Viñales stakes an early claim on victory Down Under

Viñales Stakes An Early Claim On Victory Down UnderThe 2018 winner puts himself in another postcode, Quartararo suffers a highside and Marquez is outside the top five as action opens in Australia.

Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) ruled Day 1 at the Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, fastest in the wet and dry to make it double trouble for his rivals. By the end of play the only man within half a second of the Spaniard was Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), although Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) was only hundredths off joining the bracket as the Briton took third.

In classic Phillip Island style, Friday saw a few different seasons hit the circuit and it started with a wintery, rainy FP1. Viñales made short work of that from home hero Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), and once the sun was back out in the afternoon the 2018 winner repeated the feat, this time from Dovizioso and Crutchlow, who were split by just five thousandths.

Behind Viñales, hundredths and thousandths were the deciding margins in a tight top eight. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) was just 0.002 behind Crutchlow, with local favourite Miller completing the top five after ending up 0.017 in further arrears. 0.077 was then the gap back to Marquez in P6, with the number 93 getting the better of Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) by just 0.015. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) made for close company in eighth as well, 0.036 off the ‘The Doctor’.

Missing someone? By the time you get to the latter half of the top ten of late, there’s a name that you expect to have read a while ago but it wasn’t to be for Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) on Friday. The French rookie was putting together a solid performance for much of FP1 but disaster struck towards the end of the session as he suffered a highside and then headed for the Medical Centre. He was declared fit but to be reviewed before FP3, although the number 20 was sidelined for FP2 after the medication he was given. His left foot is the affected area but the key good news was that he’s suffered no fractures in the crash. His teammate Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) flew the flag for the team on Friday, the Italian sixth in the wet and ninth overall after laptimes plummeted in the dry.

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) completed the top ten after a solid outing for the Noale factory, the last man within a second of Viñales (and within half a second of everyone else). Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was 11th ahead of an impressive push from Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing) in P12, with Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) in 13th.

Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) finished the day in 14th despite a crash, just 0.015 ahead of the returning Johann Zarco (LCR Honda Idemitsu). The Frenchman acquitted himself well on first contact with his machine for the next three races; 13th in FP1 in the wet and the second Honda behind, as could be expected, Marquez, but he did get the better of Crutchlow by hundredths and Lorenzo by a few tenths. In FP2 in the dry, the number 5 put it in 15th and only a second and a half off the top. Lorenzo was in hot pursuit in P16.

KTM had a solid start to the weekend in the wet as Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was ninth in FP1, just ahead of Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) by an apt 0.088. But the dry saw the Austrian factory slip down the order a little and they’ll be looking for more on Saturday. Espargaro also suffered a big crash on Day 1, rider ok.

For the premier class, Saturday begins at 10:50 (GMT +11), before qualifying from 15:05 to decide the grid for the Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. Will the rain return? Tune in to find out.

Friday’s fastest:
1 – Maverick Viñales (SPA – Yamaha) 1’28.824
2 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA – Ducati) +0.496
3 – Cal Crutchlow* (GBR – Honda) +0.501
4 – Danilo Petrucci (ITA – Ducati) +0.503
5 – Jack Miller* (AUS – Ducati) +0.520

*Independent Team rider

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