After a winter of toil for Miller and KTM, the Australian ended the first day of the 2023 season with a new lap record at the Algarve International Circuit after a late surge to the top.
Having gotten underway at 3pm local time, the one-hour FP2 – which has been extended for 2023 as part of the format shake-up – the session didn’t finish until almost two hours later due to two lengthy stoppages.
The first came just under 15 minutes in when a technical issue with the timing system at the circuit forced the session to be halted for almost half an hour.
The session was red-flagged again with just under 14 minutes of running left due to a violent crash for Tech3 GASGAS rider Pol Espargaro.
The Spaniard, who returns to the rebranded KTM-backed Tech3 squad after two dismal years at Honda, was launched from his RC16 at Turn 10 and violently rolled his way into the barrier.
Espargaro was treated trackside for around half an hour before being loaded into an ambulance, with the Tech3 rider now on his way to hospital in Faro by helicopter for checks on his back and neck.
The session got back underway at 4:40pm local time, with Pol Espargaro’s brother Aleix Espargaro fastest of all with a 1m38.253s he set on his Aprilia prior to the second red flag.
With the combined times at the end of Friday’s practices in 2023 decided the qualifying groups, the closing stages turned into a frantic time attack session.
Pol Espargaro was airlifted to hospital after a violent crash.
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
VR46 Ducati rider Luca Marini was on course to dethrone Aleix Espargaro’s lap, but crashed while chasing team-mate Marco Bezzecchi.
With eight minutes remaining, Jorge Martin on the Pramac Ducati went top with a 1m37.991s, setting a new lap record in the process.
It wouldn’t stand for long, however, as reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia took over from Martin moments later with a 1m37.856s.
Bagnaia’s session lasted just a few more corners, though, as he came to a halt on the run to Turn 5 with an issue on his factory Ducati.
Maverick Vinales on the sister Aprilia edged ahead of Bagnaia’s time with three minutes to go, the Spaniard firing in a 1m37.746s.
But it wasn’t good enough to stop Miller, who surprisingly lifted himself up the order with his 1m37.709s to lead the field by 0.037s at the chequered flag.
Bagnaia held onto third behind Vinales despite his late issue, while Marini’s crash wasn’t enough to deny him a place in Saturday’s pole shootout session.
Martin completed the top five from Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo, who jumped up to sixth on his final lap having languished outside of the crucial top 10 places.
For the final stages of FP2, Quartararo was being shadowed by Marc Marquez. But the Honda rider crashed chasing the Frenchman in the closing stages and will face Q1 on Saturday.
Johann Zarco (Pramac), Bezzecchi, Aleix Espargaro and Ducati’s Enea Bastianini took the final Q2 slots.
FP1 pacesetter Alex Marquez was denied a Q2 place by just over a tenth as he ended up 11th on his Gresini Ducati, while Joan Mir led the Honda charge in 12th as no HRC rider made the Q2 cut.
Alex Rins slotted himself between Mir and Marquez in 13th and ahead of LCR team-mate Takaaki Nakagami.
Crashes for RNF duo Raul Fernandez and Miguel Oliveira left both in 17th and 19th, while no other KTM rider got close to matching Miller’s lap – with Tech3 rookie Augusto Fernandez the next-best RC16 runner, 1.1s off the pace in 16th.
Source: Boxing News 24