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PREVIEW: A bumper first day of track action awaits at Phillip Island

Friday, 20 October 2023

A dream weather forecast promises to make Friday’s opening day of the 2023 MotoGP™ Guru by Gryfyn Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix one to remember.

Fresh from a dramatic weekend of racing in Indonesia, the MotoGP™, Moto2™ and Moto3™ racers will take the famed 4.45km Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for two sessions to set up a great weekend of racing.

MotoGP™ will be the headline act, with 300 horsepower winged rockets taking to the track at 10:45 am for a 45-minute Practice session and again for an hour starting at 3:00 pm. That should be the highlight of the day, with mid-season changes meaning that the top 10 riders from only that session seeding directly into Saturday’s all-important second Qualifying session.


What has become essentially a ‘Qualifying Zero’ session will see the Ducatis of points leader Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin fight for overall honours. But the sweeping Phillip Island track's nature means there should be a host of challengers, with Aprilia stars Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales heavily tipped to do well.

But could Yamaha have something to say about that, with Fabio Quartararo expected to feature after a strong weekend at Mandalika? Or 2022 MotoGP™ winner Alex Rins, now on a Honda?

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We have not even got to Jack Miller, who has been pivotal in the development of Red Bull KTM’s latest carbon fibre-framed RC16. Teammate Brad Binder may have had the edge to this point of the season but never discount an Aussie on home ground.

How could any preview leave out Marc Marquez, who could just scratch out a fifth Island win for Honda before he jumps ship to Ducati for 2024?

There is much to watch in the rest of the sessions. Moto3™ kicks off the day’s action at 9:00 am, with Darwin ace Joel Kelso looking to secure his spot in Saturday’s all-important second Qualifying session on his CFMOTO Racing PruestelGP. Points leaders Jaume Masià (Honda) and Ayumu Sasaki (Husqvarna) have fought out some bitter battles up front, and the pack racing among the 250cc bikes is sure to be fierce.

In Moto2™, the two Practice sessions start at 9:50 am and 2:05 pm, respectively, and Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) looks to be the man to beat. He is 65 points clear of Tony Arbolino (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team) in the points, and this will be the Spaniard’s final appearance in Moto2™ in Australia before he steps onto a GasGas MotoGP ride for 2024.

The other category to take to the track will be the teenage aces in the Oceania Junior Cup, with two sessions at 11:45 am and 4:15 pm. Bodie Paige leads the series points from Archie Schmidt and Haydn Fordyce, and the racing is bound to go down to the final lap.