Tuesday, January 30, 2007

MotoGP: Phillip Island Test Preview

The MotoGP testing season moves on to Australia now, with a visit to the Phillip Island track. This will be an interesting test, as we will find out whether the lessons learned at Sepang will transfer to a different track.
Yamaha, Kawasaki and Ilmor have not travelled Down Under, with Yamaha testing in private and Ilmor having recently finished a test in Spain.
This will be a crucial test for Suzuki, who have excelled so far this year, and for Ducati and Honda, who have both struggled.
Suzuki have fared poorly at the Island in recent years, apart from Vermeulen's podium in the crazy dry/wet/dry race last year. If they can reproduce their Sepang form here, they will surely be regular podium visitors in the year to come, and their two hard-charging young riders may even win a race or two.
Honda have had a terrible start to the year. So far at least, their new V4 engine is a dog. All Honda riders have complained about the lack of power, and the power delivery. As Phillip Island is a traditional Honda/Michelin track, they will be demanding a dominant performance at this test. Finishing a second behind Suzuki at Sepang is deeply worrying, but for the same to happen in Australia would be a disaster. The race season is gradually drawing closer, and Honda must start closing the gap to Suzuki and Yamaha soon.
Ducati have struggled with their fancy electronic package, but a simpler version of the bike has been impressive in the hands of the new d'Antin rider Alex Barros. Casey Stoner, who still doesn't look a day over 12 years old, has been one of the quickest riders in a straight line, so the Italian team do not lack power. Their problem seems to be in the power delivery, and that should be fixable by tinkering with the electronics.
When the testing times start to come in, all eyes will be on Suzuki.

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