Pol Espargaro sent a message to championship leader Marc Marquez that he won’t give him a free run to the title this weekend by topping the Friday practice times at Phillip Island. The Pons rider led both sessions today while his compatriot had a tough time, with his bike failing to complete a timed lap in the morning.

While Pol was setting the pace this morning, getting down to a 1:34.795, Marquez and his CatalunyaCaixa Repsol team were struggling to make his Suter run. Marc took his machine out of the pits three times but made a swift return on each occasion with the issue later diagnosed as an electrical connector problem.

Marquez did make it out on track with a healthy motorcycle in the afternoon but Espargaro continued to set the pace. The 20 year old improved by another couple of tenths on his earlier benchmark to outpace Thomas Luthi and home favourite in the intermediate class, Anthony West.

Late ran in the second session ensured that many riders failed to better their morning times with Scott Redding among them. The Briton did set a time in the first session which was good enough for second though, with Luthi another rider to go slower in FP2 in second.

Mika Kallio ended the day in fourth ahead of West with Mike Di Meglio an excellent sixth and Marquez seventh after finally putting some laps together. Andrea Iannone was eighth, showing signs of a return to form, with Randy Krummenacher and Alex De Angelis, the only rider to win a Moto2 race here, completing the top ten.

Bradley Smith didn’t enjoy the best of days, finishing eighteenth, but Gino Rea kept up his form from Malaysia by breaking into the top twenty, showing the improvement in dry conditions he’d been looking for.