Sadly, the race for the 2016 title is over, and we/I congratulate Marc Marquez on his third premier class championship. But the end of the story of 2016 has yet to be written. There will be controversy – will Marquez torment Valentino Rossi during these last three rounds, in the hope of elevating homeboy Jorge Lorenzo? There will be paint-trading in the turns. There will continue to be the races-within-the-race that capture so many people’s attention. There will be Danilo Petrucci vs. Scott Redding. There will be crashes and run-offs and mistakes by guys operating at the outer limits of human endurance, testing the laws of physics at every turn. What’s not to like?

OCTO Pramach Yakhnich teammates Danilo Petrucci and Scott Redding offer one of the many personal battles still to be decided. Redding has a podium and leads Petrucci by 4 points but remember, the Italian missed the first four rounds due to injury.

Recent History at Phillip Island

2013: Lorenzo won comfortably over Dani Pedrosa, with Rossi, Cal Crutchlow and Alvaro Bautista (on the satellite Gresini Honda) gripped in a hair-raising battle for third that saw the veteran Rossi beat Crutchlow and his LCR Honda by .11 seconds while Crutchlow pipped the Gresini pilot by .053, the blink of an eye. The race marked the first Australian Grand Prix in seven years not to feature Casey Stoner at the top of the podium. Marquez took a cheap DQ when, fighting for the lead, he neglected to pit in time, as Bridgestone, who ordered the mandatory mid-race pit stop, struggled mightily to provide the teams with safe rubber up against a new, abrasive and untested racing surface. Even Race Direction was unable to keep Marquez out of the title in his rookie year.

Tire safety concerns brought about compulsory bike changes on laps 9 or 10 in the 2013 race. Marc Marquez came in to the pits too late and was black flagged.

2014: Marquez crashes out of a four second lead on Lap 18 as his Bridgestone front seems to turn to ice. 23 riders start the race; 14 finish. Thus relieved of the pesky Catalan sophomore, Valentino Rossi led a trio of Yamaha M1s over the line, joined on the podium by Lorenzo and premier class podium virgin Bradley Smith, who whipped his Tech 3 Yamaha to his first premier class podium. Ever. None of it really mattered, as Marquez left Down Under ahead of chaser Lorenzo by 18 points on the way to his second world championship. In case we’ve neglected to mention it in the past, Phillip Island is a Yamaha/Ducati kind of place.

2015: The Pramac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix had something for everyone. Repsol Honda defending double world champion Marquez, in his season of discontent, laid down an historic last lap to steal the victory from compatriot Lorenzo. The Yamaha pilot trailed his teammate Rossi by 18 coming in and was blessed that day by a statement performance from factory Ducati (then #1) Andrea Iannone, who slipped past Rossi one more time on the final lap and onto the podium, trimming Rossi’s lead over Lorenzo to 11 points heading for Sepang and Round 17. What a difference a year made for Iannone, just twelve months ago the fair-haired child of Ducati Corse; this year a refugee to a possibly apprehensive Suzuki operation.

Andrea Iannone finished third at Phillip Island last year. He has three more podiums including a win this season but some questionable racing decisions have him leaving Ducati for Suzuki next season.

Sibling Rivalry

Such is the case with the brothers Espargaro. A competition which undoubtedly started when younger brother Pol was still in diapers continues today as older brother Aleix tries to keep up with little bro. At some point in the past, younger brother took the upper hand over big brother; glad I wasn’t there for that. Pol, on the satellite Yamaha, brings a 24-point lead over the fraternal factory Suzuki into Round 16 and appears set to rub it in to Aleix’s face for the fourth year in a row.

The Espargaro brothers always put on a good battle with Pol getting the better of Aleix most days.

Last year, on the same equipment, Pol was +9. In 2014, Pol, still on the Tech 3 bike, with Aleix on the doomed Forward Racing Yamaha, put another 10 points on his sib. In 2013, one would say that Pol won the day again, taking the Moto2 championship, while Aleix, slugging it out in the premier class on terrible ART hardware, claimed a decent 11th place finish. Advantage Pol.

There’s new digs for each next year: Pol finally gets his factory ride with KTM, while Aleix moves down to the Gresini factory Aprilia, not yet competitive in the post-Dall’Igna era. The two bikes should be relatively competitive with each other, meaning that while the colors on the leathers may change, the appeal of an opportunity to give your brother a wet willie won’t. MotoGP thrives on rivalries, even the friendlies.

Kevin Schwantz – Milky Milky

Your boy Kevin Schwantz, world champion in 1993 in the 500cc two stroke era when men were men and women were glad of it, continues to milk notoriety from his reputation and is now approaching 23 years, more or less, of living off the fat. Journalists still seek his opinions on moto racing and he is always willing to share them. Bring the photographer.

Anyway, over at someothersite.com, Schwantz was asked about his impressions of Jack Miller, stating his belief the young Australian would become some kind of great rider in time. (Assuming he still possesses all of his body parts when that time arrives.) He also conceded that Marc Marquez “impresses” him, what with three MotoGP titles by age 23 and all.

No, Jack Miller isn’t wearing plaster casts on both legs (though given his injury history it’s not outside the realm of reason). Miller, newly-crowned Moto3 Champion Brad Binder and Marc Marquez were taking part in a promotional event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

This, you see, is exactly the kind of stuff the I loathe. Some guy whose glory days are way behind him, dispensing faint praise re the talents of riders, at least in the case of #93, would beat them like a drum on an identical equipment/same age basis. But we’re not hating on it because it interests us. We’re kind of going on and on about it because Marquez won the frigging title last week and we need something to rant about.

Back to the Race

The domino effect engendered by the injury to factory Ducati rider Iannone continues in place this week, as Hector Barbera gets to wreck another brand new GP16 while Mike Jones takes his seat with the Avintia Ducati team. Barbera and Jones were the last two riders to finish at Motegi, the Spaniard finishing outside the points due to an early mishap, whereas Jones finished a lap down but with his paint intact. I imagine the bosses would prefer the latter to the former.

Nicky Hayden, last seen riding the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda at Aragon, is returning to MotoGP once more, this time riding Dani Pedrosa’s Repsol Honda in Australia.

Lorenzo, Rossi and Marquez each won here recently, Rossi the beneficiary of Marquez’ careless crash out of a four-second lead in 2014. For the Yamaha teammates, they have attached blinders regarding whatever’s up with Marquez and are dialed in on one another, second place for the season and a load of machismo at stake. Just as last year, Rossi enjoys a narrow lead over Lorenzo with the latter wanting to arrive at Ducati in one piece but wanting to beat Rossi more. So, it will be a great battle this time out. Whatever happens thereafter we’ll take, too.

Conditions at Phillip Island this weekend are expected to be rough, with a 100% chance of rain on Friday giving way to clear skies on Sunday. It’ll be the temps and the wind which will take its toll on riders and lap times, as temps are expected below 60° with cold northwest winds steady in the high teens, with stronger gusts. A perfect weekend for Marc Marquez to lay low but an imperfect setup for Lorenzo and Rossi, who must face off against one another in the teeth of the gale at perhaps the fastest track on the calendar. The hint of rain spells advantage Rossi.

The race once again runs in the middle of the night in North America. We will have results and analysis right here on Sunday afternoon.

  • Born to Ride

    Go Hayden! Trade some paint with the desmosedicis for ‘murica!

    • Old MOron

      I’m really, really, reallyyyy interested to see how he goes on the Repsol bike.
      Go, Nicky!

      • Gruf Rude

        Most replacement riders circulate at the bottom of the order, regardless of the bike they are on, factory or otherwise.
        Of course, this only makes sense; they are on an unfamiliar bike, with an unfamiliar set of engineers and mechanics, chasing a set-up that started dialed-in with a totally different rider’s style and preferences.
        It is a wonder they can get a monster MotoGP bike rideable for the replacement rider in the short window of time that exists.

        • Starmag

          Plus unfamiliar tires as well in Nicky’s case.

          • Gruf Rude

            And probably a language difference from Spanish Pedroza’s usual crew.

          • Old MOron

            Right on all counts. I didn’t say I was betting my house that would make the podium. But I am very interested to see how he goes compared to last time, when he was on a customer Honda.

            In Aragon, Honda did pretty well: (1) Marquez … (5) Crutchlow … (6) Pedrosa … (15) Nicky.

            Phillip Island is supposed to be good for the Hondas. I’m interested to see how much Nicky can improve.

        • Born to Ride

          Hey man, don’t rain on my parade. I’m hoping for a top ten spot.

          • Gruf Rude

            Stick with the rain; he’s qualified 7th.

  • Old MOron

    “We’re kind of going on and on about it because Marquez won the frigging title last week and we need something to rant about.”

    Go, Bruce!

    Hey, since you covered sibling rivalry, I’m surprised you didn’t paint the Bruise BROTHERS in that light. Oh well, whatever we call it, I can’t wait to see that intramural contest play out! Same for Redding and Petrux. They’re like Pramac’s own Hatfield and McCoy.

    With rain on Friday and possibly Saturday, they should all be on raw set-ups come race day. Just suit up and ride, boys. Put your balls into the wind!

    • Ozzy Mick

      Forecast as at 11:46p.m., Thursday
      Friday: Cloudy. 95% chance of rain. Rain heavy at times in the afternoon.
      Saturday: Gets better…Cloudy. 80% chance of showers. The chance of a thunderstorm in the morning and early afternoon. Possible hail.
      Sunday: Cloudy. 50% chance of showers.
      Miller weather. GO MILLER!
      One year when I was there, it was freezing and blowing such a gale, one wondered how the riders stayed on their bikes. I watched the race on tele in the comfort of our motel.

      • Old MOron

        Wow, the forecast is getting worse as the weekend nears.
        And you’re absolutely right. It’s Miller weather! How many times did he fall off his bike last week? Poor guy was trying too hard. I hope he calms down for PI, though he’s more likely to be amped up.

      • Starmag

        I personally won’t be holding my breath for a Jackass podium. With rain, it looks like The Doctor will be increasing his lead on El Gato for runner up on the season.

  • Starmag

    Since “What difference does it make?” seems to be the mantra of The Shill and an epitaph for the rest of the Motogp season, I was hoping to convince Bruce to go all Enquirer for us and delve into the personal lives of some of the top riders, showing us at least some pics of the wives and rumored girlfriends plus any off track gossip. The riders seem sort of like cartoon superheroes without some humanizing missteps being reported. I routinely hear more than I need about this sort of thing about politicians and sport stars but not Motogp. Are they really all that clean cut?

    • Born to Ride

      Rossi is too busy making millions of euros on top of his millions of euros by selling branded gear for all the riders, and his secretaries are too well paid to divulge his attempts to grab them by their ‘micio’. Lorenzo sits in a dark room with a big screen playing track layouts on an endless loop, undoubtedly with a scowl on his face. Marquez is too busy attempting to master every two wheeled form of forward motivation to get into any real trouble(Though he, along with his brother and father, beat the living hell out of two Italian reporters last year). Pedrosa has to get his titanium screws tightened between each race and that keeps him mostly bedridden until FP1 of the next race comes around. Crutchlow has to change newborn diapers and practice his zingers for the next time lightning strikes and he wins a race. The Espargaros are deadlocked in a battle for Giant Jenga supremacy. Iannone is visualizing his next attack on a race front runner. Dovi is so inconspicuous I don’t even have a joke for him.

      • Starmag

        I was just feeling Bruce’s pain. Trying to keep the rest of the season interesting will be a challenge. This article was a good effort none the less.

      • Bruce Allen

        I need more of this kind of help from you guys. This is stuff I can use, since The Truth and I have a very, um, casual relationship. Plus it allows me to do some smarmy attribution–“As reported elsewhere,…”

        • Born to Ride
          • Starmag

            I respect MM even more now. Besides the insults and the “shit cup” they tried to “award” him, any tv show with the name “The Hyenas” deserves to have their asses kicked just on general principals.

          • Born to Ride

            I’d have whooped their asses and broke their cameras too haha. That’s what’s wrong with America. Celebrities can’t just beat TMZ’s ass and not get sued to death.

      • BDan75

        That’s pretty much exactly how I picture Lorenzo.

        Speaking of the Espargaros…I was looking at Aleix’s race record the other day. How did that guy get a MotoGP ride? I count only one podium in eight seasons of grand prix racing prior to MGP. Pol did a lot better…

      • Starmag

        Don’t be too sure about Valentino. It makes me wonder about what kind of “Doctor” he imagines himself as.

        From Urban Dictionary:

        “VVLF is on the helmet of 7-time world motorcycle racing champion Valentino Rossi. It translates as “Viva VIVA la figa!”

        With double emphasis no less.

        • Ian Parkes

          Top fact Starmag!

          • Starmag

            Thanks. I can’t wait for the “Rossi tapes” to be released ( by his secretaries if Born to Ride is right ). Those darn alpha males. lol. I need a safe space. Not.

        • Bruce Allen

          He can’t help it. He’s Italian. Hot-blooded. wealthy and in great shape. I feel the “more ass than a toilet seat in a sorority” metaphor creeping up on me.

        • Born to Ride

          Ha! I was hoping someone would get the reference! (not the obvious Trump one…)

  • Bruce Allen

    I’ve been submitting these to The Editor a little early of late, which explains how I was able to miss both Hayden’s sitting in for Pedrosa AND Karel Abraham buying Yonny Hernandez’ seat on the Aspar team. More about that on Sunday, I hope.

  • Vrooom

    Is Marquez a great rider, yes. Still hate him for running interference for Lorenzo last year, always will, along with everyone I know, though he does have a large legion of fans in the general populace. I think Vinales is going to have a good weekend, top 4. Nicky needs a top 10 finish to really feel good about this opportunity. I’m guessing Dovi rounds out the top 5, though counting out Pedrosa may not be wise. If it’s wet my fantasy racing team is screwed!

    • Old MOron

      Pedrosa?

      • Vrooom

        Yeah, while Pedrosa has been known to come back from broken collarbones in a week, I realized he’d have no bike to ride. Just a joke.

        • Old MOron

          Cheers for a sense of humor.

    • Born to Ride

      Uh, who’s bike do you think Nicky is riding? Pedrosa is having repairs made to his adamantium skeleton and can’t make it.

      • Bruce Allen

        Adamantium. Outstanding.

        • Born to Ride

          I’m glad you’re amused Bruce. You’ve been making me chuckle for years now.

          • Bruce Allen

            Does this mean I can use you as a reference on my next job application? “Right, well, here’s the deal. Dude calls himself Born to Ride, has a Disqus handle, whatever. But he will attest to my objectivity, my discretion, and my core belief of telling the truth when it suits my needs.”

          • Born to Ride

            You know where to find me haha.

  • JMDonald

    It may already be decided but it is still MotoGP. I look forward to the next race with enthusiasm. Umbrella girls and motorcycles will sustain me during the hard times ahead.

  • Ian Parkes

    I’ve only just watched Motegi so I’m late to the party but I said it at the start of the season – when I thought they might get better – those front Michelins seemed dodgy, and to me, they still do.
    Marquez, by dint of being an Alien in a tranche of his own, can just spider himself upright again whenever his give up, but it still surprises me how guys who can read tyres like Ray Charles reads a keyboard still get blindsided by their front tyres.
    Another commenter airily dismissed all of the front end practice crashes back then as numbnuts trying too hard to stay with the fast guys, but last race two of the very best succumbed.
    I imagine Yamaha will have had a bit of a chat to Michelin, who may be quietly relieved the wild and windy weather at Phillip Island will bring other factors into play. The grim forecast is also a tiny consolation to me after having to ditch my own plan to pop over from NZ to watch it this year.

    • Starmag

      I’m trying really hard to feel sorry for you but I can’t manage it since you live on one of the most scenic and beautiful places on earth. Sorry, it’s the jealousy talking.

      1600 miles is “popping next door” ?

      • Ozzy Mick

        Across the pond…

    • Ozzy Mick

      You in NZ? That explains why u were late to the party :)

  • Ian Parkes

    A south-westerly would be even colder.

  • Old MOron

    Well, it was only the first practice session, but Petrux seems to have the wet race pace. Vale isn’t far off. Jorge may as well have stayed in bed. http://resources.motogp.com/files/results/2016/AUS/MotoGP/FP1/Analysis.pdf

    • Old MOron

      Well, the PM practice was useless, and Vale had his times canceled for using the extra soft tire too long. He may find himself in Q1 tomorrow.

  • Old MOron

    Interesting FP3. Maverick crashed in the pit lane. Both Bruise Brothers stuck in QP1. Miller looking brave. Nicky making a good showing. Am I the only MOron watching this stuff?

    • BDan75

      Nope. Looks crazy down there. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a good result from Nicky…that’d be cool.

      • Old MOron

        Nicky has done well in the wet. Now things look to be drying up. Fingers crossed.

    • Ozzy Mick

      Hiya mate, not watching as it’s not on free-to-air. I guess you’ve checked out the motogp website showing the grid for tomorrow?
      1 93 Marc MARQUEZ SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda
      2 35 Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR LCR Honda Honda
      3 44 Pol ESPARGARO SPA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
      4 41 Aleix ESPARGARO SPA Team SUZUKI ECSTAR Suzuki
      5 43 Jack MILLER AUS Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda
      6 9 Danilo PETRUCCI ITA OCTO Pramac Yakhnich Ducati
      7 69 Nicky HAYDEN USA Repsol Honda Team Honda
      8 6 Stefan BRADL GER Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
      9 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Ducati Team Ducati
      10 8 Hector BARBERA SPA Ducati Team Ducati 332.7
      Notables: Marquez on pole, Crutchlow in 2nd, Miller in 5th, Hayden in 7th.
      All the aforementioned in with a chance for the top step! Go MILLER!
      No news from me mates, probably still hunting for dry ground to pitch their tents haha.
      Forecast for Sunday: Partly cloudy. Medium (50%) chance of showers in the east, slight (30%) chance elsewhere. Snow possible above 1000 metres. Winds south to southwesterly 20 to 30 km/h. Overnight temperatures falling to between 2 and 7 with daytime temperatures reaching between 11 and 15.

      • Old MOron

        Good to hear from you, Mick. Nicky has gone well in the wet, so I’ll hope for rain. I think that would suit Jack, Vale and Crutchlow, too.

        Looks like your pals are camping in cold, wet, and windy conditions. Doesn’t sound iike fun to me. Oh well, here’s hoping for a good race.

        • Ozzy Mick

          G’day Old MO, 20 minutes to go, 40% chance of rain but doesn’t look likely. Windy and cold (12 degrees C). Darryl Beatty on the pre-race hosting team has commented that the Yamahas are having trouble getting heat into their front tyres.
          Mates must be freezing their proverbials off…haha. I’m happy watching from the comforts of home.
          Nicky’s on screen right now, looks great, bike too, with Get well message to Dani.

    • Bruce Allen

      Eastern time zone difficult for Australia. I’m on it at 6 am.

      • Old MOron

        After all the races where I have to get up at 05:00, these far eastern jobs are perfect for Pacific time. Have fun catching up.

  • Old MOron

    Horrible crash in Moto 3. Haven’t seen any updates. Leads me to expect the worst. The commentators are acting like nothing happened. I suppose they’re doing their jobs, but it feels dishonest.

  • Old MOron

    Oh boy, can’t wait to read how Brucey writes this one up!