Aussie MotoGP hope Jack Miller will return from a broken leg to take part in the three-day test at Phillip Island, which began today at 10:00am and concludes on Friday at 6:00pm.
Miller broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg in a motocross crash last month, and was forced to sit out the Sepang MotoGP test earlier this month while he continued his rehabilitation — first in Spain and then back at home in Townsville.
The 21-year-old has now been passed fit to ride, and will take his place in the Marc VDS garage alongside Spanish rookie Tito Rabat.
“I’m itching to get back on the bike after such a long lay-off and I don’t think we could have chosen a better track at which to return than Phillip Island given my condition," said Miller.
"With only four right turns it means I’m not going to be working my injured right leg so hard, although it’s still going to be a tough test.
"I’ve been training hard here in Australia and working with my local physiotherapist to reduce the swelling in the leg, to give me more mobility on the bike, and it’s looking good. I’m looking forward to putting some laps in on the bike, getting a feel for the new electronics and seeing how the tyres have improved since Valencia.”
There's no word on whether Miller's countryman Casey Stoner will be riding at Phillip Island after his exceptional outing at Sepang, when he rode the 2015 model Ducati to ninth overall on the timesheets.
With Michelin the new tyre supplier in 2016, replacing Bridgestone, Phillip Island will provide yet another massive learning curve for the French giant with its demanding, high-speed left-hand turns. That's a unique challenge in itself, as well as keeping enough heat on the right side of the tyres so riders are not left struggling for traction at places like turn four and turn 10.
At the Sepang test, Michelin made huge strides with the quality of its front tyre. With riders also continuing to come to grips with the new spec electronics package, highly competitive times abounded at the Malaysian circuit. World champion Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) topped the test, set on a hard rear and almost a whole second faster than the race lap record from 2015.
There were surprises throughout the field as Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) and Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing Ducati) locked out the top three ahead of Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha).
It was also an eventful test for Avintia Racing’s Loris Baz who fell at 290km/h along the straight due to an issue with the rear, subsequently causing Michelin to withdraw the soft option tyre.
Having only two riders inside the top 10 in Sepang, Honda is eager to head to a different circuit in order to continue to test its new ‘evo’ engine. Due to the two-week gap between tests it doesn’t appear the manufacturer will have any new major upgrades available, but work on electronics will continue with Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, Cal Crutchlow, Rabat and Miller.
Marquez won the 2015 Phillip Island MotoGP race from Lorenzo, Iannone and Rossi in a superb 27-lap free-for-all.
Even after a strong showing in Sepang, Yamaha isn't resting on its laurels and heads to Australia with the goal of confirming its findings from Sepang. With Michelin having taken significant steps forward with its front tyre, it appears that the frame Yamaha designed for 2016 may not be used and more back-to-back comparisons are needed.
Neither of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders is yet to do a race run on the Michelin tyres with the Magneti Marelli ECU, but with Phillip Island’s less extreme heat this will be near the top of their list. The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha pair of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will also be thinking in the same vein.
Ducati heads to Australia after a successful Sepang test, both Petrucci and Barbera showed well while factory pair Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso made significant progress on the 2016 machine.
Of all the teams it's Suzuki which looks set to bring the most new parts to Australia, the Japanese test team will be testing the fully seamless gearbox with the aim of making it available to Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro for the Qatar test. Both the factory riders have been in Japan performing extensive wind tunnel work for the engineers.
Aprilia will miss the Australia test as it heads to Qatar for a private test where it will debut its 2016 RS-GP. Test rider Mike Di Meglio performed a shakedown on the new machine at Aragon on February 10-11.
You can keep an eye on the live timing Phillip Island by clicking here.