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  New Movistar Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales resumed his leading position on the second day of MotoGP tests at Phillip Island, ousting day one leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) by almost half a second.

Vinales has topped every test so far since joining Yamaha alongside Valentino Rossi (who was 8th-fastest today), starting in 2016 in Valencia and doing the same at the first 2017 tests at Sepang.

His time of 1’28.847 was 0.462s quicker than Marquez, and better than six-tenths faster than last year’s best race time, in comparable conditions. It was still a full second short of the seaside circuit’s best time, set in 2013 on Bridgestone tyres by Jorge Lorenzo, on the newly resurfaced track.

Last year’s Australian GP winner Crutchlow (LCR Honda) was a close third.

Less than a tenth down Alvaro Bautista was the top Ducati rider, on the Aspar Desmosedici GP16. Bautista, dumped by Aprilia last year, was a shade faster than Andrea Dovizioso on the top factory bike; with his Aprilia replacement Aleix Espargaro another couple of hundredths slower in sixth.

Jonas Folger was impressively top of the class rookies in seventh, the Monster Yamaha rider faster than Rossi by just one hundredth.

Second ex-Moto2 rookie Alex Rins (Ecstar Suzuki) was a close ninth, with Marc VDS Honda’s Jack Miller rounding out the top ten.

New Ducati rider Jorge Lorenzo dropped from 11th on day one to 15th; one place ahead of Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who missed the morning session stricken with fever.

With teams using fine conditions to make final choices for the forthcoming season, and with another full day of testing tomorrow, today’s lap times are little more than a guide. But Vinales’s sparkling form is a further boost to the 22-year-old Spaniard’s confidence.

Valentino Rossi cemented his position as old man of the grid in Australia, celebrating his 38th birthday on February 16, But Rossi has some way to go to match the oldest riders to win races in the premier class. The record is held by 1953 Spanish GP winner Fergus Anderson, aged 44 years and 237 days. Jack Findlay won aged 42, first World Champion Les Graham at 41, and both Jack Ahearn and Harold Daniell won aged 39.

Both Suzuki and Aprilia revealed their versions of down-force fairings, each with ducting at handlebar level or only a little below.

Yamaha’s sandwich-flanked new fairing – with downforce ducting in between the two layers of bodywork – stayed in the crates at Phillip Island, with riders Rossi and Vinales concentrating on back-to-back tests of two different choices of chassis.

Ducati’s solution to the banning of winglets has also yet to be revealed, although Dovizioso’s crew chief Alberto Giribuola bemoaned their loss, citing “a lot of wheelie problems in acceleration”

The Italian factory squad were also comparing different solutions, running this year’s GP17 against last year’s GP16.

Ducati’s mystery underseat “lunch-box” continued to baffle observers. The container, with a hinged rear lid, was visible on all three GP17 bikes, ridden by factory men Lorenzo and Dovizioso, as well as Danilo Petrucci’s Pramac bike.

Honda’s answer to aerodynamic issues is also yet to be revealed, with riders still working on two different configurations of the raspy new big-bang engine.

KTM claimed continuing progress, with an updated version of their unique steel-tube chassis that riders preferred. Pol Espargaro’s crew chief Paul Trevathan told that “the bike was less physical”, answering complaints from Sepang that it was very tiring to ride.

The brand-new Austrian V4s remained at the far end of the time sheets, with Espargaro placed 19th, almost 1.8 seconds down on top time; and team-mate Bradly Smith 22nd and last, less than a tenth slower.

Ducati’s Baz and Aprilia class rookie Sam Lowes were sandwiched between them.

by Michael Scott

Images Russell Colvin