One thing we know about the Moto3™ race at this week's Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix – it'll be close. In two of the past three years for the smallest World Championship class at Phillip Island, less than one second has separated the top five finishers in the tightest racing you'll see all weekend.
Of the field of 30-plus riders who'll tackle 23 laps of Phillip Island on Sunday, none have been on top Down Under.
So who might spray the victory champagne in the lightweight class at the Island? Here's a fast five from what the form guide tells us.
The Spaniard was the third-place finisher here a year ago after starting from pole, and has been this year's Moto3™ pace-setter ever since he won the season's first round in Qatar in March. He's finished in all three starts in Australia, has another top-10 finish to his credit, and has been the man to catch on Saturdays this year too, with nine pole positions.
This time a year ago, the 19-year-old Italian wouldn’t have come close to consideration for an Australian race win, despite running in the leading group at the Island before crashing on Lap 6. He finished 23rd in last year's world championship on a Mahindra with 20 points, but has won two races and taken eight podiums on a KTM to emerge as Martin's biggest barrier to the title. Last year was his first visit to the Island; expectations will be greater this time around.
Fabio Di Giannantonio
The rider who somehow doesn’t have the longest name in the Moto3™ championship (that would be Nakarin Atiratphuvapat) was the beneficiary of Bastianini's blunder in Thailand, taking his second victory of the season after winning in the World Championship for the first time at Brno in August. Like Bezzecchi, 'Diggia's' Island outing a year ago started brightly and faded fast, as he too crashed from the front pack, on Lap 5.
'The Beast' can be imposing when he's on song, and the Honda man sits fourth in the world championship so far. He was fifth here last year which marked a victory of sorts; it was the first time the 20-year-old had seen the chequered flag at the Island. Speed isn't the issue for the Italian, but finishing races can be; Bastianini has had six DNF's in 14 starts this season. If he stays on, he should be near the front.
Lorenzo Dalla Porta
Bastianini's teammate won his maiden Grand Prix this year at Misano, has two other podiums to his credit, and took fastest lap in Austria. The 21-year-old Italian is on a run of four top-10 finishes in five races heading into this weekend's race at Motegi, and, sitting sixth in the standings after never finishing higher than 25th overall in three previous seasons.