Catalan MotoGP: Vinales fastest following FP3 on modified track

The MotoGP class were given an extended third Free Practice session to familiarize themselves with the 'Formula 1' circuit that was to be used after the incident involving the late Luis Salom. Vinales was the fastest of the ten riders who automatically progressed to Qualifying 2.

Catalan MotoGP: Vinales fastest following FP3 on modified track
Vinales fastest after FP3 -

As usual the MotoGP class held FP3 and used the session to decide who would make it through to the second qualifying session to determine the top ten places on the grid.  

The session was extended by fifteen minutes so that riders could become familiar with the altered track layout; as they would be riding on the Formula 1 circuit which they have previously tested on following the extremely sad circumstances of Moto2 rider Luis Salom losing his life on day one at the seventh round of the MotoGP season at the Circuit of Barcelona in Catalunya.

Track modified to avoid corner of recent incident

All riders were strong on the first three sectors of the track as they were already familiar with the layout, with the changes having occurred in the final sector where turn twelve was bypassed to slow the riders down and keep them away from the turn where Salom lost his life.

The changes to the track increased the lap times even though the course was slightly shorter than the original layout, but within fifteen minutes they were able to get within four seconds of the lap times from the previous day. As well as altering the speed, the changes created areas where overtakes could take place.

Safety Commision Meeting including ten riders at Circuit de Catalunya where they decided to modify track for safety -
Safety Commision Meeting including ten riders at Circuit de Catalunya where they decided to modify track for safety -

Marquez keen to do well at home GP

Spanish rider Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) was the first to break through the 1:46 minutes barrier (five seconds slower than the previous day), setting the pace with a time of 1:45.862. After fifteen minutes the majority of riders returned to the pits for their first break and to analyse data and make changes.  This is when Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) managed to improve on his teammate’s time by half a second to claim the top spot of the leaderboard.

Marquez returned to the track and appeared to be struggling to stop the Honda at various corners around the track. The rear would lift under heavy breaking as he dropped into the corners and he would appear to be entering them almost sideways on his return to the track.

It was not long before he came off his bike, crashing at turn two, just moments after he had left the pits to take on his out lap. The Spaniard appeared to fall off the side of the bike when leaning into the turn and he flew into the gravel trap after it.

After a short ride back to the pits on the back of an Estrella Galicia scooter, he sprinted down the length of the paddock to return to his pit garage as the crowds applauded him.

Vinales on the pace 

While Marquez was in the pits, Maverick Vinales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) stepped things up a gear and after a few laps practice on the final sector, he soon set the provisional fastest time of the session. Marquez returned with eleven minutes remaining and within five minutes had managed to break through the 1:44 minute barrier, re-setting the fastest time of the session so far at 1:44.847.

Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) set a personal best time that placed him temporarily in third as the fastest Ducati, and then Pol Espargaro (Monster Tech3 Yamaha) completed his quickest time of the session, snapping up second position.

Unfortunately his teammate Bradley Smith (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) did not have much good fortune and he crashed out at turn two in an incident similar to Marquez's earlier in the day, thus ending his session early.

The crash meant Smith had missed out on his chance to automatically get through to Qualifying 2 unless he was going to ‘up his game’ in the first session and go through as one of the top two riders.

Flying laps gained riders automatic access to Qualifying 2

Late fast laps from Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha), Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) secured them a place in the top ten to automatically go through to qualifying two, but the most significant was by Vinales. Free Practice Session 3 ended with as Vinales fastest, with his time of 1:44.727 placing him ahead of Repsol Honda teammates Marquez and Pedrosa.

Rossi’s lap brought him up to fourth as the top Yamaha ahead of Tech3 Yamaha, Pol Espagaro who in turn, finished ahead of factory Yamaha Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha).

Redding finished seventh fastest as the fastest Ducati ahead of his teammate Petrucci in eighth and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) completing the top ten behind Crutchlow in ninth to automatically progress through to Qualifying 2.

Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP) had been stalking Lorenzo as he lapped and this paid off as he was eleventh fastest ahead of factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso who could only manage twelfth.

Hector Barbera (Avintia Ducati) was thirteenth ahead of the second factory Suzuki ridden by Aleix Espargaro in fourteenth, who was more than 1.2 seconds slower than his teammate, while Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) finished above factory Aprilia rider Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) in sixteenth.

Michele Pirro, who is standing in for injured Loriz Baz aboard the Avintia Ducati, was in seventeenth ahead of Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP), Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Smith who completed the field in an unusual last position.