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GP Week : Issue 31
Phillip Island is fastest track Casey stoner’s blindingly fast qualifying lap, with an average speed of 180.598 km/h, reinforced the track’s position as the fastest track on the calendar. But it is still not as fast as the old Assen, which was emasculated and shortened, with the addition of some very slow corners, in 2006. The fastest speed there was in 2004, when Rossi set pole position at 182.701 km/h. The new slowest track is Indianapolis, undercutting even Laguna Seca and Estoril, is Indianapolis. The fastest dry free practice this year yielded a best of only 150.607 km/h. Stoner also clocked the highest speed of the meeting, at 330.1 km/h in the first free practice, with the Ducatis of lap-time slow-coaches Guintoli and Melandri holding the next two spots. Pedrosa’s pneumatic-valve- spring Honda was fourth- fastest, at 326.1, with Rossi’s Yamaha next at 325.2. The best private Honda, however, was Dovizioso’s, fourth from last at 319.4; down among the notoriously sluggardly “Slowzukis”. Qualifying spectacle over the spectacle of the MotoGP qualifying hour, where the last 20 minutes are enlivened by riders setting increasingly amazing lap times on super- grippy qualifying tyres, will end with the introduction of the one-tyre rule. Bridgestone will not supply qualifying tyres, said chief Hiroshi Yamada. Qualifying will take place on race rubber. Some teams will welcome this move, since qualifying tyres cost valuable time that could be used to improve set-up for race conditions. Fans and several riders disagree. One is Nicky Hayden. “I’m going to miss them. They had so much grip. Sometimes after a good qualifying lap you’d come into the pit shaking, because it was that intense,” he said. This year, with the tyre allocation increased compared with the previous year, some riders would use as many as four rear qualifiers for runs at increasing speed; while Michelin also offered its riders super-soft front tyres, to help with the all- important grid position. There have been several attempts in the past to ban qualifiers, but they were impossible to enforce. Competition between the tyre companies and the need for a front-row start – plus the difficulty of arriving at a legal definition of a qualifying tyre – meant the practice persisted. Past champions honoured australia’s three premier- class World Champions – and one famous Briton – were honoured at Phillip island with the latest presentation of the “Champions towers”: replicas of the World Championship trophy which celebrate the 60th year of the world’s oldest World Championship. First Australian 500-class 14 champion Wayne Gardner, five-times champion Mick Doohan and 2006 winner Casey Stoner all received trophies, along with Freddie Sheene, son of legendary English rider Barry Sheene. Stoner revealed he’d been too young to follow the exploits of Gardner in the late 1980s, but he had caught up with the videotapes of his great races after, a couple of years later, “I grew up watching Mick Doohan.” He cites Doohan as his role model, and said what he’d learned from his predecessors was “never give up. That stuck with me,” he said. “I haven’t had it as hard as some people, but some years have been pretty grim.”