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Marc Marquez appears intent on making amends for the narrow loss at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, as the championship leader put in an assured morning of work to lead MotoGP FP1 at Phillip Island.

The 24-year old was never headed in the 45-minute session, and appeared to have something in hand as he stuck with the medium option Michelin rear throughout, while others fitted the soft in the final ten minutes.

Although he has only won once from his four premier class outings here, Marquez counts Phillip Island among his very favourite tracks, hence his speed came as no surprise. By contrast title rival Andrea Dovizioso has rarely troubled the podium places here. But true to his recent form, the Italian was competitive, ending the morning fourth.

Dovizioso spent much of the session second, before falling down the order in the final ten-minute push. A final run on Michelin’s soft rear carried him to fourth, his fastest time of 1m 29.753s just 0.151s back of Marquez’s best. Still, reason for optimism for a rider that has only ascended the podium here once in his MotoGP career.

There were positive sessions for Johann Zarco (second) and Jack Miller (third), who surprisingly occupied the places inside the top three. Late efforts carried both men toward the front.

Even though Maverick Viñales was fifth at his favourite track on the calendar, the Catalan will no doubt be buoyed by his consistency, as well as his gap to the leader (0.179s), the wet weather troubles of Japan not evident on this cool, sunny morning.

Carrying on from his fine showing at Motegi, Andrea Iannone was an impressive sixth, with the Italian making use of the Suzuki GSX-RR’s sweet handling through the morning. Iannone was third with 15 minutes to play, which suggests he has the potential to replicate a top six showing come Sunday.

In the final ten minutes, Iannone – no stranger to finding a tow around this track – used Marquez as a reference, just several bike lengths ahead, to post his fastest time, and appeared to playfully thank the Repsol Honda man on the run to his garage on his slow down lap.

Pol Espargaro used a soft tyre to post a mightily impressive seventh fastest time on the KTM, just 0.276s back of Marquez, a place ahead of Jorge Lorenzo’s Ducati. Team-mate Bradley Smith followed suit, fitting the soft rear to put his RC16 ninth on the timesheets.

Last year’s race winner Cal Crutchlow resisted the temptation the switch from a medium rear tyre in the closing stages of the session, and made the top ten cut, with his tenth fastest time 0.782s off the quickest pace.

Dani Pedrosa (eleventh), Aleix Espargaro (twelfth) and Valentino Rossi (13th) will all be slightly aggrieved at missing the top ten with the possibility of rain ever present at the seaside venue.


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