Superbike World Championship preview - round two: Australia
Phillip Island circuit
Track length: 4448 m
Year opened: 1956
Superbike lap record: 1' 33.019 (Troy Corser, 1999)
Last year's winners: Regis Laconi and Garry McCoy (both Ducati)
Circuit web site: http://www.phillipislandcircuit.com.au
After a solid start in the opening round at Qatar, Yamaha's Superbike World
Championship campaign makes their only racing trip to the southern hemisphere
for the Yamaha-sponsored round two of the series at Australia's Phillip Island
This was the venue where the officially-supported Yamaha Motor Italia team
started their 2005 campaign with a three-day test in January and since then the
team has been busy developing and improving their YZF-R1s.
Having started life as standard R1s, the Yamaha Motor Italia machines have been
transformed into superbike contenders through the use of Yamaha's range of YEC
racing kit parts and a number of exotic parts including factory Ohlins
suspension, Magneti Marelli engine management system and a one-off exhaust
system made by Termignoni.
Having already tested at Phillip Island, riders Noriyuki Haga and Andrew Pitt go
to the circuit with good basic settings. Both set competitive times on the final
day of the test, especially local man Pitt, whose best of 1:33.9 would have
qualified him second on last year's grid.
But Yamaha knows only too well that good race settings are more important than
one-off qualifying laps so work at interim tests (Qatar and Valencia) has
focused on improving tyre longevity and throttle connection and the team hopes
that new front end settings will improve rider feedback in Australia and
eliminate the high front tyre wear experienced during the opening round.
Among the many R1s lining up on the grid in this year's championship is the
two-rider entry from Yamaha Motor France. Their riders Norick Abe and Sιbastien
Gimbert also showed their pace in Qatar, Abe running with the leaders and
posting two top ten finishes at the Losail circuit and Gimbert establishing a
new lap record. Both are no strangers to the Phillip Island circuit, having
competed there in Grands Prix, and will look to build on their Qatar performances.
The Australian round may be as far away from the teams' European bases as is
geographically possible but thankfully the Phillip Island circuit is a favourite
of almost all the riders, who revel in the fast and flowing nature of the circuit.
Situated a little more than one hour's drive from the city of Melbourne, Phillip
Island is a tourist spot popular with surfers and nature lovers alike. The
layout of the circuit means that it suits riders who can carry high corner
speeds and usually promotes close racing with riders slipstreaming each other
down the long home straight, which is followed by a 200kph fifth gear
right-hander - one of the fastest corners on any circuit in the world.
Of all the circuits on the calendar, Phillip Island is probably the toughest on
tyres due to its combination of fast turns with high lean angles. It's a fast,
flowing circuit and maintaining good momentum is the key to a fast lap. Both
front and rear tyre wear can be high, so the riders will all be working on
finding a good set up that will allow them to maximise the life of their
Pirellis over the full race distance.
Phillip Island's location can also add another variable into the equation.
Situated on the Bass Strait, high winds are common and can change the circuit
characteristics, not just from session to session but often from lap to lap.
Significantly, there is only one hard braking zone at Phillip Island, the entry
to turn four, meaning that riders will trade off some stability under braking
for a set up that works well in the fast corners.
Yamaha's key development areas are the way to unlock a good lap at Phillip
Island. With so many long sweeping corners to contend with, the engine
management settings will need to be spot on to provide good, linear power
delivery. Suspension-wise, most riders will go for a slightly soft set-up to
provide a good feeling and save tyre life. A similar setting is likely to be
used up front as good feedback is needed to provide the rider with confidence at
these high speeds and extreme lean angles.
Supersport World Championship
Yamaha Motor Germany's Australian pairing of Kevin Curtain and Broc Parkes are
hoping to uphold national pride in round two of the Supersport World
Championship in Phillip Island.
Home riders have won this race since Curtain's victory in 2001. Since then,
fellow Aussies Andrew Pitt, Chris Vermeulen and Josh Brookes have stood on the
top step of the podium as the locals dominate the 600cc class.
Like the Yamaha Motor Italia squad, the German team also spent three days
testing at the Australian circuit in January and, like their Italian colleagues,
have also made significant strides with the front end settings of their
machines. After overcoming injuries to post solid fourth and sixth place
finishes in the opening round, both go into their home race fully fit and raring
to go after making big progress at the recent Valencia test.