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AN APRILIA IN THE LEAD ON FRIDAY AT PHILLIP ISLAND
ALEIX ESPARGARÓ TURNS A FANTASTIC LAP AND RIDES HIS RS-GP AHEAD OF THE REST
As soon as he got off his RS-GP at the end of the first practice sessions on Phillip Island, Aleix Espargaró talked about a historic moment and, beyond his enthusiasm, this statement is not an exaggeration. It’s only Friday, but in MotoGP history, a bike from Noale has never flown so high. The Spanish rider finished the first day of the Australian GP in the lead, thanks to a fantastic lap in FP2 (1’29.225) and the final result once again confirms the significant progress of the Italian project.
For the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, this is a first and one to be proud of, but thoughts are already on tomorrow’s sessions and the race on Sunday. In fact, Aleix acknowledges the need to improve race pace, a fundamental element in a particularly long race (27 laps) and characterised by some bizarre weather to say the least.
Even today, the strong wind and varying temperatures were the protagonists of the day, causing difficulties for teams and riders, resulting in numerous crashes. The conditions had an impact on the weekend start for Sam Lowes who struggled to find the right confidence but finished the day on a positive trend. His improvement of almost two seconds between the two sessions is confirmation of this.
“It is just the first day, but we are clearly doing a great job. I am proud to be part of this project and I am sure that the guys in Noale will also be happy with the results we are achieving. To be honest, I did not expect it because this morning I didn’t have a good feeling. The track conditions are rather demanding, as they always are at Phillip Island, but in FP2 I was able to put a good lap together. We can improve on pace. The RS-GP still doesn’t turn the way I would like it to and I am lacking a bit of feeling on the front. Finding a good feeling for the race will be fundamental. Today we saw a lot of crashes and with the rain everything will be even harder.”
“A good day for the team. Aleix is doing a great job and I was also able to improve in the afternoon. It takes experience to interpret the conditions on this track. The strong wind shakes your confidence and as a rookie it isn’t easy. The high average speed on this track makes everything more complicated, but I finished the day on an upward trend. I didn’t make any mistakes and I am feeling confident for tomorrow’s sessions.”
Aprilia rider just tops the timesheets – with Marquez and Dovizioso within a tenth
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).
Third place for Andrea Dovizioso at the end of day 1 of Australian GP free practice at Phillip Island. Jorge Lorenzo ends the day in eleventh place
Andrea Dovizioso wrapped up the first day of free practice for the Australian Grand Prix, which will be held this weekend at the Phillip Island circuit, in third place. The Ducati Team’s Italian rider set his quickest time during the afternoon’s FP2 session, lapping in 1’29.322.
Eleventh place went to Jorge Lorenzo, the Spaniard setting his time of 1’29.820 in the second session and finishing up just over half-a-second behind the provisional pole mark.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 1’29.322 (3rd)
“I’m very pleased with the way we started off today, with a good pace, and it was important to begin the weekend in this way. Now we still have to work to improve a few aspects, because in any case Marquez was also very quick and there are other riders who have a good pace. Let’s see what sort of conditions we will encounter tomorrow, but for sure this was a positive first day for me at Phillip Island.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 1’29.820 (11th)
“Today wasn’t an easy day for me and we’re still some way off the quickest riders. I don’t have enough confidence in the front and, despite trying some different settings, we weren’t able to be fast enough. We’ve understood a number of things, but we still don’t have the right set-up so it will be vitally important now to find some solutions to make my bike more stable. We will see what the weather is like tomorrow morning and, if it’s dry, we will try and get directly into Q2.”
Phillip Island (Australia), 20th October 2017
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi enjoyed sunny conditions at the Phillip Island circuit today during the first free practice sessions of this weekend’s Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. The teammates worked diligently on their bikes’ settings and secured fifth and twelfth place respectively.
Fully committed to his goal to decrease the 30-point gap to the rider in second place in the championship standings, Viñales hit the ground running in the morning session. Despite a stiff breeze, he was soon on the pace and climbed up to second place before shifting his attention to his bike‘s set-up. The Spaniard ended the FP1 session in fifth place, with a 1’29.781s fastest lap and a 0.179s margin to first.
He continued his form in the dry afternoon session and it only took him a few laps to shoot up to second again in the provisional rankings. He planned on spending what was left of the 45-minute session testing various setting options, but had to slightly amend this strategy after a crash in turn 8, with 20 minutes to go. He was quickly up on his feet again and hurried to the box to rejoin the fray before the times started to drop in the final 15 minutes of the session. Back on the bike, Viñales put his head down, but was unable to improve on his time. His best result, a 1’29.423s on lap 7, kept him in fifth place in the FP2 and combined free practice timesheets, 0.198s from the front.
Keen on making the most of the dry session time on day one on Phillip Island, teammate Rossi also made a positive start to the Australian GP. Though riding with pain in his right shoulder, resulting from last week’s crash, he steadily upped his pace at the start of FP1. He briefly moved up inside the top-10, before he concerned himself with the set-up of his Yamaha. He set a 1’30.553s best lap as the session progressed and finished in 13th place, 0.951s from first.
The Doctor booked solid progress in the afternoon, quickly positioning his YZR-M1 inside the top-5. While he resumed his work, further fine-tuning the balance of his bike, the pace of the field increased. The Italian responded at the end of the session by dipping under the 1‘30 mark with a 1’29.977s. He bettered his morning time by more than half a second, but it wasn’t enough for him to secure a position inside the top-10 and he ended the first day in twelfth place in the FP2 and combined results, with a 0.752s-margin to the front-runner.
It was a completely different first day compared to last weekend, everything changed back to normal. The final results didn‘t fully reflect our true potential. It was a pity that Maverick crashed halfway through FP2, because I‘m quite sure that his placement could have been different. He showed good pace and confidence since FP1 and we think we still have room for improvement, even if in general he‘s already quite satisfied about the behaviour of the bike. Despite pain in his right shoulder, Valentino has been able to do two good practice sessions. It was unfortunate that they used the softer option with a setting that wasn‘t quite to Vale‘s liking, which prohibited him from exploiting the full potential of the tyre. We aim to continue today‘s comfortable groove tomorrow.
The day overall has been really good, honestly. Before the crash I was already coming up with red-helmet times in many sectors, but I was trying so hard I pushed the bike over the limit. We still have to improve, but the crash was, for sure, my mistake. I pushed in the outlap when the tyres were cold. I tried to do my best. Anyway, after the crash, I didn‘t feel as good as before, but I was booking many 1‘29s and was on the pace so that means we have a good base set-up and now we have to improve, especially in sector 4. The track is different from what it was like during the pre-season test, but it‘s not bad. It‘s cooler, but the track still provides good grip so that‘s good for us. Tomorrow we‘re going to try to improve even more, but I‘m quite happy how the bike was working here today.
The position, unfortunately, was quite bad. It was important to try and stay inside the top-10 today, because here on Phillip Island you never know what will happen tomorrow with the weather, but apart from that we worked a lot and the feeling with the bike is not bad. I tried another modification at the end with the softer tyre, which has better potential, but unfortunately I didn‘t like it a lot, especially in the fast corners, so for this reason I wasn‘t able to improve enough to stay inside the top-10. We have a lot to do, also the tyre choice front and rear is still open, so I hope for good conditions tomorrow.
CRUTCHLOW MAKES FAST START AT PHILLIP ISLAND
PRESS RELEASE: 20 October 2017 | Phillip Island GP Day One
Cal Crutchlow made an excellent start to proceedings at the Australian Grand Prix, setting the fourth fastest time on the first day of practice on Phillip Island – scene of his second grand prix victory one year ago.
The LCR Honda man was tenth fastest after the chilly morning practice, but had chosen not to run the softer rear tyre employed by many of his rivals. He then improved his lap time in the equally cool afternoon session by over a second, to sit a tenth outside of the best lap of the day. With mixed weather forecast for the rest of the weekend, Crutchlow is primed to take a run at the top spots in qualifying on Saturday.
Cal Crutchlow – 4th
(1’29.329 – lap 19 of 21)
“At the end of the day we are happy enough with our performance, but we still need to improve the setting of the bike overnight. I didn’t feel great with the tyre today, but on the last run we seemed to make a big jump and some decent improvement.
“I look forward to seeing what we can do tomorrow in qualifying and also on Sunday. As things stand I think it’s going to be a big battle, and I look forward to seeing how it all turns out.”
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller made a heroic return to MotoGP action today, with the Australian treating a windswept home crowd to two outstanding performances in practice at Phillip Island.
Back in action just three weeks after breaking his right leg in a training accident, Miller’s reward for going through an intensive rehabilitation was an electrifying start to his crucial home race.
A faultless lap of 1’29.724 placed Miller in a terrific third place in FP1 this morning, which was only 0.122s behind the best time set by current World Championship leader Marc Marquez.
Boosted by his confident ride this morning, and with no severe pain or lack of movement restricting him on his Honda RC213V machine, Miller capitalised on his strong start with an equally impressive ride in demanding conditions for this afternoon’s second 45-minute session.
Although ambient temperature for FP2 was slightly cooler than this morning, track temperature on the jaw-dropping 4.4km circuit was marginally warmer. Aware that cooler conditions and potentially wet conditions predicted for FP3 might prevent lap times being improved tomorrow when crucial places are at stake for Q2, Miller left nothing to chance and he fired in a lap of 1’29.466 to secure a richly deserved top six.
Today’s action took part in dry but windy and chilly conditions and Tito Rabat found it more complicated than he’d anticipated to establish a fast and constant rhythm.
The Spaniard didn’t let a rapid front-end tumble in the tricky downhill braking zone for turn 10 knock his confidence and Rabat was able to slash a full second off his best pace in the second session.
A personal best of 1’30.546 placed him 19th overall in a session that saw the top 21 split by just 1.5s.
Jack Miller: 6th – 1’29.466
“In terms of my physical condition I don’t feel too bad on the bike once the adrenaline kicks in. As you can imagine I’m still missing a bit of strength because at this track there are so many high-speed corners that it can be hard work to change direction. I don’t feel as quick in that area as normal but I’ve had good speed all day and been happy with my pace. Third this morning was a great early boost and I knew it was important to be fast again this afternoon because we don’t know if the lap times can be better in FP3, so one big goal today was to get into the top 10. I love this track and I love the atmosphere and it’s great to see so many fans coming out to support me.”
Tito Rabat: 19th – 1’30.546
“Today has not been the easiest start even if the pace this morning was very fast very quickly. I didn’t change tyres at all in FP1 and I was able to set a pace I felt comfortable at. I did a lot of laps as well in FP2 and if I didn’t crash at turn 10 I think we could say the day was positive. I’m only 1.3s from the best pace at the top and I feel I’m riding with a lot of problems. If we can make the bike easier to manage than I think we can be even more competitive for the rest of the weekend. I need to be able to turn the bike with a little bit more speed when I release the brake and pick up the throttle.”
Ramon Aurin: Jack Miller Chief Engineer
“We have to be very happy with Jack’s performance today. We were a little bit worried before we started this morning wondering how Jack’s leg would be on such a demanding circuit like Phillip Island. But right from the start in FP1 he felt good and we achieved our main mission to get into the top 10. It looks like tomorrow could be unpredictable with the weather, so it was very important to make sure we could try and get into Q2 this afternoon. Jack was strong on the medium rear tyre this morning and that’s a good sign for the race. He also made a good step with the soft rear tyre but it looks like the predicted rain will make it very difficult to set a faster lap time tomorrow, so we have to be very satisfied with how we approached the job today.”