To compensate for having their second Free Practice session at Phillip Island cancelled ahead of the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, the Moto2 class were given an extended Free Practice 3 session on the morning of day two in Australia in an attempt to make up for lost time.
Moto2 Free Practice 2 cancelled
Race Direction had no choice but to abandon the rest of the days’ proceedings as they initially delayed the start of the MotoGP Free Practice 2 session and then were forced to red-flag and cancel the remainder as the rain continued to fall heavily; there was a lot of standing water on the track.
A revised schedule was put in place extending the session by 15 minutes and the Moto2 class immediately made their way out on track. Dynavolt Intact GP rider Jonas Folger was the man to beat out of the lap times they were able to complete during Free Practice 1 and within minutes riders had already matched the time.
Schrotter went top before a heavy shower hit again
The track would have been in the best condition for them as AGR Team rider Marcel Schrotter made his way to the top of the leaderboard with a time of 1:42.210 within the first quarter of the hour long session, however it began to rain heavily forcing everyone to return to the pits as visibility was very limited and there was a lot of water on track with more falling.
Riders return to a wet track after the shower
With just over 34 minutes of the session remaining it was wildcard rider Ramdan Rosli (Petronas AHM Malaysia) who made his way out on to the track first. He was soon followed by Moto2 championship leader Johann Zarco (AGR Team) who is looking to extend his 21 point championship lead, gained in Motegi when he finished second, over Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40). Many more riders soon decided to join them on track with only a select few remaining in the pits.
Rain continued to fall on one sector of the track
With just eight minutes of the session remaining, rain was falling in one sector meaning that some riders were put of returning to the track with it being a Free Practice session. But for those who braved it, they were able to complete some quick lap times on the drying track. Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) has a red first sector indicator on his timing screen with just four minutes remaining. His lap was almost completely spoiled by Simone Corsi (Forward Racing) on his out-lap.
Marquez had to settle for second as the interruption meant he only completed a personal best in the final sector, it was still 0.2 seconds quicker than Schrotter who retaliated with a fast time taking the lead when he improved by half a second on pole position. Along came Axel Pons (AGR Team) who improved a further 0.183 seconds on Schrotter.
The battle for the top spot continued
Marquez continued though and reducing Pons’ time by a further 0.921 seconds he regained the top spot. However Garage Plus Interwetten rider Thomas Luthi soon stole that from him, but not for long as championship leader Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) set a time of 1:39.965 improving Luthi’s time by 1.7 seconds as the track continued to dry.
Zarco fastest at the end of the Final Practice session
It was not over there though as the drama continued to unfold towards the end of the session. Both Schrotter and Axel Pons were on flying laps in the closing stages and Schrotter crossed the line before Pons claiming pols before the Spaniard took it back. Marquez then lapped quicker than the two of them holding the top spot briefly before Zarco ended the session with a lap of 1:38.206.His time remained fastest ahead of Pons and Luthi who were the only other riders able to lap under 1:39 minutes.
Marquez was fourth quickest at the end of the practice session ahead of Schrotter and Corsi in sixth, Cortese was seventh ahead of Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia), Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team), who suffered a last minute crash at the end of the and Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) who completed the top 10. A last minute crash from Simon saw him and the bike slide down the pit lane entrance; he appeared unhurt.
Moto2 classs feared rain that was meant to fall during the previous session
It was initially feared that more rain would hit during the final Qualifying session for the MotoGP class; however it held off and chances are it would hit during the Moto2 Qualifying session instead. It remained dry in time for the start which meant the riders were able to push as they experienced a dry track for the first time so far over the weekend. Luthi initially went to the top of the timesheet.
Lowes crashes out of beginning of Qualifying
British Federal Oil Gresini Racing rider Sam Lowes crashed after five minutes of Qualifying at turn four of the circuit; he went into the turn wide sliding the rear, missed the apex and slid off into the dirt. He got restarted and was able to return to the track on the restarted bike. Moments late Robin Mulhauser (CarXpert Interwetten) crashed at turn 12 of the circuit, a much faster turn than the hairpin Lowes came off at.
Zarco crashes out
Morbidelli briefly claimed the top spot on his Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex before Luthi took it back, and again lapped quicker on his next lap. Then Zarco crashed out at turn 10, at the top of the hill. His front end tucked as he went through the left hander and he slid out, the bike slid down the hill and Zarco was soon up to his feet and ran after it. He picked it up and got it going again which meant he was soon returned to the pits.
Marquez tops the timesheets
After 10 minutes Alex Marquez went to the top of the timesheets, trying to build on his brother Marc’s success after the Repsol Honda had just secured the MotoGP pole ahead of the Australian GP. Simone Corsi took to the top spot moments later on his Speed Up Racing 600cc Honda; this was right before he binned it at turn four of the circuit.
The front tucked as he approached the right hander. He slid into the mud and the bike catapulted destroying itself in the process. It was likely that it was session over for the Italian as the 600cc class only have one bike available.
Nakagami on form again
Takaaki Nakagami, (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) more than deserves a race win after the performances he has put in so far this season. After moving up to second, he was on track to take pole on his next lap before Axel Pons more than got in his way forcing him out really wide and destroying his quick lap. He claimed the top spot on his next lap though, stealing it from Folger who had just achieved it before him.
Lowes crashed again with less than 30 minutes to go at a right-handed corner. He did what he could to hold on to the handlebars, keeping the clutch in and trying to keep the throttle open but he had to let go. He was so disappointed shaking his fists in anger before the Marshals assisted him in returning to the pits to have his bike fixed for the second time during the session.
Nakagami crashes out
Unfortunately for Nakagami he then crashed out. Sliding into the previous corner, the back end spun at turn five throwing him up in the air initially making him head-butt the bike, he was reluctant to let go of his bike and was then run over it as they ended up on the grass beside the track. Nakagami stayed down as he was in pain with his right arm/shoulder… was it all over for the Malaysian?
More crashes follow
Technomag Interwetten youngster Iker Lecuano, who is replacing Dominque Aegerter who was sacked by the team when he signed a new contract with Leopard Racing, crashed out at turn four. He slid down the run off area after locking the rear tyre on the white line. As the Marshals were assisting him a Leopard bike ran on wide possibly distracted with the movement at the corner.
Moments later Luthi crashed out at turn four; they were definitely determined to keep the Marshals busy on that corner. Edgar Pons (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) then crashed out of turn eight, the fast turn of the circuit and it took some time to get the bike restarted. All riders fortunately seemed unhurt.
Underdog Raffin takes shock provisional pole
Jesko Raffin (Sports-Millions-EWME-SAG) extraordinarily went quickest with just over 17 minutes remaining; knocking Nakagami down to second in the process. His team sat in the pits laughing in shock as the 20 year old was set to take pole ahead of his 35th race start. His success was short-lived however as Morbidelli was on a flying lap and improved by 0.051 seconds slower. But it did not last long as Luthi had recovered from his crash and his time of 1:34.398 put him back in pole position.
Syharin crashes after distraction from Marquez
With under 15 minutes to go, Syahrin was following Alex Marquez who was sliding into turn four, it looked like Marquez was going to bin it, but he was able to rescue the rear from the slide. Instead Syahrin, who may have been distracted by what had just occurred in front of him, meant he dumped it at turn four behind him instead. He was able to get going again as he was unhurt, with the Marshals’ assistance.
Remy Gardner (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) was the latest to crash with less than four minutes to go as the local lad came off at turn nine of the circuit. Moments later, Morbidelli who was continuing with his set of flying laps, slid off at turn 10. The front tucked at the bottom of the hill and he and the bike slammed down, he banged his shoulder and head on the ground before both he and the bike slid onto the grass.
Second crash for the championship leader
Zarco crashed again at turn two as the front tucked early on the way in to the turn. He slid out and by the time the bike got to the grass run-off area, the tyres started to grip, lifted it up and threw it over causing excess damage and ending the session early for the championship leader. Fortunately Zarco was unhurt. Then Alessandro Nocco, who is replacing injured Miguel Oliveira at Leopard Racing, crashed at turn four; the two slid along the grass as the front tucked on the right hander.
Raffin reclaims the top spot
Meanwhile, at the front, again, Raffin of all people went back to the top of the timesheet. His lap of 1:34.217 was the time to beat as riders made their way to the pits for one last stop before their final surge. Was the outsider able to pull it off?
Just six minutes remained when Cortese went to the top of the timesheet taking pole from Raffin; who witnessed it from the pits. Cortese confirmed his pole position challenge with a consecutive faster lap as Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) joined the front runners moving up to fourth. Vierge then lost a place to Folger who slotted in to fourth, but Vierge’s pace continued and he was displaying two red sectors and a personal best third sector in his next bid for pole position. His efforts got him up to third behind Raffin, with less than three minutes remaining.
Lowes returns from second crash on flying form
Lowes was back out on track in time for the end of the session and immediately returned to flying form, Luthi went top with the first lap of the weekend from the Moto2 class under 1:34 minutes with a time of 1:33.992. Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) slotted in in second behind him and then Lowes went to third on his last lap.
There were some more incidents at the end of the Moto2 Qualifying session as Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) ran out of fuel at the end of the session as he broke down and had to retire; he had to push his bike back to the pits. Luca Marini (Forward Team) was also seen doing the same as he had to also turn his bike and wheel it down the pits.
Marquez taken to the medical centre
At the very end, Simon and Marquez were involved in an incident at turn seven. Simon was able to get up to his feet and walk away with his helmet looking pretty battered in his hand as it was covered in mud and missing the visor. Marquez however was taken to the medical centre where he was checked out by the track medics as a precaution.
Luthi on pole for the Australian Moto2 race in Phillip Island sponsored by Michelin
Luthi ended up as the fastest man on track, his lap time, the only one under 1:34 minutes, was well off the official Circuit Record lap set by Alex De Angelis in 2013, and Tito Rabat who completed the best ever lap in 2014) understandably in the conditions, but was enough to secure him his third pole position of the season. He is joined on the front row by Pasini and Lowes.
Cortese leads the second row in fourth ahead of Raffin and Folger, Vierge is seventh as the fastest Tech 3 rider, and leads the third row where he is joined by Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) and Morbidelli. Zarco starts from 10th on the grid ahead of Schrotter and Nakagami ; who did not return to the session, but if fit will start from 12th on the grid.
Corsi is 13th ahead of Marquez and Simon who were involved in the crash at the end, Rins who needs to close the gap in the championship between him and leader Zarco will start from 16th ahead of Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemistsu Honda Team Asia) and Marini who completes the sixth row.
Axel Pons will start from down in 19th ahead of Syahrin and Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing). British rider Danny Kent (Leopard Racing) is in 22nd ahead of Gardner, Edgar Pons and Lecuona in 25th. Isaac Vinales (Tech 3 Racing), Malaysian wildcard Ramdan Rosli (Petronas AHM Malaysia), Mulhauser and Nocco complete the grid.