Aleix Espargaro stressed the need to avoid ‘going crazy’ after he sensationally topped the second free practice session at Phillip Island, the first time he has looked down at the MotoGP field from the top of the timesheets since joining Aprilia at the end of last year.

The picturesque Australian setting provided the first indication of the Catalan’s potential aboard the RS-GP during a strong showing here during preseason. In FP2, he carried that on and then some, after a trying morning when he battled cold temperatures and the ever-present wind.

Using the base setting that took him to successive seventh place finishes at Aragon and Motegi, Espargaro circulated with title hopefuls Andrea Dovizioso and Maverick Viñales at the beginning of the afternoon session, posting a 1m 29.225s time - enough for top spot by just five thousandths of a second.

“A good day,” began Espargaro the elder. “First of all it’s just Friday. We don’t have to go crazy but obviously it’s fantastic to be on top. The Aprilia guys are more happy than myself but obviously it’s fantastic to see the faces in the garage.

“Last season they were super happy when they went to Q1 [I think he means Q2] and this year we lead a session in MotoGP so it makes me very, very proud. I think everybody in Noale will be extremely proud of the job we’re doing when they get up and they are doing. It’s just positive input to start the weekend.

“I had really a good feeling for this track because last year I was really strong. With the CRT here I was really strong. For the feeling I have with the frame of the Aprilia I had put a mark on this track [as one where he could perform].

“This morning I felt extremely bad. The conditions are difficult and the track is very, very cold. We improved a lot from morning to afternoon. I didn’t expect to finish on the top in the afternoon.”

On Thursday, Espargaro stated there was a possibility he could try new parts Aprilia has designed for its 2018 machine. However, with cold temperatures in the morning making life difficult, coupled with the wind, he chose to limit testing to the factory’s updated aerodynamic fairing.

“We just tried with and without the wings [aerodynamic fairing],” he said. “We re-confirmed that the wings are positive. They gave me a bit of stability. They make the bike more physical but I think they’re better. Basically I’m just working on the setting I had at Aragon and in Japan.”

On the challenges posed by the wind, he added, “It’s unbelievable. You feel the wind even with the bicycle. It’s unbelievable. Even yesterday with the bicycle and today with the bike it’s crazy. The wind makes our life very, very difficult.

“We know in Australia every year it’s like this. It’s the same for everybody. For me the most important thing is to have stability for a long distance. The wings make the bike very, very physical but at least in the last corner you don’t have super shaking, so it’s safer.”

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