They say that you can experience four season in one day at Phillip Island, but on the first day of practice for the 2017 MotoGP round, the weather gods restricted themselves to just the two. The sun burned down as if it were summer, while the icy wind blew in off the Bass Straight bringing the chill of winter. I suppose if you average summer and winter, you get the Antipodean spring, which is the current season at Phillip Island chronologically, if not necessarily meteorologically.
That wind was a major problem. It buffeted the riders and bikes and stripped any semblance of stability. It also rendered the aerodynamic fairings largely useless, or for some riders, made the bikes more unstable than with the standard fairing. “The wind makes our life very, very difficult,” Aleix Espargaro said, echoing a common sentiment from Friday.
It had not stopped Espargaro from being fastest on Friday, however. It was a remarkable achievement for the Aprilia RS-GP, the first time an Aprilia had been fastest in a session since the start of the four-stroke era. The last time an Aprilia was that quick was in 2000, when Jeremy McWilliams put the Aprilia 500cc V twin on pole at Phillip Island. Proof, if it were needed, that the key to speed at the Australian track is corner speed, rather than outright horsepower.