Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia caused a stir by leading Friday practice for the Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island.

Just twelfth in the morning session, the Spaniard posted the best time of the day (1m 29.225s) on just his 5th lap of the afternoon, benefitting from a tow behind Maverick Vinales and Andrea Dovizioso.

All three were running the medium-soft tyre combination, with Espargaro gaining a significant top speed boost along the main straight.

World championship leader and morning pace setter Marc Marquez also put in lengthy time on the soft rear tyre, having focussed on the medium in FP1.

The Repsol Honda star later became the only rider to try the hard front tyre today which, combined with the soft rear, he took to a lap time that was just 0.005s slower than Espargaro.

Marquez's title rival Andrea Dovizioso went on to complete a top three covered by just 0.097s. The Ducati rider starts this weekend just eleven points from Marquez after last Sunday's exciting victory in Japan.

Vinales, whose fading title hopes took a further blow in the Motegi rain, walked away from a fast accident when he lost the front of his M1 on entry to the Turn 8 right hander. The Movistar Yamaha rider finished the session in fifth place, just behind LCR Honda's Cal Crutchlow and 0.198s from Espargaro.

But team-mate Valentino Rossi, who had also been hoping for dry weather after the Motegi woes, could only manage twelfth place (+0.752s) and - like Dovizioso's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo - must hope for a dry FP3 if he is to avoid taking part in Qualifying 1.

Marc VDS Honda's Jack Miller, making his return from a broken leg, put in an impressive opening day for sixth in front of his home fans.

Andrea Iannone (Suzuki), Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Pol Espargaro (KTM) completed the top ten, with all 23 riders setting their best laps in the afternoon session.

As well as Vinales there were FP2 falls for Alvaro Bautista, Tito Rabat and Broc Parkes, who rode his first MotoGP laps since 2015 as a replacement for Jonas Folger at Tech 3. The Australian was last but a respectable 2.927s from Espargaro.

Rain showers are forecast for both Saturday and Sunday...

CLICK HERE for the full FP2 results…


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