Moto2™ World Championship leader Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) has set the pace in a particularly dramatic FP1 session at the Animoca Brands Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. Fernandez set a 1:34.704 before rain flags began to be waved around Phillip Island and while Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) was able to go quicker in the final minute, his lap time of 1:34.505 would not count due to the presence of a yellow flag at Doohan Corner (Turn 1). The official top ten was Fernandez, Filip Salac (Gresini Racing Moto2™) on a 1:34.778, Dixon on a 1:34.840, Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) on a 1:34.970, and Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) on a 1:35.001. Bo Bendsneyder ( Pertamina Mandalika SAG team) was in sixth, Canet in 7th, Sam Lowes in eighth, Arenas in Ninth and Fermin Aldeguer completed the top ten. Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), who trails Fernandez by just 1.5 Championship points with three races to go, was 16th-fastest on a 1:35.876. A former Championship leader, Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) was classified just 25th after he crashed following contact when Alonso Lopez (Beta Tools Speed Up) rode down his inside at the ‘MG’ corner (Turn 10), an incident which stewards were set to investigate. Vietti’s teammate Niccolo Antonelli also had a spill, at Turn 4 in the latter minutes of the session, before Jeremy Alcoba’s (Liqui Moly Intact GP) crash at Doohan Corner (Turn 1) which brought about the red flag that cost Dixon his lap time. Then, right at the end, Sean Dylan Kelly (American Racing) crashed at MG, with his bike nearly collecting Marcel Schrötter’s (Liqui Moly Intact GP). Earlier, the session had been red-flagged within four minutes after a remarkable opening, which included separate offs at or coming out of Southern Loop (Turn 2) for Zonta van den Goorbergh (RW Racing GP), Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo), and Alessandro Zaccone (Gresini Racing Moto2™). Acosta looked to have been blown off the race track, a theory which was given greater credibility when Vietti had something similar nearly happen to him at Lukey Heights (Turn 9), but the reason for the stoppage was the dirt dragged back onto the track as a result of a spill for Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team) at the exit of Stoner Corner (Turn 3).
With the rain staying away in the afternoon, the Moto2™ field were able to get down to business straight away in FP2 and we saw some early changes at the summit. Lopez was the quickest rider in the early exchanges, his 1:34.324 saw the Spaniard climb to top spot by over two tenths from Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team), with FP1 table topper and World Championship leader Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) third despite improving his effort. Fernandez’s title rival Ogura was outside the top 10 in P11 heading into the closing stages of Friday’s running, the Japanese rider had gone quicker in FP2 but sat seventh tenths shy of Lopez’s rapid lap time. The final 10 minutes then came and the times started to properly tumble; Lopez set a 1:34.276, before Dixon dipped into the 1:33s to go over three tenths clear. Dixon then improved again to get down to a 1:33.767, and with four minutes to go, the number 96 was 0.509s quicker than anyone else. Aldeguer then cut that gap to 0.422s as Ogura was pushed outside the crucial top 14, and it would get worse for Ogura – he didn’t improve and eventually finished P17, with teammate Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) crashing at Turn 1. Thankfully, the Thai rider was back up on his feet but Chantra headed to the medical centre for a check-up.
The top 10 on Day 1
Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) jumped up into P4 towards the end of the session to sit ahead of fifth place Lowes, with Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40) acting as another late improver for P6. After leading the way in the opening 40-minute stint, Fernandez heads into Saturday’s action in P7, with Filip Salač (Gresini Racing Moto2™), Chantra and Albert Arenas (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) – despite some issues with his machine – the other riders inside the top 10.
Bo Bendsneyder, sixth after FP1, was not able to better his time in FP2 and dropped some steps on the timesheets, he was 17th at the end of FP2, but on the combined timesheets he is in 14th.
Combined times after FP2:
Source: motogp.com, stopandgo.es