Eight-time world champion Marc Marquez has backed the decision to postpone Australian MotoGP qualifying after wild weather had lashed the Phillip Island circuit, causing a scary high-speed crash.
Severe weather warnings were posted for the region on Saturday and riders were afforded little respite around the exposed island circuit that was buffeted by strong wind gusts and rain rolling in off Bass Strait.
The fourth practice session was red-flagged soon after a wind gust sent Miguel Oliveira tumbling into the gravel at Doohan Corner, which is at the end of the Gardner Straight where riders can reach speeds of 330km/h.
As the Portuguese rider was taken to the medical centre, a safety commission meeting was convened where riders voted 19-3 to abandon racing for the rest of the day.
The first and second qualifying sessions that had been set for Saturday afternoon were rescheduled for Sunday morning, pending a review of the weather.
“There was a small chance to ride but it’s true that it was very dangerous with the wind and also the speed,” Marquez said.
“The wind affects you a lot on these really high-speed corners.
“When I was riding alone, it was a problem, of course, but it was inside the limits.
But when riders overtake, then you feel it much more and it’s a safety issue so we decided to cancel.”
Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) is understood to have suffered minor injuries in the fall and will race on Sunday, subject to a medical review.
Local hope Jack Miller (Pramac Racing Ducati) was one of three riders keen to brave the elements, but begrudgingly accepted the majority vote.
However, the Queenslander, finishing fifth in the only free practice not adversely affected by the weather, isn’t a fan of the rescheduled qualifying sessions that will be held just hours before the 3pm race start.
“I didn’t really understand that … I think it would’ve been better to go off the (second free practice) results,” Miller said.
“Of course, I benefit, but it was basically a qualifying session.
“Everybody was putting in the maximum to get into second qualifying.
“I just hope that we have some better weather tomorrow and we can give these Australian fans the show that they deserve.”
If the inclement weather continues, Miller will likely get his wish, with the fastest times across the three free practice sessions used to determine pole position and the rest of the grid if qualifying is cancelled.
If that does happen, Spaniard Maverick Vinales will start from pole.
The factory Yamaha star topped the standings in all three free practice sessions ahead of Sunday’s 27-lap race.
The qualifying sessions for Moto2 and Moto3 were held on Saturday before conditions worsened, with Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) claiming pole position in Moto2 and Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) to start at the front of the Moto3 grid.