The Australian MotoGP, held at what is arguably one of the best tracks on the planet, has been an event I've attended for over a decade now, and there is nothing on the calendar that I look forward to more. Yes, Formula 1 is undeniably impressive, representing the pinnacle of motorsport and oozing opulence. However, there is an authentic, raw beauty to Phillip Island and the experience of witnessing the pinnacle of motorbike racing.
The buzz of hardcore motorcycle fans descending upon the island is something to behold. These passionate enthusiasts have traveled far and wide, on two wheels and four, by sea and even by chopper. Many have taken a week off to make this journey. MotoGP at Phillip Island is as much about the journey as it is about the weekend at the track.
This year, it was Honda heavy for me, assisting with a variety of events for the brand, and I want to take you behind-the-scenes to see what life is like at the MotoGP circus.
Things kicked off with the Honda Champions Dinner. Renowned Australian motorsport commentator Greg Rust and I had the privilege of hosting this event at the Phillip Island winery. This was no ordinary dinner, each year, Honda assembles their top talent to speak on stage throughout the three-course meal. This year's lineup featured legends including five-time world champion Mick Doohan, two-time ASBK champion Troy Herfoss, Lucio Cicchinello of LCR Racing, the outgoing Alex Rins, Takaaki Nakagami, 2020 world champion Joan Mir and the much-discussed six-time MotoGP champ Marc Marquez, before his departure to Ducati. It was organised chaos, none of the riders arrived on time, so Rusty and I just rolled with the punches of not knowing which superstars would join us next on stage.
If you don't want to shell out $1900 for a MotoGP full weekend corporate suite, this event is where it's at. For around $250 it was full access to the riders – everyone got photos, everyone got autographs and everyone got dinner; win-win. And through our on stage chats, Rusty and I were able to bring out a different side to these superstars, discovering most of them had never eaten a meat pie – a situation that will need to change for next year.
We were all chomping at the bit to kick into gear for Saturday – sprint race day. For the first time, I was attending with Honda. For many manufacturers, MotoGP is the biggest event all year for their corporate suites. Months and months of planning and big dollars go into this weekend for brands and as a fan, this is the hottest ticket around. I was eager to see what Honda's set up looked like.
Firstly – parking. Close proximity parking is key at these kinda of events and that was a box ticked. I'd loaned a Porsche 718 Boxster to review (stay tuned for that) so of course it needed a bit of VIP parking love, it couldn't just be stuck in ye ole' GA.
Next key element is suite location, and this one was prime time. About 200m up from the start/finish line on Gardener Straight was the Honda suite with a nice al fresco moto viewing courtyard abundant with chairs and waiters to bring you food and beverages. Sounds terrible doesn't it! Upon arrival, you are gifted a generous goodie bag – a backpack with a Honda hat, belt with a built-in bottle opener, lanyard, keyring, and a handy multi tool in case of any bike-related trouble on the way home.
The Honda crew cloak any helmets and jackets while you rush over to secure your favourite posi for the weekend with race track view and in suite screen view.
Over at the Australian Grand Prix Corp suite I caught up with former world champions Wayne Gardner and Doohan, The Living Room's Miguel was cooking paella for the masses and race car driver, TV host and excellent human Grant Denyer was down in the paddock chatting to riders.
Michelin then took Grant and I behind the scenes to talk through the MotoGP tyres. Fascinating to learn that the asymmetrical compound front tyre is opposite to the back tyre, and they are specifically made for the Phillip Island circuit.
The countdown to the race was on and after much batting of eyelids, I wrangled a grid walk pass. The grid walk is incredibly special, you are so close to the riders you can see the sweat beading on their top lip. These are the fastest circuit racers in the world, the absolute creme de la creme, it is an honour to be a part of this energy and tension as the championship battle heads into overdrive. I think it's fairly safe to say, a Ducati might take the championship in 2023! But hey, it's MotoGP and crazy things happen in this sport, that's why we love it. Could a Cape Barren Goose take out Pecco?! You just never know.
Sunday was looking treacherous so the main race was swapped to Saturday and the sprint race landed on Sunday. This threw everything into chaos, especially when most of the big wigs were choppering in for Sunday. Saturday was bliss, the sun was shining, the weather was sweet and we were treated to an incredible race with Johann Zarco bringing home the bacon, his first MotoGP win. Aussie Jack Miller finished P7.
Sunday was a whole different story. Up to 80km/h winds were forecast, sideways rain and general doom and gloom – not ideal if you'd camped or rode. Boy o' boy did it deliver, I swear I saw pigs flying.
Luckily Moto3 was run and we watched Aussie pocket rocket and all-around good egg Joel Kelso take a podium on home soil. Moto2 called the race early because of conditions and the MotoGP sprint race was indeed cancelled. Due to the aero and wings on the motorcycles and the high winds at turn one and the southern loop it was too dangerous to ride. The bikes were on course to fly straight into the Bass coast. These terrible conditions did not stop me from raiding the bar and making my way through the catering while catching up with Troy Herfoss and his little girl. I'll be seeing both of them back at the Island this weekend for ASBK as Herf looks to clinch the title. Bring it on!
Disclosure: Kate Peck is a Honda motorcycle brand ambassador (but appreciates that quality knows no logo and loves all moto children).