Espargaro finishes #AustralianGP in 18th, DNF for Fernandez
GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 landed in the thrillingly fast confines of the Phillip Island Circuit for the sixteenth Grand Prix of the season. Pol Espargaro rode his GASGAS RC16 to 18th position in a full-length GP race that substituted the Saturday Sprint around the picturesque Australian venue southeast of Melbourne. Augusto Fernandez attacked the rapid layout with relish but crashed out at mid-race distance.
Espargaro and Fernandez get immediately back to speed around one of the most popular and anticipated circuits on the calendar and for the 33rd Aussie GP since the first in 1989 (also at Phillip Island). Due to harsh weather conditions forecast for Sunday, MotoGP ran the full 27-lap Grand Prix distance on Saturday in place of the normal Sprint.
Fernandez had caught the eye with P2 in the first Friday session, he almost made Q2 and took to the grid with 17th place but then crashed out after 12 laps.
Espargaro indulged in some pre-event surf activity in the Bass Straight after whipping his board onto the GASGAS SM 700 and then crested the Gardner Straight at 349 kmph to take 11th in Qualifying. He searched for grip and managed 18th in the afternoon.
Twelve months ago at Phillip Island MotoGP served up one of the best (and closest) races in recent years and the spectacle during a cool qualifying and surprise full-length Saturday race again delivered the goods. GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 moved from the heat of Indonesia to the wind and temperate skies of Australia’s southern coast for the second Grand Prix in a week to form part of the cast of the show.
Augusto Fernandez wanted to raise his game from the first laps of the Grand Prix and ‘went for it’ on Friday with 2nd position in Free Practice 1. The Spaniard maintained the momentum in the afternoon and was agonizingly close to Q2 direct entry, only two tenths of a second was the difference. Espargaro is a big fan of the technical challenge of Phillip Island and rode the wave of optimism to end Friday with a brilliant P5.
On Saturday morning Augusto held 2nd place in the Q1 session until the final seconds and eventually classified 4th, meaning 14th for the overall qualifying. He started from 17th on the grid after accepting a three-place penalty for inadvertently blocking a rider in P2 on Friday. Pol was 11th fastest in Q2. Friday was hot and sunny, Saturday cloudy and cooler and with the weather forecast due to turn stormy for Sunday the organizers elected to swap the Sprint for the 27-lap Grand Prix.
Pol started by hounding the top ten after taking a gamble with the softer tyre choice. Sadly, the degradation began to kick-in and then he had to nurse the bike to the line, coming home in 18th. Augusto tried to be part of the fray but crashed while braking into Miller corner on lap 12. If the climate permits, MotoGP will stage a 13-lap Sprint on Sunday.
Pol Espargaro – 11th in qualifying, 18th in the race
We knew that the soft tyre would fade faster than the medium but perhaps not so early and so much. The race pace was so fast and I was trying to manage the situation and stay with the guys despite the spin. Around mid-race it really went and I had to suffer with the lap-time. We had some fun at the beginning, and we also learned from this. So those are the positive things we must take from today.
Augusto Fernandez – 17th in qualifying, DNF in the race
A real shame because we showed some good speed and were competitive all the weekend; every weekend we are a bit closer! We are carrying speed and I feel better and better. I hope we can race tomorrow and I can leave Phillip Island with a good sensation. I’m positive.