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The duel continues: Marquez & Dovi split by 0.092s

Espargaro heads the timesheets and Crutchlow lurks in fourth - but it’s all eyes on the title contenders

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was quickest overall on Day 1 Down Under, but by only 0.005 from FP1’s fastest and reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). And right behind the points leader was his key title rival Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), less than a tenth off and with both men having used Friday for with one main focus: tyres.

“We started the weekend well, and today the weather was not so bad,” says Marquez. “It was really windy and a bit cold but the good thing is we tried a lot of tyres, so we have a lot of information and we worked a lot for the race. The laptime was coming quite easily too, although of course you push, so I’m happy with the feeling and we’ll see tomorrow if we can keep this level and try to improve a bit more.”

Marquez: "We worked on setup for the race"

Dovizioso was similarly happy with his start to the weekend, and says it’s a big improvement on some of his past experiences at the Island – and that he also has some good information from Day 1.

“It’s really good compared to the past and what I expected,” explains the Italian. “I’m really happy, the laptime was really fast and the conditions were quite good. And we tried both rear tyres so we already have good feedback. I’m happy with the way we’ve started the weekend. It’s not enough because Marc is really strong, but he’s not too far away. So we have to keep working in the same way. Also because a lot of riders have the same pace.”

Dovi: "I'm happy with how we have started"

That was very true, with times incredibly tight throughout and the top three split by only a tenth – with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), last year’s winner, only 0.004 seconds off in fourth, too. Marquez says that’s something you can expect at Phillip Island – and is aware of the stakes.

“When you have a preseason test at the track and everyone has information, it can make everything more tight,” explains the reigning Champion. “And with one tenth difference, you can be on the front row or third row.”

Both men will be wanting to get themselves onto the former rather than the latter at Phillip Island, with qualifying underway from 15:10 local time (GMT +11).