With the rain having abated, the MotoGP™ World Championship was back in action in Australia as Viñales led a tight top ten.
After an initially slow start, the second day of the Phillip Island MotoGP™ test proved to be a productive one with weather conditions allowing riders to run in the dry. There was limited morning action with just the Ducati Team duo of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone heading out on track alongside Jorge Lorenzo and Takuya Tsuda. Lorenzo spent the early stages on wet weather tyres while Iannone tested the new Michelin intermediate tyres as the track continued to dry out.
Fortunately for riders the track condition continued to improve and soon the majority of the field were out lapping on slick tyres. With the unique demands of Phillip Island, the left hand side of the tyre generating incredible heat in the final corners, Michelin had produced a new dual compound rear and were eager to assess its performance. As riders became more comfortable and conditions slowly improved, Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales and Marc Marquez began to trade lap times at the top of the time sheets.
There was a brief interruption to proceedings as a small rain shower appeared, but riders and teams were able to get back to work soon after. Improvements continued to come and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Maverick Viñales became the first rider under the 1’30 barrier as the second half of the day got underway. Clear conditions allowed all riders to work their own programme, most choosing to do runs of five laps before returning to the pits.
The afternoon saw all of the top ten riders inside the 1’29 mark with Maverick Viñales setting the fastest lap of the day, and of the test so far, with a 1’29.131 as he continued to assert himself as one of the hottest young properties in MotoGP™. 2015 saw the Team Suzuki Ecstar rider end the race a credible sixth, the young Spaniard able to set a 1’29.131 on his 63rd lap on Thursday, half a second faster than his best lap from the race. Suzuki are continuing to work hard on development, test rider Tsuda running extensive assessments of the fully seamless gearbox in Phillip Island.
The final five minutes saw Viñales and Marc Marquez swap fast laps, each taking a turn at leading before the flag came out. On his penultimate lap Marquez managed to set a 1’29.292, 0.161s behind Viñales with a total of 79 laps completed throughout the day. Both the Repsol Honda Team riders are continuing to assess two chassis variants, with the 2016 ‘evo’ engine, debuted at a private test in Jerez, fitted.
Jorge Lorenzo made it a Spanish lockout in the top three with a 1’29.357, this came on the Movistar Yamaha rider’s 65th lap out of 80, only Andrea Dovizioso and Tito Rabat completing more laps than the 2015 MotoGP™ World Champion on Thursday. None of Lorenzo’s runs were longer than six consecutive flying laps, the factory Yamaha rider yet to do a full race simulation but did complete ten laps in the 1’29 range. Magneti Marelli are keen for riders to do a full race run, including sighting lap and race start from pit lane, to assess the new electronics over race distance. One of the biggest changes to the ECU in 2016 is a removal of adaptive strategies over race distance; now requiring more input from the rider themselves.
With Valentino Rossi in fourth, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP continued their great form from the Sepang test as the Italian was just 0.047 shy of Lorenzo’s time and 0.273s down on Viñales in first. Both Rossi and Lorenzo were within a quarter of a second of the fastest lap of the incredible 2015 Phillip Island race. Throughout the day Rossi was able to complete eleven laps in the 1’29 range, with five in a row ending his second day of testing.
Cal Crutchlow put on a late charge to put himself and his LCR Honda machine in fifth. While both the factory Honda riders are testing the 2016 ‘evo’ engine, Crutchlow continued to work on the 2015 engine and the 2016 engine debuted at the post-season Valencia test.
In sixth, Hector Barbera continued to impress on the GP14.2 with a 1’29.857. The Avintia Racing rider has only a single bike in Phillip Island and elected not to leave the pits on Wednesday during the wet weather. This put him as the top Ducati rider with Andrea Iannone ending the day seventh on the 2016 Ducati Desmosedici and 0.003s off Barbera’s time. Although not testing, Casey Stoner was talking with many of the Ducati riders, including Iannone, about their feelings with the bike and the circuit.
With an hour and a half remaining there was another brief interruption as Dani Pedrosa fell from his Repsol Honda Team machine at Turn 4, brining out the red flag. The accident occurred soon after Pedrosa had improved to seventh with a 1’29.917, the Spaniard unhurt in the fall and the halt to proceedings lasting less than ten minutes. Pedrosa would end the test in eighth 0.786s back on Viñales’ best time.
Both Scott Redding and Bradley Smith put in a late run to break under the 1’30 barrier and into the top ten. All of the top ten riders present were within a second of the top time, Phillip Island again producing tight times. Just outside the top ten and 1.003s off Viñales’ best time was Loris Baz. The French rider is debuting a new seat unit at the Phillip Island to improve his position on the Ducati GP14.2 due to his height.
Having completed 88 laps, Andrea Dovizioso put in the most distance of any rider on track after a disappointing opening day. The factory Ducati Team rider was 12th fastest and three tenths back on his teammate in seventh. Behind the Ducati was Pol Espargaro in 13th.
Wednesday’s leader, Danilo Petrucci, was down in 14th position but able to improve his time by over a second and a half in the better conditions. 1.254 seconds behind his teammate and session leader, Aleix Espargaro will no doubt be looking for improvements on the third and final day of the test in Australia. The Team Suzuki Ecstar rider completed just two laps on Wednesday after leaving the Sepang test somewhat frustrated.
A second red flag was brought out with ten minutes remaining, Yonny Hernandez falling at Turn 4 as Pedrosa did. The Colombian was uninjured and soon returned to the pits but was unable to return to track with limited time remaining. Continuing his recovery from a broken right leg, local Jack Miller was 17th with a 1’30.514 on the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda ahead of Eugene Laverty who is also returning from injury. The Irish rider suffered a heavily bruised hand after a fast fall in Sepang.
In 19th, Tito Rabat completed a staggering 81 laps to end 1.519s back on former Moto2™ rival Maverick Viñales and almost two seconds clear of Suzuki test rider Tsuda.