At Phillip Island
The Fiat Yamaha Team head for the ante-penultimate instalment of this year's MotoGP World Championship in Australia this weekend in the knowledge that the title has slipped from their grasp but with the clear focus of race wins and improved performance
from the YZR-M1 machine to come over the last three rounds.
Whilst the long-term target of the team has switched to a stronger challenge for honours in 2008, there is still the important matter of three race victories and the runner-up spot in the championship up for grabs over the next month.
It was largely with this in mind that Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards put in a day of testing following the last round at Motegi, with the pair completing valuable tyre work alongside Michelin and Rossi getting the chance to try two new prototype chassis.
The breathtaking scenery of Phillip Island will certainly put the bike and riders to the sternest of tests, with its sweeping and flowing nature making for the ultimate challenge of machine control and throttle accuracy, not to mention the sheer bravery required from the rider. The track's exposed location on the cliffs facing the Bass Strait means that weather is a constant focal point, as proved to be the case last season, when intermittent rain saw the flag-to-flag rule employed properly for the first time in MotoGP.
Whilst Rossi and Edwards suffered mixed fortunes in the ensuing tyre gamble - the Italian finishing on the podium but the Texan crashing out of a race won by Marco Melandri - both riders boast an impressive record at the Australian venue. Rossi had taken MotoGP victory there for the previous five straight seasons, adding to two earlier successes in the 250cc class, whilst Edwards built up a strong record during his World Superbike career, finishing on the podium on no fewer than eight occasions, including a win in 2001.
Fiat Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio is looking forward to the trip 'Down Under', with the pressure of a World Championship battle now lifted, albeit regrettably. Despite the team's disappointment at finally conceding the title to Casey Stoner at Motegi, Brivio says that his staff remain as determined as ever to take the remaining silverware on offer this season.
"The championship is decided but we would still like to keep second place and I think it will be an interesting end to the season for us because we have nothing to lose", commented Brivio. "Hopefully we will see some close racing and we will certainly be going out to enjoy ourselves and to win.
The motivation to win races remains just as strong regardless of the situation in the championship so this will not be a problem for our riders.”
"Phillip Island holds fond memories for us because it is where Valentino won his first title for Yamaha and also we have a lot of Australians in our team so it would be nice to give them something to celebrate. I suppose Casey Stoner will be looking to party there and Chris Vermeulen will also be strong - in fact, the track suits a lot of riders so I think it could be a close battle right to the end. Last year it rained but this time we are closer to spring so hopefully we will have better weather and an enjoyable weekend."