Phillip Island Saturday Report
The anticipated rain had come during the night on Friday but a stiff wind had dried the track out by the time competitors took to the circuit on Saturday morning.
The forecast was still very uninspiring and the sky somewhat foreboding, but the precipitation stayed in check long enough for Moto3 and Moto2 to all enjoy dry FP3 sessions, and it looked like the premier MotoGP category might enjoy the same luck.
Tony Arbolino topped Moto3 proceedings on Saturday morning but windy conditions prevented riders from improving on their Friday times, thus Arbolino still missed out on automatic promotion through to Q2.
Fabio Di Giannantonio was quickest in Moto2 FP3 but again few riders managed to improve on their Friday markers due to the blustery conditions. The Italian was one of only five riders that managed to improve on their Friday time. Remy Gardner was one of those to improve, third in the session but still only 16th on combined times.
When FP3 for MotoGP got underway Alex Rins went down almost immediately. It was a soft crash but the Spaniard was unable to re-start his Suzuki. Eventually he pushed the bike far enough for team members to then help him back to the pits.
The time lost for Rins though was off-set after a problem of a different kind caused a slight delay to proceedings only minutes after they had got started.
One of the Pramac Ducati crew lost hold of Jack Miller’s pit-board in the stiff wind, easily done today I would imagine, and the large pit board was laying in the middle of the main straight! Officials jumped the fence when safe and retrieved the pit board.
Four-minutes later pit-lane opened again as small rain showers started to shed their contents around the circuit. It was hardly enough to wet the circuit, and blew over quickly, but the wind was brutal and far from consistent. Thus there was little to be gained in the conditions, most MotoGP riders chose to keep their powder dry for most of the session.
It was not until the dying minutes of the FP3 session that the track got a little busy. No rider though managed to improve their times due to the windy conditions. Marquez topped the session but Vinales continued to hold sway at the top of the combined timesheets.
While Moto3 riders got to enjoy a mainly dry qualifying session rain started sprinkling around the Phillip Island lay-out ahead of the Q2 session for Moto2 and the wind was gusting across the circuit with violence.
Marcos Ramirez took pole in Moto3 ahead of Aron Canet and Albert Arenas. Scotsman John McPhee will start tomorrow from the front of the second row.
Sam Lowes and Remy Gardner were quick enough in the Moto2 Q1 session to promote themselves through to Q2. The opening minutes of the Q2 session were dry but with five minutes remaining the rain started falling which ruined the chances of a late charge from many riders, the most frustrated of which was Remy Gardner who will start from 15th on the grid tomorrow. Jorge Navarro will start from pole ahead of Binder and Marini while Fabio Di Giannantonio will head the second row.
The rain had stopped again by the time MotoGP FP4 got underway.
Pit lane opened for MotoGP FP4 at 1445 and the entire 22 rider field were quick out of the blocks to get some important laps in on what was a dry track, but strong gusty winds were still making conditions quite treacherous. FP4 does not count towards the combined times that decide the Q2 qualifiers thus is generally used to chase race set-up of prepare for the Q sessions that follow immediately after.
Miguel Oliveira fell foul of the conditions and was blown wide at the end of the straight and drifted off onto the grass at over 300 km/h. The KTM machine and Miguel did a few tumbles but miraculously the melee was not as monstrous as it might have been. He was taken to the medical centre where he was cleared of any significant injuries, although he was somewhat battered and bruised.
Fabio Quartararo’s big tumble yesterday was badly affecting the young Frenchman. A shortage of track time yesterday costing him dearly, and also his badly bruised ankle, along with other ailments, causing him problems. He was also being frustrated by the wind.
With just under 13-minutes remaining the session was red flagged as pit board numbers had blown on to the circuit which added to the risk level in the conditions. Hitting the picks with some foreign matter under your front wheel is not going to make for a pleasant ride.
A special meeting of the safety commission and the MotoGP riders was then called to discuss the risks now being placed on the riders. It had already been a more bruising than normal event and with the wind was predicted to only get stronger as the afternoon continued thus discussions needed to be had and decisions needed to be made concerning this afternoon’s qualifying sessions.
The decision was handed down that no further track action would take place today. Further meetings where then held to decide a revised schedule for tomorrow. The Sunday forecast far from perfect, but decidedly better than had been predicted for today.
Eventually organisers announced that they would assess conditions in the morning and then decide whether to run qualifying sessions ahead of the race on Sunday, or whether the grid will be based on the combined practice times. That of course would put Maverick Vinales on pole with Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso joining him on the front row. Full combined practice results can be found below.