MotoGP Phillip Island: Zarco dominates Friday action

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Prima Pramac’s Johann Zarco took firm control of the MotoGP standings as the championship returned to Phillip Island on Friday.

Setting the fastest time of both session across the opening day, the Frenchman’s 1’29.475 overall best was just 0.038s ahead of Mooney VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi as the rookie continued to shine in the latter part of the 2022 season. Repsol Honda’s Pol Espargaro surprising to third as he outpaced reigning champion Fabio Quartararo in the closing stages.

Zarco had been immediately on form on Friday morning as he denied home hero Jack Miller in the all-Ducati battle with a 1’30.368 in the dying seconds of FP1. The unique track throwing up drama only available down under as a wallaby brought out the yellow flags following a near miss by Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro at Siberia before the action resumed in earnest.

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez concluded the morning seventh in the times after rolling out some Bologna-inspired aero on his RC213V with brother Alex third overall on the LCR Castrol. Gresini’s Enea Bastianini equalling the eight-time champion as the pair set a new 349.5km/h top speed record at the Victoria venue, with six riders in total breaking the previous best.

Marquez senior was in charge with a 1’30.126 as FP2 fired up in the improving conditions. Aprilia’s Maverick Viñales heading former teammate Quartararo in the top three as the trio bettered the previous benchmark after ten minutes on track.

Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia sat 17th at the halfway stage with just under a second separating him from the front runners and a Red Bull KTM either side. WithU Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow circulating just 0.019s adrift of the top ten thanks to a 1’30.671 as the title-challenger rose to match him.

Bagnaia continued to improve as the second half played out but remained just outside the provisional promotion zone with five to go. Aprilia’s Espargaro holding the gateway 1’30.619 time before the soft rears rolled out for a late-session shootout.

Bezzecchi was the first to ignite the standings with a 1’29.871 before Viñales bettered by a tenth. Honda’s Espargaro and Marquez locking out the top four with the Aprilia-mounted brother just 0.084s behind until Quartararo blitzed the pace thanks to a 1’29.614.

Zarco was the next to strike as he found third, Pramac teammate Jorge Martin following him up to fifth before Marquez demoted them both a position with a minute to go. Bezzecchi returned to command before once again he was denied the spoils, this time by Zarco and 0.038s. Espargaro continuing to shine on the Repsol for third as Quartararo met the flag in fourth.

Aprilia’s pairing sandwiched Marquez in the top seven as Bagnaia made his way to eighth, Bastianini and Martin completing their maiden day on the Island in the premier class inside the top ten with KTM’s Miguel Oliveira the first adrift, by just 0.042s. Suzuki Ecstar’s Joan Mir and home hero Miller dejected to miss out from 12th and 13th respectively, just half a second from the outright best.

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