The countdown is on for the first Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in three years and Mother Nature could have a big say this afternoon after taking a toll on the morning warm-up session.
It started to rain on Phillip Island as the teams prepared for the crucial session, affecting their ability to gather invaluable data to make the race’s crucial tire decision, but that didn’t stop Prima Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco from topping the timesheets. for the fourth time this weekend.
Zarca led the entire session after a few early laps before heavy rain with his 1:36.804 nearly a second and a half better than the rest.
Aprillia Racing Team Gresini’s Mauric Viñales finished second, 1.427s behind the leader.
Despite a high-speed excursion off the track at Doohan Corner, championship leader Fabio Quartarara finished third, 2.400s off the pace.
But the big story of the session once again surrounded Repsol Honda star Marc Marquez.
Marquez cruised innocuously enough at low speed through the right south loop on cold tires, but was suddenly thrown off the left side of the bike mid-corner.
The seven-time world champion got away unscathed, but the unexpected low-speed incident was not the way he wanted to go into the race, as he could only register 24th.
Marquez also had a scary moment when he slipped in the pit lane and his team will have limited knowledge this afternoon as he was the only driver not to set a time in the 20-minute session.
After a heavy deluge in the first five minutes, there was no one to challenge Zark as the focus turned to wet data collection in case the weather also affected the race.
Fellow Ducati pilot Enea Bastianini came close to meeting the Italian marque’s factory star Francesco Bagnaia in the MG.
Bastianini tried to pass Banya, but the latter pulled ahead at the last moment as the championship contender ended the session 11th, while pole sitter Jorge Martin set the ninth fastest time.
Australian Ducati’s Jack Miller stayed out of trouble to record 6th place, 3.289s slower than Zarka.
Another hometown hero Remy Gardner came home 18th and kept his KTM clean.
After a wet warm-up, the sun returned immediately after the checkered flag, meaning the teams will be on their toes to start the race as conditions look very unpredictable.
The race starts at 2pm AEDT.
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