It was reigning MotoGP™ World Champion Jorge Lorenzo who locked out both Friday practice sessions at Phillip Island ahead of the Tissot Australian Grand Prix. The Yamaha Factory Racing rider led Marc Marquez and Alvaro Bautista, while championship leader Marquez escaped an afternoon crash at Lukey Heights.
Lap records were expected to tumble at Phillip Island this year, with a new surface having been laid since the 2012 race. Enjoying the bright conditions, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo duly posted a 1’28.961, with Repsol Honda Team’s Marquez second while GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Bautista went third overall but second in the afternoon session. This dropped Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa to fourth position, having stopped his bike on the exit of the Southern Loop towards the end of the second period, as his rear engine-mounting bolt had come loose. Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi – off the podium at Phillip Island on only three occasions since he debuted in the World Championship – completed the top five.
Marquez was fortunate to avoid injury during second practice, as the 20-year-old – who could become World Champion this weekend – crashed at the top of Lukey Heights. Having escaped any injury, the Spaniard was back out on-track less than 20 minutes later. The same could not be said for LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl; having fractured an ankle at Sepang last Saturday, the German was allowed to take part in opening practice but finished almost four seconds off the pace and was later declared unfit. He hopes to return in Japan next weekend.
Monster Yamaha Tech3 occupied positions six and seven on the timesheets, with Cal Crutchlow half a second quicker than Bradley Smith as the latter made his first premier class appearance at Phillip Island. The top ten was rounded out by leading CRT runner Randy de Puniet for Power Electronics Aspar plus Ducati Team duo Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso, with the 2006 World Champion having now been confirmed as joining Aspar for the next two MotoGP™ campaigns.
Ignite Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez suffered a fall in the morning, while Avintia Blusens’ Hector Barbera was last to encounter a slip-up as he crashed on the exit of Lukey Heights barely five minutes before the day’s MotoGP™ action came to a close. Australians Bryan Staring and Damian Cudlin ended proceedings in 21st and 24th places on their CRT bikes, run by Gresini and PBM respectively.
The majority of riders were using the softer option front and rear tyres for both of the day’s sessions, however Bridgestone has since stated that due to the abrasive nature of the new tarmac, riders should race with the harder compound. This does not rule out using the softer rear for qualifying tomorrow. Both front options remain open throughout.
Fresh from his domination of the Sepang weekend, Tuenti HP 40’s Tito Rabat topped both Friday practice sessions as the Moto2™ action began for the Tissot Australian Grand Prix. He and teammate Pol Espargaro both finished inside the top three, with championship leader and rival Scott Redding between them and in second position.
Throughout the field, there was a real mixture between those whose fastest lap times had come in the morning session and those who delivered their best efforts during the afternoon. In the case of Rabat, it was his morning lap time of 1’33.157 that could not be bettered later on, as the Spaniard once again found the sweet spot and continued to top every session of the on-going triple-header. Also making the most of Phillip Island’s new surface, Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team) and Espargaro were one tenth of a second down on Rabat, promising a tight qualifying session on Saturday.
Jordi Torres and Alex de Angelis were next up for the Aspar Team Moto2 and NGM Mobile Forward Racing outfits, with positions six to eight being occupied by Technomag carXpert’s Dominique Aegerter, Dynavolt Intact GP’s Sandro Cortese and Came IodaRacing Project’s Johann Zarco. Having also posted their personal bests in the first session, ninth and tenth-placed riders Tom Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Racing) and Mika Kallio (Marc VDS) confirmed that six of the top ten had posted their personal best lap times in the first of the two Friday practice periods.
It was a bruising day for Marcel Schrotter, who crashed his Maptaq SAG Zelos Team bike not once, but twice, although the first impact had been the heaviest as the German ran off at Siberia. Teammate Xavier Simeon also suffered an accident, while Espargaro parked his bike at the end of the morning session. In the afternoon, Danny Kent joined the list of fallers when he lost control of his Tech 3 machine.
Teams will be told to run a minimum rear tyre pressure of 1.3bar tomorrow after teams and riders voiced concerns about both the new, and old spec Dunlop tyres that were available for the sessions today. It was decided to carry on with the new spec, run in FP1, though with a minimum tyre pressure to ensure they last race distance.
Maverick Viñales went quickest as Moto3™ practice continued at Phillip Island on Friday afternoon. The Team Calvo rider posted a new record for the resurfaced Australian circuit, joined inside the top three by Jonas Folger and Zulfahmi Khairuddin.
Enjoying the new asphalt at Phillip Island, Viñales – who sits third in the standings behind Luis Salom and Alex Rins – set the pace with a 1’38.198 lap. The times were extremely close, with Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Folger second from Red Bull KTM Ajo pair Khairuddin and championship leader Salom, with the leading quartet covered by only 37 thousandths of a second over the distance of 4.4 kilometres.
Niccolo Antonelli ended the day fifth for GO&FUN Gresini Moto3, from Mahindra Racing’s Miguel Oliveira and Estrella Galicia 0,0’s aforementioned Rins, who was forced to take evasive action at the end of the session after Avant Tecno’s Niklas Ajo (tenth position) lost control and fell on the racing line. On the timesheets, filling the gaps between Rins and Ajo were Isaac Viñales and Brad Binder, respectively eighth and ninth for their individual Ongetta-Centro Seta and Ambrogio Racing squads.
A number of riders would hit trouble across the first two sessions, such as wildcard Lachlan Kavney who was twice seen pulling his stranded Bullet Racing machine to safety. RW Racing GP’s Jasper Iwema suffered a crash in the afternoon, going down at the MG hairpin, whereas following a sizeable accident Redox RW Racing GP’s Jakub Kornfeil was taken to the Medical Centre with hip pains. Fastest man Viñales did not escape trouble, either, as he crashed at Doohan Corner during the morning period.
- "I really wanted to do it" - Lorenzo on no wildcards in 2020
- Carlo Ubbiali: a career in photos
- MotoGP™ Legend Carlo Ubbiali passes away
- MotoGP™ riders prepped for more Catalunya action
- VR46 Academy back on track together at Misano
- “I didn't think he was Rossi level good”
- Motul Grand Prix of Japan cancelled
- Bendsneyder comes out on top in a British Moto2™ battle