Strong start for Redding at blustery Phillip Island
Scott Redding was back on form for the opening day of the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, ending the two free practice sessions second fastest and just 0.116s behind provisional pole sitter, Tito Rabat.
Mika Kallio, who at just 58kg is one of the lightest riders on the Moto2 grid, ended the day in tenth position, after being buffeted relentlessly by the strong and unpredictable winds that are such a big part of racing at Phillip Island.
For all the Moto2 riders the main topic of conversation after today’s two free practice sessions was tyres. The tyre that Dunlop developed specifically for resurfaced tracks, and tested in Argentina earlier in the season, was withdrawn and replaced with an older option tyre after some issues with punctures in this morning’s free practice session.
This afternoon’s second free practice session saw more punctures, but tyre degradation was the main issue, with riders reporting that grip dropped off significantly after just a handful of laps, raising concerns about safety in Sunday’s 25-lap Moto2 race.
The wind was also an issue for the Livio Loi on his first visit to the spectacular Phillip Island circuit, with the Marc VDS Moto3 rider ending the day in 30th position on combined times.
As well as learning his way around a track that he saw for the first time this morning, Loi, who weighs in at just 45kg, also had to contend with being repeatedly blown off line by the wind, particularly around the exposed Southern Loop section of the 4.448km circuit.
The 16-year-old Belgian improved his lap time by more than a second this afternoon, despite continuing problems with the wind and getting the bike to turn into the corners. Loi is hoping for calmer conditions tomorrow, when he returns to the track for the final free practice session and the all-important qualifying.
Scott Redding #45 // 2nd // 1’33.273 // @Reddingpower
“I feel good, like I’m back a bit more and I’m looking forward to the last three races now. I did a lot of work between Malaysia and here, the confidence is back and I think today showed that. The new rear tyre this morning was good, but they had some problems and took it back of us, so this afternoon we were back on the old tyre. Initially the grip was good, but after two or three laps it had started to drop off. For me it wasn’t such a big problem. I was losing some time out of the last turn because the rear was spinning up and I had a bit more chatter, but you just have to adapt your style to compensate. Over race distance it may be a different story, but I made some laps today and felt not so bad.”
Mika Kallio #36 // 10th // 1’34.086
“The wind here disturbs you a lot, particularly at two or three points on the circuit, but the wind we can’t change, we just have to deal with it. The tyres on the other hand… I don’t really understand why Dunlop withdrew the tyre we used this morning, because it was really good. This afternoon we tried both of the option tyres but, after just four or five laps, they were completely destroyed. Even when new the grip just wasn’t there and no amount of set-up changes made any difference. When there’s no grip to push from the rear then you lose front grip too, so we learnt nothing. Now it looks like they’ll give us back the new tyre for tomorrow, which is good news, but it means this afternoon was a wasted session. Hopefully this will work like it did this morning and we can be back on the level we need to be.”
Livio Loi #11 // 30th // 1’39.942 // @LivioLoi
“The wind was the main problem this morning, because I’ve never experienced anything like it before. It was so strong, especially out of the Southern Loop and down towards turn three, where it was pushing me across the track and towards the grass every lap. This afternoon I was a bit more used to the wind, but then I was struggling to get the bike to turn into the corners. I had to hold onto the brake and stay off the throttle for too long to get the bike to turn in, which lost me every exit. This is something we need to look at for tomorrow, as I’m currently losing time in every corner.”
Michael Bartholemy // Team Principal
“The new rear tyre worked well for both Scott and Mika this morning, but apparently a number of riders had punctures during the session and, on safety grounds, the tyre was withdrawn and replaced for the second practice session. Scott was as quick on the older tyre as he was on the new, but endurance is an issue, with grip dropping off a lot after just five or six laps. I think the decision to withdraw the new tyre may have been a little hasty, as there were at least two punctures with the older tyre this afternoon. Hopefully they’ll make the decision tonight to use the new tyre again tomorrow; otherwise we’re probably looking at a shortened Moto2 race on Sunday. Tyre issues aside, both Mika and Livio struggled with the wind today, so I hope conditions will be a little calmer tomorrow. Scott, on the other hand, had no such issues and, once again, he looks both fast and comfortable on the bike. It’s good to see him back on form and confident again here at Phillip Island.”