The premier class arrived in Australia and immediately went surfing on soaked asphalt, swaying against the wind and finding the balance in challenging conditions that looked nothing like what Sunday promises. Rain or shine, the sight of Marc Marquez heading straight to the top of the timesheets raises no eyebrows but this time the world champion did not get to keep the laurels. Compatriot Maverick Vinales snatched the honours for Yamaha and ended the morning over a tenth of a second faster than local favourite Jack Miller, who found some early motivation on home soil.
The intermediate class got a soggy start in Australia, riders perhaps not too keen to face the cold and the wind in addition to the rain but they put their head down and looked for the limit. Some found it too soon, fresh victor Luca Marini crashing out at turn two on his outlap and, tired to be outdone, Alex Marquez immediately followed suit at turn four. While the two rivals were getting their sessions back on track with varying levels of success, Nicolo Bulega claimed top position and no one got within eighth tenths of the Italian’s top time until well into the session.
From one seasonally misplaced track to another. Fresh from Motegi, which MotoGP visits at the tail end of typhoon season, the Grand Prix paddock heads south – a very long way south – to Phillip Island, on the south coast of Victoria in Australia, perched on the edge of the Bass Strait. It is a glorious location at the end of the antipodean summer, with good weather very nearly guaranteed. But unfortunately, MotoGP doesn't visit at the end of the antipodean summer in February or March.
Instead, MotoGP is condemned to brave the elements in October, when it is spring in the southern hemisphere. And all because the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, the company which runs the MotoGP round at Phillip Island, is also the promoter of the Australian Formula 1 race, held in Melbourne Park, pays a premium to host the first F1 race of the year.
With Melbourne just under two hours away, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation doesn't want to have its two biggest events too close together, to prevent fans from being forced to choose between the two races. And having paid to make the F1 race the first of the season, moving MotoGP to October is the obvious choice. An understandable choice too: the F1 race at Melbourne Park draws over 100,000 fans on race day. Race day at Phillip Island sees around 35,000 paying customers through the gates.
There was nothing fast and furious about that start of action down under, with strong wind blowing around big drops of rain just as the lightweight class was putting on gloves and attaching knee sliders. The challenging conditions brought Tony Arbolino to the fore, the young Italian consistently finding more speed than his rivals. By the time the worsening deluge halted further improvements, the VNE Snipers rider was one step ahead – worth seven tenths of a second.
Jules Cluzel was almost three quarters of a second quicker than everyone else, with Federico Caricasulo and Ayrton Badovini rounding out the provisional front row.
In conditions closer to expected race conditions, Chaz Davies set the w=quickest lap ahead of Jonathan Rea and Alvaro Bautista. Loris Baz was the only rider unable to improve on his earlier time.
Jules Cluzel, still mathematically in with a chance of beating fifth and sixth quickest Federico Caricasulo and Randy Krummenacher, set the quickest time ahead of fellow Frenchman Lucas Mahias.
Jonathan Rea was quickest in the opening session, ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu and four Yamahas led by Michael van der Mark.
KTM have finally found a solution to their rider line up problem for 2020. Today, the Austrian factory announced that they will be taking Brad Binder directly into the factory Red Bull KTM team, to race alongside Pol Espargaro, while they have signed Iker Lecuona to race in the Red Bull KTM Tech3 satellite squad opposite Miguel Oliveira.
This is something of a shake up to KTM's original plans, caused by the early departure of Johann Zarco. The Frenchman's decision to leave the Austrian factory at the end of 2019 (accelerated to after Misano by KTM's decision to drop him from Aragon onward) left them with a puzzle to solve.
With almost everyone with MotoGP experience tied up for 2020, and most Moto2 riders holding on for 2021, when the entire MotoGP grid is out of contract, finding a replacement for Zarco was almost impossible. They had already signed Brad Binder to the Tech3 satellite team, and had few options to choose from.
With Garrett Gerloff confirmed for 2020 at GRT Yamaha a goal of MotoAmerica has been achieved; to get a rider to WorldSBK. What next for Gerloff? The challenge only starts now.
The cat is out of the bag and Garrett Gerloff has finally been confirmed as moving to WorldSBK for 2020. The Texan will join the GRT Yamaha squad and arrives highly regarded as a two-time MotoAmerica Supersport champion.
What can be expected of him however? What will be the challenges that Gerloff will face as he comes across to Europe?
When Wayne Rainey became president of MotoAmerica he stated that his goal was to get young American riders back on the world stage. The triple world champion has made no secret of the fact that this is remains his objective. For a long time Cameron Beaubier was the man expected to make the jump, but the triple domestic champion has consistently turned down opportunities to move across and continue racing at home.
However, after two years of racing a Superbike in the domestic championship Rainey now feels the time was right for Gerloff to make the switch.
Chasing the dream