Phillip Island, Australia
Nicky Hayden, the 2006 MotoGP champion and current World Superbike rider, finished FP4 at the top of the timesheet when a fortuitous downpour ended the dry qualifying on slicks just after the American set a fast lap. World Champion Marc Marquez finished second 3.2-seconds behind. But the Spaniard might have been the real winner. His 1'40.031 on full wet tires after a rainstorm interrupted practice, was nearly a second faster than next quickest rider, Aleix Espargaro.
SUNDAY UPDATE: Two riders were docked starting positions late Saturday so the grid has been reshuffled. Fabio Quartararo was remanded to the rear of the grid after race direction found illegal software in the KTM's ECU. He will start at the back of the grid and every rider -- except pole-sitter Brad Binder -- will move forward one position. And Francesco Bagnaia will be docked three grid positions at the start of the race, bumping him from 9th to 12th and moving three riders forward. The qualifying chart (below) has been changed to reflect Quartararo's demotion. Bagnaia, who was found to have caused Nocolo Bulega's qualifying crash, will be docked on the starting grid and so remains in 9th until the race start.
The weather continues to dominate the timesheets at Phillip Island, with rain coming and going throughout the final session of free practice for the Moto3 class. The rain finally held off at the end of practice, times dropping by tenths of a second with every lap.
The weather played a major role in the third session of free practice for MotoGP, much as it had on Friday. The session was extended to a full hour because the rain had led to Friday's FP2 session being red flagged and then canceled, but the alternating wet and dry and the chase for a spot in Q2 turned almost the entire FP3 session into a frantic rush to set a fast lap. That meant there were big winners, and big losers.
The weather gods are looking on Phillip Island with a little bit less disdain on Saturday morning, the Moto3 FP3 session starting on a wet track, but under a dry sky. It would not quite remain fully dry all session - spots of rain started to fall in the final minutes - but track conditions were good enough to provide consistent improvements.
Though I am not one to blow my own trumpet, my Phillip Island preview turned out to be prophetic. (Of course, it helped that my prediction was written just a few hours before the start of practice in Australia.) The Southern Ocean imposed its will on the Australian Grand Prix, and heavy rain and strong winds hampered morning practice, then caused the afternoon practice to be called off.
All three classes used their sessions in the morning, and the Moto3 class set off boldly for FP2, despite worsening conditions. They battled through to an increasingly damp finish, but the rain intensified, postponing MotoGP FP2 for some 40 minutes. Eventually, the session was given the green light, but only a few riders went out to attempt a few laps. After thirteen minutes, Race Direction decided it was too dangerous. FP2 was red-flagged, and all action canceled for the rest of the day.
The poor weather made most of the day's action meaningless, but it also had an upside. Hector Barbera finished the red-flagged FP2 session as fastest, while Mike Jones, his replacement in the Avintia team ending in second. Whatever the circumstances of the session, that goes down in the record books forever. Just as Josh Hayes timed his fast lap in morning warm up at Valencia in 2011 to perfection, and ended up quickest, Mike Jones can say he was second fastest in a MotoGP practice.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after a miserable day of practice at Australia, including the press release on the sanction imposed on Valentino Rossi:
Marquez fourth and Hayden ninth in rainy first day at Phillip Island.
Marc Marquez set the fourth-best lap time at a rainy, windswept Phillip Island Circuit on the opening day of the Australian Grand Prix. Conditions had been harsh enough during the FP1 session and became even worse in the afternoon, so the FP2 session was delayed to 3:45 p.m. from the original schedule of 3:05.