.
In recognition of the event, Phillip Island have named the 140mph turn three after the double world champion. Having been given the option to choose any turn to name “Stoner Corner”, the man himself said it was an easy choice and is overwhelmed to have been given such an honour.
“Turn three is probably my favourite one in the world. I am almost flat out in fifth gear through there and that is pretty damn fast and it really gets your blood flowing that’s for sure. It always gives me a great rush going through there so to have a corner named after me at Phillip Island is something quite special. It is a great privilege”.
Fergus Cameron, circuit chief since 1984, believes “Stoner Corner” is a fitting tribute to the man who’s made the track his own in recent years.
“This year we celebrate the circuit’s 60th year and are about to embark on a $3 million track resurfacing and upgrade. In the entire 60 years, there are only two riders who been recognised in this way and that is the man who bought international motorcycle racing to life in Australia, Wayne Gardner, with Gardner Straight and of course five times world champion, Mick Doohan was gifted Doohan Corner. But no-one has set Phillip Island alight, and thrilled our fans, time and time again like Casey. Casey, we congratulate you on an incredible career and now with Stoner Corner your performances at the island will always be hailed and remembered”.
It would take a lot to overshadow a Stoner victory on Sunday but Jorge Lorenzo may just achieve that if results go his way. The Yamaha rider brings a 23 point lead into the penultimate race, despite having only beaten Dani Pedrosa once since the summer break, and has the opportunity to join Stoner as a double world champion. The list of mathematical permutations is below.
Jorge isn’t the only man with glory awaiting him on Sunday as Marc Marquez looks to make it second time lucky in clinching the Moto2 title. Had he not crashed in the Malaysian rain, the 19 year old would have sewn it up last weekend but Pol Espargaro’s failure to finish higher than eleventh let him off the hook. With a 48 point lead, fourteenth place is all that’s required to crown Marquez champion while Espargaro can hit the winning runs for him if he doesn’t take maximum points himself. Surely this is the weekend for Marc?
The Moto3 championship has already been decided in favour of Sandro Cortese but don’t expect the chaos to stop there. Maverick Vinales has ensured the off-track action has matched the racing by going back on his decision to walk out on Blusens Avintia and will surely contest the victory and with Luis Salom now ahead of him in the fight to finish the year as runner-up, there is still plenty to race for.
Britain will also have a fourth entrant in Moto3 with Gloucestershire’s Sam Clarke making his debut as a wildcard. The 16 year old will ride a Honda for Fastline GP Racing and joins Danny Kent, Danny Webb and John McPhee in the 34 rider field.
The AirAsia Australian Grand Prix weekend gets underway in the early hours of Friday morning with the Moto3 race kicking off at 2am UK time (don’t forget to put your clocks back!) and The Checkered Flag will have extensive coverage throughout the weekend.
Phillip Island Former Winners:
|2011||Casey Stoner||Alex De Angelis||Sandro Cortese|
|2010||Casey Stoner||Alex De Angelis||Marc Marquez|
|2009||Casey Stoner||Marco Simoncelli||Julian Simon|
|2008||Casey Stoner||Marco Simoncelli||Mike Di Meglio|
|2007||Casey Stoner||Jorge Lorenzo||Lukas Pesek|
|2006||Marco Melandri||Jorge Lorenzo||Alvaro Bautista|
|2005||Valentino Rossi||Dani Pedrosa||Thomas Luthi|
|2004||Valentino Rossi||Sebastian Porto||Andrea Dovizioso|
|2003||Valentino Rossi||Roberto Rolfo||Andrea Ballerini|
|2002||Valentino Rossi||Marco Melandri||Manuel Poggiali|
|*No Moto3 races have been held at Phillip Island|