Cal Crutchlow returns to the scene of his greatest triumph when the MotoGP™ teams fly into Australia for the second three-day test of the 2017 season. Last October Crutchlow, riding the LCR Honda, won the Australian Grand Prix at the legendary 2.764 miles Phillip Island circuit fighting off the challenge of nine times World Champion Valentino Rossi to secure his second grand prix victory.
The Isle of Man-based Midlander returns for the three-day test that starts on Wednesday hoping for some warmer weather than October and to continue helping Honda develop a more rider friendly power output before that opening grand prix of the season in Qatar at the end of March. Crutchlow finished ninth in the opening three-day rain affected test at Sepang in Malaysia a couple of weeks ago after working hard together with factory riders Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to tame the aggressive power of the Honda.
Oxfordshire’s Bradley Smith returns to the scene of his first MotoGP podium as he continues his extensive testing of the brand new RC16 KTM. He was happy with the Sepang test and together with team-mate Pol Espargaro is hoping for three dry days round the clifftop circuit which is situated 70 miles south of Melbourne. These are crucial test sessions for the Austrian team before the start of their five year campaign to win the MotoGP World Championship.
It was a tough three days for Gloucestershire’s Scott Redding in Sepang but he found some positive feedback going onto Australia. Riding the GP 16 Octo Pramac Ducati, he experienced problems when using new tyres but on used tyres was a lot happier. Lincolnshire’s Sam Lowes makes his MotoGP race debut in Qatar and was happy with the progress he made on the Aprilia in Sepang. After missing some of the end of season testing because of injury he got in three solid days of riding and improved his times. Another three dry days is crucial for Lowes who comes up from the Moto2 class after winning two grands prix last year.
VINALES SURFS INTO PHILLIP ISLAND ON THE CREST OF A WAVE
Twenty–two year old Spaniard Maverick Vinales arrives at Phillip Island on the crest of a wave after leading the way in Sepang. His switch to the Movistar Yamaha team from Suzuki has been seamless and already he looks a real championship contender. Together with team-mate Valentino Rossi they tested the new M1 Yamaha featuring a new fairing, which included internal winglets, and a new engine. Rossi was sixth fastest and celebrates his 38th birthday on the second day of the test.
Italian Andrea Iannone replaced Vinales at Ecstar Suzuki and already looks at home and was second fastest in Sepang while his new team-mate Alex Rins made some good solid progress after coming up from the Moto2™ class. Three times MotoGP™ World Champion Jorge Lorenzo was given a sharp reminder of how difficult the switch from Yamaha to Ducati is going to be in the first day at Sepang. The Spaniard worked hard on his riding style and braking technique to finish less than half a second behind Vinales and will continue to improve before that opening Qatar round which he won last year.
Although World Champion Marc Marquez finished third fastest with a one off lap in Sepang the Spaniard, who celebrates his 24th birthday on Friday, knows that both himself and team-mate Dani Pedrosa have a lot of testing enabling Honda to find the solution to their aggressive engine power. Last season Marquez clinched his third MotoGP World title with a reserved riding style to combat the aggressive RC213V and Honda know that he needs to be able to ride at 100 per cent every lap this season if he’s going to make it four MotoGP titles.
MotoGP rookies Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger hope to continue their excellent start on the Monster Tech3 Yamaha while former 125cc World Champion Alvaro Bautista has been very impressive on the GP16 Pull and Bear Aspar Ducati.
There are certain to be some new technical innovations being tested as the season fast approaches. Yamaha brought the internal winglets, and Ducati a secret black box to Sepang. Aprilia have promised a dramatic new fairing for Phillip Island in a crucial three days for everybody involved.
Keep right up to date with live timing and all the action from Phillip Island on motogp.com