PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia (AFP) – Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo clocked the fastest time in opening practice Friday, setting up a battle with newly-crowned world champion Marc Marquez in this weekend’s Australian MotoGP.
The two-time world champion topped the time charts with a fastest lap of one minute 29.909 seconds around the sweeping Phillip Island circuit as he looks for his third consecutive MotoGP race victory.
Lorenzo, who is battling his Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi and fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa for second overall in the world championship, was the quickest rider despite coming off his bike unharmed on the hairpin turn four in the second session.
The trio are separated by just three points, with Rossi (5th) and Pedrosa (10th) within a second of Lorenzo’s best practice time.
Lorenzo was 0.147sec quicker than Forward Yamaha racer Aleix Espargaro’s best time of 1:29.729 from the first practice session and Marquez’s best lap of 1:29.752 in second practice.
Lorenzo, who won last year’s MotoGP at Phillip Island on the way to losing the world championship by four points to Marquez, is coming off two wins and is hitting form at the right time.
“We are competitive now and strong,” Lorenzo said.
“It is not going to be easy to keep winning races, because there are four riders in very good shape. But our level is high.”
The pressure is off Marquez this weekend after he secured this year’s world title last weekend in Japan but he has yet to win at Phillip Island in the premier class after winning in the 125 race in 2010.
“Today we focused on working with the new tyres that Bridgestone have brought for this circuit, which are totally different from what we have used for the rest of the year,” Marquez said.
“This is also a circuit that requires a very exact set-up, because it has some very fast corners.
“In the afternoon practice session we took a step forward and I felt much better on the bike, but I think we have to keep working because there are still things that we can improve.”
Italian Ducati rider Andrea Iannone was 0.2s down on Lorenzo in fourth and he was also flung off his bike in the afternoon session.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and nine-time world champion Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) both finished the day inside the top six, while Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate Pedrosa was 10th.