Close company: Aleix Espargaro heads Marquez & Dovizioso on Day 1

2017-10-20 08:51
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) went quickest on Day 1 of the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, mastering Phillip Island in FP2 to head the timesheets ahead of reigning Champion and points leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) – but not by much. It was only 0.005 seconds splitting the two men, with Marquez’ key title rival Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in third and still within a tenth. The top on Day 1 was anything but lonely.

Weather on Day 1 was sunny and fair but with some wind giving pause for thought, and the forecast for Saturday remains a worry for some – with temperatures looking set to fall. That made for some good squabbling for position, with a real chance that FP1 and FP2 combined timesheets may decide direct entry to Q2 should FP3 not give the field a chance to improve their times.

Behind the top three, last year’s winner at the Island Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) was fourth fastest after moving up the timesheets in FP2 to get in the mix at the front, ahead of Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). Viñales, who topped testing at the venue in preseason, also suffered a crash in the afternoon as he slid off at Turn 8 – rider ok.

Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) impressed in the morning and again in the afternoon as he rides at home and only three weeks after breaking his leg in a training accident. The rider from Townsville put his Honda in sixth, and was a fitting 0.043 off Viñales ahead of him. Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was another who enjoyed a notable Friday, with the Italian’s P4 at Motegi giving him a boost and Day 1 of the Australian GP seeing the former podium finisher at the venue put himself in seventh.

Johann Zarco (Monster Yamah Tech 3) had a solid start to the Australian GP in eighth, with the Frenchman gunning for the Rookie of the Year title and, with the absence of teammate Jonas Folger, needing only a top six finish to complete the task on Sunday. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) was ninth quickest, and was back nearer the front following a tough Japanese GP.

The next three names on the timesheets made some headlines, as Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) went a tenth quicker in the afternoon to take P10, leaving both Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) in eleventh and twelfth respectively. That could be a hurdle for the two multiple-time World Champions as the weather remains in doubt for Saturday, when automatic graduation to Q2 will be finalised.

Karel Abraham (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) improved on his final run to take P13, with Bradley Smith taking the second KTM into fourteenth and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) just 0.039 off the Brit’s best time.

Now it's all eyes on the sky for Saturday, as qualifying gets ready to rip up the Island from 15:10 local time (GMT +11).
Friday feeling: Nakagami demolishes the field

Unstoppable: once in the groove, Nakagami couldn't be caught
Japanese rider six tenths ahead of his rivals after Day 1 Down Under
Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was fastest in FP1 at Phillip Island and repeated the feat in the afternoon session, in a class of his own and over half a second clear. Second place belonged to Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) despite a crash in FP2 for the Italian veteran, with Swiss rider Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) completing the top three on the Suter.

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) made it three chassis in the top five as he kept the KTM a frontrunner, with Championship leader Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) rounding out the top five with his laptime from FP1 despite a run off. Rookie of the Year Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) took sixth and shaved half a second off his previous best in the afternoon, ahead of Motegi winner Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS).

Championship challenger Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) had a day of ups and downs as he crashed in FP2 and failed to improve his pace, with his FP1 best putting him in P8. Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP 40) ended Day 1 in P9, with Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) completing the top ten despite a crash.

Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team) was eleventh quickest and suffered a quick crash at Turn 1 – rider ok – with Jesko Raffin (Garage Plus Interwetten) taking twelfth as he once again shines at the Island. Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) was P13, with Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) ending Friday in fourteenth after having suffered a highside in FP1; rider ok. Locking out the fastest fifteen on Friday was reigning Moto3™ World Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who won at the venue last year in the lightweight class.

Next up is qualifying, with the Championship gap only 19 points and both Morbidelli and Lüthi doubtless looking for more on Day 2.
Mir stakes his claim on the win on Day 1

Target acquired: 55 points clear, Mir began the Australian GP ahead of the pack
Championship leader flies to the top in FP2 to set himself up for a final push for the crown at Phillip Island
Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) struck back in the afternoon on Day 1 of the Australian GP to go fastest in FP2 and fastest overall, taking over from the morning’s fastest man Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46). The Championship leader was just over two tenths clear of nearest challenger Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), with Bo Bendnseyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) taking third after leading FP2 for some time.

Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Racing Team) showed his raw pace once again in P4 overall, ahead of Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) – with Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) completing the top six. Fenati had a fast crash in FP1 – rider ok – and was outside the top twenty for some time before leaping up the timesheets towards the end of the day.

Juanfran Guevara (RBA BOE Racing Team) made it both RBA machines in the top ten, edging Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) by only 0.003. Bulega took P9 by the end of play, with the top ten completed by Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate).

First time podium finisher at Motegi Marco Bezzecchi (CIP), Jules Danilo (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers), Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) – so close to the podium last season – and Manuel Pagliani (CIP) locked out the fifteen fastest on Friday.

Conditions were dry and largely sunny at Phillip Island on Day 1, but the wind was a factor for the field – especially in the lightweight class. Saturday the weather could be more unstable, with Moto3™ qualifying at 13:35 local time (GMT +11).


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