Yamaha stars Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo joined a chorus of riders predicting record breaking speeds in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
Lorenzo opened the bidding with time in Friday’s free practice that was already under the race lap record held by Nicky Hayden.
Lorenzo topped the time sheets ahead of Honda rival Marc Marquez, who was second fastest despite a harmless highside tumble in the afternoon session.
The other record that is set to tumble is Casey Stoner’s pole position qualifying mark of 1m 28.665. Even in practice, Lorenzo was just 0.29s away from this benchmark.
The oceanside Phillip Island circuit has undergone a $3 million facelift since last year’s race with Rossi saying that the smoothness and grip of the new track surface is worth “at least one per lap.”
Lorenzo had no doubt that the elimination of many bumps, especially those in the high speed turn one sweeper, contributed to faster lap times.
“It is all about the surface, because without the new asphalt I would probably be one second slower,” Lorenzo said.
“This is why I was close to Casey’s record today. The grip is a little bit better but the difference is it is smoother with much less bumps. It has improved by 95 percent but it is just in Turn 6 there is still a big bump but apart from this it is much better.
“It is much more fun to ride here and it is a pleasure. Before with the wind and the bumps it was very difficult.”
Although title contender Marquez was also enthusiastic about the track upgrade, he suffered a setback with a crash in the second session.
Marquez needs to outscore Lorenzo by seven points on Sunday to be assured of the title, but increasingly, Lorenzo is backing his claim that he will relinquish the crown without a fight.
Just two laps into the afternoon session, Marquez crashed and was forced to switch to his back-up Honda on which he was less comfortable because of a different setup.
“The geometry (of the second bike) was completely different and we didn’t have time to change again,” he said. “But tomorrow we’ll try to get that feeling we had in the morning.
“With the crash I opened the gas in the same place but when I tried to open a little bit more the rear slid out so aggressive, which normally doesn’t happen, but maybe I opened the throttle a little too much.
“Now I know I cannot open more gas in that corner.”
Marquez is closing in on becoming the youngest ever rookie to win the MotoGP World Championship and he has admitted that depending on how the race unfolds he will assess the risks and may ride for points in championship.
With a 43-point lead over Lorenzo with only three races remaining, only an embarrassing error can rob Marquez of a place in the MotoGP record books.