Valentino Rossi qualified second for the second consecutive race at Phillip Island today, sealing his eleventh front-row start of the season at a track that has seen him top the podium seven times in his career. The Fiat Yamaha Team rider will share the front row with Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner, promising an exciting battle between the top three riders in the championship for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix. Rossi's team-mate Colin Edwards meanwhile had a less successful qualifying session, setting the eleventh fastest lap, which will put him in the middle of the fourth row on tomorrow's grid.
Following a day of changeable weather yesterday, this morning saw Rossi and Edwards sixth and tenth respectively in similar conditions, with the track starting out fully wet but drying quickly throughout the session to produce some faster times in the latter stages.
Ducati Marlboro Team riders Casey Stoner and Loris Capirossi will start tomorrow's Australian GP from the first and second rows of the grid following a thrilling qualifying session at Phillip Island this afternoon. Both men took their turn at the top during qualifying, Stoner ending up third, six tenths off pole, and Capirossi fifth quickest, a further 0.274 seconds back. This will be Stoner's tenth front-row start of the season so far.
The recently crowned World Champion - who today received a letter of congratulations and good wishes from Australian Prime Minister John Howard - isn't concerned that he's not on pole because his pace on race tyres has been devastatingly quick here and Phillip Island is a fast, open circuit where overtaking isn't an issue for fast, brave riders.
The second day of the GMC Australian Grand Prix finished with qualifying practice this afternoon, which saw Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet claim a second row start and Anthony West, 10th spot on the grid for tomorrow's race.
De Puniet completed 25 laps in qualifying and succeeded in running a staggering 1'30.713 lap on race tyres: bearing in mind Casey Stoner's leading lap, on combined times, of all three earlier practices was 1'31.132, this bodes very well for the 26-year-old Frenchman.
He put in his best lap on the first of his three Bridgestone qualifying tyres, with a time of 1'30.110, putting him on the second row behind Nicky Hayden and Loris Capirossi and just 0.909 seconds behind pole sitter, Dani Pedrosa. He had hoped for an even better position but, as always, it's the race that counts and de Puniet's feeling justifiably confident. At the last round at Motegi, in Japan, he enjoyed the taste of success on the second step of the podium and will be hoping for more of the same in Australia tomorrow.
Rizla Suzuki's Cal Crutchlow was fifth, just 2/10ths of a second away from the fastest rider in today's practice sessions for the final round of the 2008 British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch Indy circuit in Kent.
He tried both his Rizla Suzuki race bikes and made minor changes to suspension and gearing in the dry afternoon session after a damp morning. "I need to marry the best bits of both my bikes," enthused Crutchlow. "One bike has a stronger engine, the other is better on corner entry. If we combine the best aspects of both, then I can cut my times significantly.
"I am within a whisker of the fastest rider and really upbeat for this weekend. I want the podium so bad I can taste it."
Phillip Island greeted the MotoGP paddock with a full spectrum of unstable conditions today, as the weather switched back and forth between heavy rain and bright sunshine. Temperatures remained cool throughout the day thanks to a cold wind off the Bass Straight and it was a delicate day of set-up work for the Fiat Yamaha Team. Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards, both sporting a one-off red and white livery on their M1s inspired by Fiat's famous 'Abarth' racing brand, finished the day fourth and 15th in the combined standings.
After an extremely wet start to the day a dry line had begun to appear by the start of MotoGP practice, although it began to rain heavily again in the last twenty minutes of the session. Rossi made a good start to the day and finished the first session third, with Edwards in 11th. This afternoon's practice was a much brighter and more stable affair weather-wise, save a few spots of rain mid-way through, and the riders had the chance to start working towards an effective race setting to suit the high-speed nature of the track.
Dramatically fluctuating weather conditions marked the start of the Australian Grand Prix today as MotoGP returned to Phillip Island for the 16th round of the world championship.
The first practice session, held after a prolonged morning downpour, saw the riders head out on to the 4.45km track with Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet and Anthony West showing early promise ahead of Sunday's 27 lap race. Both were soon featuring at or near the top of the time sheets before the heavens opened again, prompting virtually the whole field to return to the pits to sit out the worst of it.
The afternoon session was run on a dry track and de Puniet took his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR to fifth fastest on combined times by the end of the hour, fractionally behind Valentino Rossi with a gap between them of a mere 0.062 seconds. The 26-year-old Frenchman's time was also within a second of the day's leading rider, newly-crowned world champion, Casey Stoner.
Rick Johnson and Sebastien Tortelli have joined forces with KTM to serve as rider coaches for the KTM Factory Junior SX/MX Team as well as the MDK KTM Factory Racing and MDK KTM Lites Teams.
After witnessing the success that ten-time World Motocross Champion Stefan Everts has had after he began coaching KTM's European teams, KTM's Director of Racing, Kurt Nicoll, decided to follow that lead by bringing Johnson and Tortelli aboard. "I feel Johnson and Tortelli have the knowledge and ability to share their skills with these riders in a way that will benefit them at this point in their racing program, but more importantly, throughout the rest of their pro career," stated Nicoll.
Rizla Suzuki racer Cal Crutchlow has a final chance to record a first and much sought after podium finish in his maiden Superbike season when the British Championship visits Brands Hatch in Kent for the 2008 finale this Sunday.
'I have been getting ever closer to the podium since August'; explained Cal, 21, from Coventry. 'I am so close to tasting champagne that it is all that I think about; I want it and think it would be a fitting finish to my first Superbike season.
'My Rizla Suzuki GSX-R1000 is in excellent shape and has hardly altered for the last few rounds, we have hit upon a setting that works and that has given me great confidence. Rizla Suzuki and my technical crew deserve a podium and I will be giving it my all to achieve it for them.'
The new 2008 Kawasaki KLX 300R is one of the first bigger engine motorcycle official on sale in Thailand. The Kawasaki KLX 300R offers a compact, quick-turning package that's well-suited to tight trails or long days exploring off the beaten-path. With a tractable engine and comfortable chassis, the KLX300R is the ideal partner for off-road adventures. Thanks to a liquid-cooled four-stroke engine, perimeter frame and plush suspension, this Kawasaki gives off-road riders the balance of power and handling they desire.
Designed to be ultra-compact, the Kawasaki KLX300R's liquid-cooled ultra-compact 292cc 4-stroke single cylinder engine features dual overhead cams activating four valves atop an Electro-fusion-coated aluminum cylinder, this incredibly hard cylinder coating which is highly-resistant to wear and provides superior heat transfer with less weight. The cylinder head has 4-valve's which provide maximum possible valve area for optimum intake and exhaust flow. For the intake Kawasaki uses a 34mm Semi-flat Slide CVK carburetor.
Suzuki dominated the Supercross Masters event at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Queensland with Team Shift Motul Suzuki rising star Lawson Bopping winning the Pro Lites class while Troy Carroll piloted his RM-Z450 to victory in the Pro Open class and Suzuki hero Daryl Hurley capping off the night with a Pro Open podium finish.
After a difficult start to the evening, which included a crash in his qualifying heats, Bopping was lucky to make it into the 12-lap Pro Lites Final, but from the moment the gates dropped he was in a league of his own.
Bopping took the holeshot and charged away from the field on the Team Shift Motul Suzuki RM-Z250 and remained unchallenged to the chequered flag.