A revised schedule had been put in place for the MotoGP class at Phillip Island, on day two of the Australian GP meeting, to make up for time lost due to the terrible conditions on track the previous day as huge amounts of rain had fell leaving a lot of standing water and conditions extra risky.
Rain halted proceedings on day one
Free Practice 2 for the MotoGP class, was originally delayed as they waited for the rain to pass, when it eased off slightly they were able to get the session underway but then they were forced to red-flag the session and abandon the rest of the day’s proceedings.
Instead, the Moto3 FP3 session kicked off an hour earlier than originally scheduled to allow both the MotoGP class, and the Moto2 class who only completed one very wet session on day one, to have extra time on track.
Crutchlow quickest on day one as Rossi had all his laps cancelled
Cal Crutchlow was the man to beat from day one as he lapped quickest on his LCR Honda. Both he and Movistar Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi were the only riders able to lap within the 1:47 minutes, however, Rossi had been running the Super-soft Michelin Full Wet tyre and had complete more than 10 laps which resulted in all of his lap times being cancelled.
Rossi confirmed that he had completed nine laps on track which allowed him to complete a strong lap, however Race Direction counted the Italian’s ‘out’ and ‘in’ lap during the session which took him to 11; more than what was recommended after the incident in Argentina where the rear tyre delaminated on Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati).
Substitutions to look out for
In Phillip Island, Hector Barbera (Avintia Ducati) will be again stepping in for injured Ducati Team rider Andrea Iannone on the Desmosedici GP16, and in turn Australian Superbike rider Mike Jones is again replacing Barbera at Avintia Ducati on the GP15.
Nicky Hayden, former MotoGP champion and current World Superbike rider is standing in for Dani Pedrosa who suffered a broken collar-bone and fractured fibula after a huge high-side in Free Practice 2 at the Twin Ring Motegi. Pedrosa had to undergo surgery on his collarbone, missed the Japanese GP and will miss the Australian GP.
Rain fell prior to the session
Prior to their session starting, it had rained during the Moto3 FP3 and again began to fall on certain corners towards the end of the session. When the MotoGP Free Practice 3 session started the riders made their way out on track to immediately attempt to recover lost time from day one. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) the newly crowned 2016 MotoGP Champion, decided to return to the pits after one lap to change from wets to intermediate tyres.
After a little battle had took place on wets, with Crutchlow again setting the fastest time out of the group of five that briefly took the top spot, Marquez soon improved by over four seconds and began to lap within the 1:33 minutes. He had made what could have been a very important tyre choice which may have led to him getting much needed experience on a track they are not necessarily familiar with as the forecast still does not look good for race-day as showers are expected in the morning.
Marquez switches to Michelin Intermediates
As the track continued to dry in sections, but ran continued to fall in others, Marquez remained on top as the other riders who had switched to the Michelin Power Slicks were unable to improve further. They were all forced to retire to the pits again as the rain got slightly heavier which was too much for the slick tyres.
Mistakes from the Team Suzuki Ecstar boys
Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) almost came together as Aleix had a little wobble as he accelerated out of the last corner, losing time and nearly came into contact with the side of Miller on the start-finish straight.
There was another mishap for the Suzuki team as a very frustrated Maverick Vinales was returning to the pits and was banging the tank in frustration because of something. He was looking to the left of him when he touched the white line at the left hand corner on the entrance to the pits and ran into a muddy puddle at the side and fell off. He had to walk his bike the rest of the way.
Three different crashes within moments
Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was the first rider to get caught out as the rain fell heavier with less than 38 minutes remaining. He was able to recover his bike and return to the pits when moments later his teammate Alvaro Bautista crashed at the fast turn one and then rookie Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) crashed at turn eight. The Spaniard spun on his back through the gravel and ending up on the grass slightly dazed. All were able to get back to their feet however on Bradl got his bike going again.
Bizarrely though, further round the track, it was not raining and the track was dry. It was difficult conditions that can catch out even the best riders in the world. There were many riders in the top 10 that are usually the ones who end up in Qualifying 1 forcing some of the factory riders down into the second half of the table; if conditions were to worsen then it was surely going to be an interesting first Qualifying session.
Midway through and riders retreated to the pits
With half an hour to go the only man on track was Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) but he was soon joined by Bautista, Rabat, Vinales who returned from their crashes, along with Loris Baz (Avintia Ducati). Local rider Miller, who was in second half way through the session, also joined them. The sun was shining down pit lane and it lured more riders out onto the track. It was crazy how much and how quickly conditions were changing on the island.
Intermediates appeared to be the favourite tyre choice, again it was likely that they may be caught out with a damp and dry track on race-day so time spent on them tyres could prove nothing less than educational as they collected data on them.
Changes at the top of the leaderboard before the rain starts again
With less than 23 minutes remaining of the session, Pol Espargaro jumped into the top 10 on his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, slotting into third on the leaderboard. Then Miller completed the best lap time so far of 1:33.280 which took him to the top spot. A few moments later, Marquez was again able to reclaim the top spot with a time of 1:33.155 right as a shower hit the track forcing them to retreat to the pits.
After less than five minutes, Baz was the first to return to the track on wet tyres to complete some time on track in these sort of conditions. An empty track ahead of him was a great opportunity to collect some data. However he seemed reluctant to push as he bailed on the entry to a right-handed corner choosing to run off track and remain upright rather than risk the turn on his ‘out-lap’.
Movistar Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo and Hayden soon decided to join him with just over five minutes remaining. They were both probably out there with the attention of wanting to gain experience on a wet Phillip Island should it be like this on track day.
Marquez leads the way at the end of Free Practice 3
Marquez was the quickest at the end of Free Practice 3 ahead of Miller and Aleix Espargaro who joined them in the top three. His brother Pol Espargaro was fourth quickest ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Redding as the second fastest Ducati ahead of Bradl in seventh; his best FP3 result so far this season. Hayden remained in eighth despite his last venture out on track and along with Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) and Barbera they completed the top 10.
Vinales was just outside the top 10 in 11th ahead of Rossi in 12th. Irishman Eugene Laverty (Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati) was 13th ahead of Bautista and Crutchlow who was 15th despite being quickest at the end of day one of Free Practice. Injured Bradley Smith (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) was 16th ahead of Yonny Hernandez (Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati) who recently announced he will be joining the AGR Team in the Moto2 class next year. Replacing Barbera at Avintia Ducati temporarily, Jones was 18th ahead of Baz, Rabat and Lorenzo who was the slowest rider on track in 21st.