Saturday’s top three qualifiers for the Australian MotoGP have had their say on talks over the potential of changing the race schedule or date of the Phillip Island round to counter the number of rider falls.

Marc Marquez, Maverick Vinales and Johann Zarco tackled the issue during the post-qualifying press conference on Saturday.

Pole man Marquez said he felt adjusting the time of the race in the future would not have much effect overall, with the Honda rider suggesting instead that other areas need more attention to help improve safety.

“It will be better maybe for the race time, but the amount of crashes I think will be very similar. The thing is that here, we are riding very fast, it is cold, and then everything becomes more stiff – like the tyres; the reactions of the bike are more aggressive,” said Marquez.

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“For that reason we have a lot of crashes. (If) we changed the time schedule, just advanced it one hour, maybe it will improve it a bit. We spoke about this but we spoke about other safety issues at this track that are more important to push, for example to remove the natural grass in some areas because it is the only circuit where we have it.”

Yamaha’s Vinales says changing the date of the Australian round could prove a major advantage, citing last year’s pre-season test as an example of the benefits that could be gained by holding the round earlier on the calendar.

“I think for sure, one hour earlier would help because here we reach the top temperature at 3pm,” said Vinales.

“But anyway the manner of the crashes is the weather – it is really cold, always, and especially this year it is so windy. It is always going to be difficult in that period of the year, but if I am going to push I would like to change the date because when we came here in February last year, it was excellent.

“It was quite warm and not many crashes, but for sure it would make a difference to change to three because it is the best temperature on the track.”

Frenchman Johann Zarco, third fastest in qualifying, agreed that changing the date of the Australian round would have the biggest impact.

“I’m happy about the discussion we had this week, it was very interesting,” he said. “For me it is not too much about the time, but more about the date. At the beginning of the season maybe we can have more chance of a warmer temperature.”

The talking point has become a key topic in the MotoGP paddock this weekend, with Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro hammering home the need to prioritise safety at the Phillip Island circuit.

“We have to push Dorna to come here at another time of the year - it is not about ‘enjoying’ the summer here, I don't really care about that – but it is about safety,” Espargaro said. “Every year someone gets a big injury here because the speed is very high at this track. For this reason we have to come here when it is warmer.

“Riders are crashing every session and here when you do that then it is very fast. I destroyed my left hand last season and Cal had a big injury in the foot.

“It is scary because it’s cold and it is very easy to lose the front. The Michelin looks like it is very hard on the front this year. If we can come here when its warmer then it will be easier.”

 

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