By Josh Alston For Daily Mail Australia
MotoGP has returned to Phillip Island for the first time in three years and you couldn’t hope for a more Australian start to the three days of racing.
The island south-east of Melbourne was lashed with rain and the track was underwater when riders did a course inspection by foot yesterday.
Yep, we’re definitely back in Phillip Island! 🦘😅#AustralianGP 🇦🇺 pic.twitter.com/zSg7wUT32i
Then, when practice was given the all-clear on Friday, riders had to avoid a kangaroo that bounded onto the track as the motorcycles roared by.
The iconic event was cancelled in 2019 because of high winds before Covid wrecked the next two years of MotoGP action.
The long-awaited return to the island should be a boost for Australian rider Jack Miller who remains in contention for the MotoGP championship and needs a big home win to keep the pace.
Damp at Phillip Island… 📸 @vaclavduskajr pic.twitter.com/mVfkdKZl6S
With three races left in the championship, the Ducati rider is 40 points behind leader Fabio Quartararo.
However, Miller’s factory Ducati teammate Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia is only two points behind the Frenchman and has a strong case to be given tactical priority by the Ducati team.
Frenchman Johann Zarco posted the fastest lap time of 1 min 30.368 sec in the practice session with Miller just 0.091 seconds behind. Bagnaia was eighth fastest while Quartararo was 12th
Miller knows the score, but said if there was a window of opportunity to win his home grand prix, he was taking it.
‘I know what I need to do,’ Miller said.
‘If I’m fighting for a win, I’ll go for the win. It’s as simple as that, especially at a home Grand Prix.
Miller rides his Ducati during the MotoGP first free practice session at Phillip Island
‘I’ve been in contention all the time. I never been out of contention. Because ’til you’re fully mathematically out, you’re not out. With MotoGP, somebody can get injured, anything can happen.
‘I feel good. I felt really good last weekend in the wet and in the dry.
‘We were close coming off the winner in Japan and then the second last week out in Thailand. We can fairly say that we’re coming in here with higher expectations.’
Miller and Ducati teammate Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia front the media ahead of racing
Miller’s former LCR Honda teammate Cal Crutchlow said that Miller deserved to be favourite.
‘At this stage Jack is the favourite to win here although anything can happen so you never know,’ he said.
‘Jack’s on a roll right now and he’s looking good.
‘It’s a special circuit and if you know the tricks of the trade you can do well here.’
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group