Sandro Cortese was the surprise pacesetter in first practice for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, upstaging champion-elect Nicolas Terol. The Spaniard could become the 125cc World Champion this weekend if results favour him and he started brightly on a sunny morning in Melbourne, going fastest at the halfway point in the session.
By the end of his second run, the series leader had a one-second advantage over the rest of the field but Cortese set about reducing the gap, eventually bringing it down to 0.305s. Terol found another quarter of a second with five minutes to go but Bankia Aspar teammate Hector Faubel usurped the pair of them, clocking a 1:39.132.
Terol responded immediately by going two tents quicker but Cortese discovered even more time as the track conditions constantly improved, setting a 1:38.805 to top the session, just over half a second shy of last year's pole position time.
Terol and Faubel followed him closely in second and third respectively while Johann Zarco finished half a second back in fourth. The Frenchman ended his agonizing wait for a Grand Prix victory in Japan two weeks ago and started this session strongly, leading the opening 15 minutes. Although he slipped back, Zarco will be hopeful of making Terol wait another week at least for his crowning moment.
Maverick Vinales all but matched the Derbi in fifth ahead of Adrian Martin on the third Aspar Aprilia and Alberto Moncayo for AndalucÃa Banca Civica. Danny Kent was an impressive eighth, outpacing teammate Jonas Folger in ninth while Efren Vazquez rounded out the top ten.
Like Kent, all the other British riders made encouraging starts to the weekend. Danny Webb clocked the 12th fastest time for Mahindra, just under two seconds off the pace, while Harry Stafford and Taylor Mackenzie finished 18th and 22nd respectively as they got their first taste of Phillip Island.
As is often the case in 125cc racing, a number of riders have been granted wildcard entry for this weekend, giving them experience at the highest level. One rookie to catch the eye is 19 year old female rider Avalon Biddle, a regular in the New Zealand national championship. Biddle made a quiet start this morning though, finishing 35th in the running order.