The key factors that usual reveal themselves in Australia may not be the case this weekend, as Phil Marron explains to WorldSBK commentator Steve English
The final round of the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship season sees the paddock return to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round. The Australian venue is a favourite for everyone in the paddock. The sun and seaside vibe makes it a superb traditional curtain-raiser for the Championship but this year there’s a new challenge to deal with, cooler temperatures and the threat of rain. As our MotoGP™ colleagues know, Phillip Island can throw four seasons in a day during the Australian spring and now for Round 12, that’s exactly what WorldSBK will have to deal with!
HANDLING IS KEY: natural turning and different brake discs for Australia
Last time we visited the picturesque venue, it was for the season opener in 2020 when COVID-19 was an unknown variable. Nobody in the paddock knew just how much things would change over the next three years and the same could be said for Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK). The Turkish star was making his debut with Yamaha that weekend and he surprised everyone by winning Race 1. So much has changed since then but with a Toprak hat-trick last weekend in Indonesia at Mandalika, it was a good reminder of the transformation that he has undergone since then too.
Phil Marron, crew chief to the Pata Yamaha rider, gave us his thoughts about the 4.4km circuit and the challenges teams will face this weekend: “For Phillip Island, we've only been here once in 2020 with Yamaha,” said the Irishman. “It was Toprak's first round with the bike, but it went well for us. At this track, you need a bike which has a bit of natural turning and that can turn when you're on the gas. It’s such a fast, flowing track that you need to change the bike for here. We’ll try and keep the front a little bit lower and make the rear a little higher to help this.
“Even though it’s about a bike that can handle well, you also need a bike that can stop in the slower corners. They’re not aggressive, hard braking zones but at Miller Corner and Turn 10, you have to be able to get it stopped well. We'll try and use the smaller brake disc here, the 336mm compared to the 338.5mm, because we want to reduce the gyroscopic effect of using the higher mass brake disc which will help make the bike easier to turn in the high-speed corners.”
TYRE TALK: how to manage the rubber, and the possibility of wet races
Traditionally, the biggest challenge at Phillip Island is managing the sky-high summer track temperatures. With a chilly wind and low ambient temperatures, that won’t be an issue this weekend, but Marron still expects that managing the tyre correctly will be a big factor in deciding the outcome in the races.
“The track temperature will be quite a bit cooler than we're used to having here this weekend! That should mean that the rear tyre has an easier time this weekend with the SC1 rear tyre. It might mean that the rear tyre is less stressed this year, especially on the left side. The hardest corners on the left side are Stoner Corner, Siberia and the last sector. The tyre is stressed a lot because those are long corners that put a lot of temperature into that side. We'll probably have some wet sessions this weekend so that'll be interesting to see how the wet tyre reacts, as we don't have a lot of experience in the wet.”
#1 PLATE LOST FOR 2022: time to win it back in 2023…
Having handed over the title to Ducati and Alvaro Bautista last weekend Yamaha will go into the final round of the season focusing on ending their season and trying to win races. The winter is always a time for self-assessment and trying to come back stronger the following year. For Marron and Razgatlioglu, it’s clear that they’ll be aiming to get back on top next year.
“Congratulations to Alvaro and Ducati because they were so strong and consistent this year. We had a few too many non-scores this season and that was after taking a little too long to get going. It's hard not to be happy with how Toprak is riding and how the team are performing so we'll be giving it another go next year!”
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