Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro has topped the timesheets on day one of MotoGP practice at Phillip Island, putting in his fastest lap on the soft rear Michelin early in the second session while evaluating the tyre’s performance over a longer distance.
Espargaro, Maverick Vinales and Andrea Dovizioso were lapping line astern on their first runs and all equipped with the softest-option rear hoop. Espargaro found a tow from Alvaro Bautista as the trio came on to the Gardner Straight and the slipstream pulled him to a 1’29.225 on his fifth lap of 15.
A majority of the front men all put in an early stint on the soft rear before making alterations. Reigning champion Marc Marquez did exactly that but came out for his final run with a hard front Michelin insteaad of the medium he used early on added to Honda’s aero fairing and grabbed second place with his penultimate lap of 1’29.230.
However, his pace with the soft rear saw eight laps out of 16 in the 1’29s bracket, compared to Espargaro’s two while Andrea Dovizioso in third place on a 1’29.322 managed four. Britain’s Cal Crutchlow stuck to the medium rear for his first two runs but switched to the soft for his third and put in a 1’29.329 for fourth place late on.
Vinales bounced back from a fast crash at the Hayshed - losing the front on an out-lap – to set the fifth best time with a medium front/soft rear combination. The Movistar Yamaha man’s best was a 1’29.423 but showed similar pace to Marquez with seven laps in the 1’29s.
Hometown hero Jack Miller - whose leg is still broken from a trials accident three weeks ago - ended in sixth place and less than a quarter of a second off the pace while Andrea Iannone was one place behind on the Ecstar Suzuki.
Johann Zarco’s late run of laps saw him jump from 15th to inside the top ten - important as track temperatures will be cold in the morning - with Dani Pedrosa is close attendance. Pol Espargaro completed the top ten with a 1’29.760.
Both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi just missed the top ten but the Yamaha man spent much of his session on the medium rear while Karel Abraham slid into the top 15 with his best of 1’29.987. Bradley Smith was inside the top ten until the final minutes when he was pushed to 14th. Scott Redding was 15th.
Sam Lowes ended in 20th with Broc Parkes in 23rd on the Monster Yamaha.