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.
With the Paddock Pass Podcasters spread across the globe, the latest episode comes with a skeleton crew. MotoMatters.com's David Emmett is joined by our photographer Scott Jones of Photo.GP. Scott is in Thailand, having just returned from his first visit to Motegi.
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.
Press releases from the Moto2 teams after a rain-hit first day of practice in Australia:
Downpour Down Under takes centre stage at Phillip Island
Rain, low temperatures and wind affect first day of free practice at Phillip Island for Brad Binder and Bo Bendsneyder.
10/21/2016 - Phillip Island Circuit, Australia
The rain that limited Moto3's second practice worsened and forced the cancellation of both MotoGP's and Moto2's FP2. The weather -- heavy rains, windy and cold -- is expected to improve slightly for Saturday's practice and qualifying sessions. As it stands now, Cal Crutchlow, Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller are the top qualifying times based on FP1. Race direction will post a revised Saturday schedule so check back with motomatters.com for updates.
John McPhee finished first in a soaking FP2 at Phllip Island on Friday after torrential rain arrived and never left during the session. McPhee's 1'54.692 put him half a second better than Tatsuki Suzuki at the Austrailian track but still left him five seconds slower than Nicolo Bulega's 1'49 during a slightly drier FP1. Wet weather specialist Khairul Pawi -- rainy-day winner in Argentina and Germany -- rounded out the top three.
The Moto2 FP1 session started wet and the weather only got worse, the rain falling more heavily as the session went on, and the wind picking up into the bargain. The last third of the session saw riders only sporadically take to the track. Those that did risked falling: Franco Morbidelli wrote off his Estrella Galicia MarcVDS Kalex completely, while Luca Marini fell in the final seconds after his rear wheel started aquaplaning in standing water.
Miserable circumstances which got worse towards the end of the session saw the MotoGP riders start in the rain and put in a full wet session. The weather was so poor that several riders chose to limit their laps: Bradley Smith protected his injured knee by only going out at the end to test out his injury, and Jorge Lorenzo only did limited laps in the wet, and did not appear to push, ending the session in 20th.
The Phillip Island weekend kicked off with terrible weather, rain falling heavily and the wind starting to pick up. The weather made riders cautious, and the number of fallers proved them right to do so. Enea Bastianini was one of the more prominent fallers, and Brad Binder rode a bucking Red Bull KTM to make the save of the weekend so far.
The weather gave rookies the chance to shine. Nicolo Bulega ended the session as fastest, with a comfortable lead over Niccolo Antonelli. Aron Canet ended in third, ahead of Gabri Rodrigo and Andrea Migno.
If you needed to find a time and place to organize a MotoGP race, then Phillip Island in October is among the worst combinations in the world. A track located on the edge of the freezing Southern Ocean, with nothing between it and the South Pole but the brief blip of Tasmania. Held while the southern winter still has a firm grip on the track, wracking it with blasts of icy wind and soaking it in freezing rain. And yet it is the best race on the calendar.
The answer is simple. Phillip Island is arguably the purest motorcycle racing circuit in the world. Like all great circuits, it follows the lines dictated to it by the landscape. The track ebbs and flows, dips and rises its way around the rolling hills which sit atop the cliffs overlooking the Bass Strait. It is fast, the second fastest track on the calendar, but unlike the Red Bull Ring, which knocked it off top spot, its speed is all in the corners, brutally fast turns which require courage, balance, and bike feel in equal measure. It is above all a test of the rider, rather than machinery.
That makes Phillip Island beloved of every rider on the grid. The love of the place is nigh on unanimous, up there with Mugello, and the uncastrated part of Assen. It encapsulates the reason motorcycle racers ride: a chance to surf the wave of inner terror, face it down, and overcome it. The flood of adrenaline that engulfs the senses, knowing that you are teetering on the brink of disaster, and if you step over, it is going to hurt. Controlling the bike, sensing its movement, riding the edge of the tires and the limits of adhesion. This is what it means to feel alive.
Press releases from most of the MotoGP teams and Michelin ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix:
2016 World Champion Marquez and Repsol Honda Team en route to Australia. Nicky Hayden to replace Pedrosa
Fresh from clinching the Riders’ Championship at Motegi with Marc Marquez, the Repsol Honda team has packed up in Japan and is headed to Australia for Round 16 of the World Championship.