With precipitation predicted for Sunday's Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix 2017, the weather-hampered FP3 may have just been a dress rehearsal for the 27-lap MotoGP™ race.
Saturday morning’s deteriorating weather conditions provided the first opportunity for teams and riders get a feel for a full-wet set-up here in Australia, and one person who will be hoping for a downpour during Sunday's race is title hopeful and wet-weather specialist Andrea Dovizioso (Team Ducati).
The Bologna-based team hasn’t celebrated a victory at Phillip Island since Casey Stoner stood on the top step back in 2010, and the only time a Ducati rider has stood on the podium in the last seven years Down Under was when Andrea Iannone rode to third place in the hugely memorable 2015 event.
Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) might have topped the session with a 1:38.522, however Dovizioso’s eventual eighth place finish doesn’t tell the whole story.
Heavy rain fell early on which was when Marquez and Dovizioso posted their fastest laps; Marquez’s flyer came on just his ninth lap and Dovizioso’s on his eighth. In fact, for a lot of the session, the top three positions mimicked the very wet Japanese Grand Prix podium last week with Marquez ahead of Octo Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci and Dovizioso.
As expected, the Movistar Yamaha duo of Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales struggled with rear grip in the wet conditions and, with both riders well outside the top 10 and Vinales still in with a mathematical shot at the title, they’ll be two people hoping for a dry race.
If the heavens do decide to open, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco will be one to watch in the race after the Frenchman finished the session second quickest despite suffering a crash at turn 10.
Ducati Team’s Jorge Lorenzo suffered a frighteningly fast crash at turn eight and he’s currently in the medical centre awaiting news on what appeared to be an injured left ankle. The Spaniard has been edging closer and closer to his maiden Grand Prix win since joining the Ducati squad and has lead the opening laps of almost all wet-weather races this year. If it’s wet tomorrow afternoon, don’t rule him out.
Home race favourite Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) played it safe in this morning’s session to avoid re-injuring his recently broken right tibia, but you can guarantee the Aussie will put in 100 per cent during tomorrow’s race regardless of the conditions.
While heavy rain fell early in the session, conditions changed quickly and a dry line began to form in the latter stages. It’s a likely scenario set for tomorrow and one which could very well point to the weekend culminating in yet another dramatic flag-to-flag nail biter tomorrow afternoon.
Qualifying will take place Saturday at 3.10pm.