MotoGP: Iannone leads opening day at Phillip Island

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Andrea Iannone left it late to leap to the top of the combined timesheets at the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, setting a 1:29.131 on his final lap to oust Danilo Petrucci from first. The two Italians were separated by 0.160, with FP1’s quickest man Maverick Viñales completing the top three made up of three different manufacturers.

One of the biggest headlines of the day was less positive, however – with LCR Honda Castrol rider Cal Crutchlow, who currently leads the independent rider standings, suffering a crash in FP2 that has seen the Brit declared unfit for the rest of the weekend. He was fifth fastest on Friday before the incident and will now undergo surgery on a broken right ankle and tibia in the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

It was an incident-filled day on the Island as Moto3 saw an early Red Flag and subsequent delays due to track conditions, and even after there were a few riders finding the limits. Crutchlow’s fellow Honda rider Marc Marquez, crowned champion in Japan, was also a crasher – escaping unscathed from a fast one at Turn 10. He also suffered a run off later in the day, as did arch rival Valentino Rossi.

The two men ended the day a little down the timesheets, with Marquez in seventh and Rossi rounding out that all-important top ten; inside it by 0.046. But Rossi’s key rival for second overall in the standings, Andrea Dovizioso outpaced both as he took fourth just ahead of Crutchlow and steered clear of the drama.

Johann Zarco meanwhile, was only 0.070 behind Crutchlow to complete the top six. The Frenchman was back on front row form at Motegi and opened the Australian Grand Prix well, ahead of Marquez. With Crutchlow now unable to complete the weekend, both Zarco and Petrucci will be looking to gain on the Brit in the independent rider standings.

In eighth there was some top news for home fans with another independent rider as Jack Miller ended the first day well within that all-important initial top ten – as well as only a tenth off Marquez. He was just ahead of Suzuki’s Alex Rins in ninth to make it both Hamamatsu factory machines in the top ten.

Hafizh Syahrin was top rookie in 11th, ahead of Bradley Smith as top Austrian machine. Dani Pedrosa suffered a crash and ended Friday in 13th, ahead of Pol Espargaro and Alvaro Bautista.

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer