Aleix Espargaro sprung a surprise in free practice ahead of the Australian Grand Prix by topping the timesheets on Friday at Phillip Island. The Aprilia rider outpaced championship rivals Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso in this afternoon’s second session, leaving him well placed to reach Q2 with Saturday’s running likely to be rain-affected.
Marquez had shown impressive consistency during the morning session, lapping in the 1:29s bracket with apparent ease, but a sensational early effort in FP2 saw him knocked off the top by Espargaro. The Aprilia man used a timely slipstream from the Ducati of Dovizioso to clock a 1:29.225, finding most of his time in the run to the finish line, and edging out Marquez by five thousandths of a second.
Despite having a modest record around Phillip Island, Dovizioso was competitive in both sessions on his way to third spot while 2016 winner Cal Crutchlow rose to fourth in the dying seconds, all-but securing his place in Q2. Maverick Vinales also looks likely to compete in the pole position shootout but the Movistar Yamaha rider endured a tough afternoon, crashing at the high-speed turn eight before returning on his number two bike to finish fifth.
Home favourite Jack Miller produced one of the performances of the day, finishing sixth fastest just three weeks after suffering a broken leg on an enduro bike. The Marc VDS rider was second to Marquez in FP1 and although he dropped four places in the second session, Miller remains just two tenths off the outright pace. Andrea Iannone’s recent upturn in fortunes continued with seventh place, just ahead of Johann Zarco and Dani Pedrosa with KTM’s Pol Espargaro completing the top ten.
As a result, the two big names outside the top ten are Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi and if Saturday’s forecast proves correct, the pair may be forced to go through Q1 for the second Australian GP running.
2017 Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix – Friday Practice
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