Johann Zarco makes his return to MotoGP action, riding an LCR Honda. this weekend - while the weather is looking unpredictable.

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The MotoGP action continues at double pace with the second leg of the triple-header at the iconic Phillip Island for the Australian Grand Prix where Valentino Rossi is ready to celebrate an incredible 400th start.

Already leading the statistics for highest number of race starts, the 40-year-old will reach 400 not out on Sunday as he looks to bounce back from a nightmare outing on his 399th attempt when he crashed out while battling down in 11th place at the Japanese round.

Phillip Island is also a happy hunting ground for Yamaha with three wins from the last six editions of the Australian GP shared between Rossi (2014), Vinales (2018) and Jorge Lorenzo (2013). The fast and flowing nature of the track lends itself to the high cornering speeds of the M1 while the lack of heavy braking zones and long straights means it is shielded from the power advantage of the likes of Honda and Ducati.

While expectations will be on both factory Yamaha pair, the rider most in form on an M1 is Fabio Quartararo thanks to his trio of second place finishes across the last four rounds.

The French rider, who wrapped up the MotoGP top rookie honour at the last round, has been the only rider to consistently fight the 2019 world champion Marc Marquez and will be fancied as a front-runner equipped with his Petronas Yamaha this weekend.

Without discounting Quartararo’s team-mate Franco Morbidelli, who showed impressive pace in Japan before fading in the race to sixth place using a soft rear tyre, all four Yamaha riders should be forcing their way to the front in a bid for late-season glory.

hillip Island is synonymous with close racing thanks to its layout - partly for not suiting any manufacturer outright and partly for being one of the hardest tracks to master in terms of setup and riding style - while the unpredictable weather and tyre-killing track characteristics act as constant headaches to teams.

Given Marquez’s unwavering form this season and decent record at Phillip Island as a two-time winner in the top class (2015 and 2017), the newly-crowned champion cannot be discounted especially fress from four consecutive victories.

Suzuki, whose chassis strengths equipped with the inline four, also starred in Australia 12 months ago with Andrea Iannone taking second place and Alex Rins in fifth place.

Splitting the pair were factory Ducati duo Andrea Dovizioso – taking his first podium at Phillip Island since joining the Italian manufacturer – while Alvaro Bautista (standing in for the injured Jorge Lorenzo) claimed his best result of the season in fourth place.

The race is also being eyed-up by KTM who are confident recent developments with its RC16 will be evident having broken into the top 10 12 months ago, while Aprilia also cannot be discounted with Aleix Espargaro clinching his joint-second best result of the season with ninth place last year.

Given two of the three major MotoGP world titles have already been wrapped up, with only the teams’ championship to be decided, there’s very few championship points equations riders will need to contemplate in their race weekend plans meaning it should provide an all-out attack for glory.

All eyes will also be on one half of the LCR Honda garage as Johann Zarco makes his debut as stand-in for Takaaki Nakagami who has ended his 2019 campaign prematurely due to a shoulder injury which required surgery.

With Nakagami going under the knife this week, Zarco has a three-race job interview to save his MotoGP career having endured a nightmare with Red Bull KTM which came to an end after the San Marino MotoGP when the two parties officially split.

Having struggled to gel with the RC16 this year, the two-time Moto2 world champion will look to get to grips with the 2018-specificaiton Honda RC213V in double-quick time – not an easy feat across three race weekends with zero testing preparation – as the French rider looks to rediscover the stunning form he demonstrated with Tech3 on the Yamaha in 2017 and 2018.

Regardless of how he fares for LCR Honda over the next month, Zarco’s future is far from clear as he looks to have turned down the test rider opportunity at Yamaha for 2020 while Honda gives assurances to Jorge Lorenzo his place is safe at Repsol Honda for next season.



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