Marquez leads the way in Valencia; quickest after MotoGP FP3

Marquez leads the way in Valencia; quickest after MotoGP FP3

For the final times this season, the MotoGP riders took to the track for Free Practice 3 to compete for the top 10 spots that gets them through to Qualifying 2. Marc Marquez was quickest at the end of the session, and British riders Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding were the favourites to join them after Qualifying 1.

Danielle Overend

Conditions were much cooler on the morning of day two of the Gran Premio Motul de la Communitat Valenciana, as the MotoGP class took to the Ricardo Tormo circuit for Free Practice 3. For the final time this year, the results from this session would determine who automatically progresses to Qualifying 2; to compete for the positions on the first front four rows on the grid ahead of the season finale.

Close call for Pol Espargaro and Marquez

The riders were straight to task as they got bikes and tyres up to optimum performance. Within the first ten minutes of the session, Pol Espargaro (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) missed the apex of turn seven and ran straight on. He was followed closely by the 2016 MotoGP champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) who would have been distracted by Pol’s mistake. Both were able to run into the run-off area where they managed to come to a stop safely and complete a U-turn before returning to track.

No changes were made to the top ten on the cool track by the time they got to the halfway point of the session. Only Bradley Smith, who will be completing his last race after six years with Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, as he is set to move to Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, (who are making their MotoGP debut as Mika Kallio puts it through its paces at the season finale), was able to improve by this stage.

Hernandez and Iannone come into contact

As Yonny Hernandez (Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati), who will be leaving the MotoGP and returning to the Moto2 next season, was taking a break on track off line, so was Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team). Oth of them were looking the wrong way to check for oncoming traffic and they came into contact on track. Hernandez ended up being hit by Iannone’s wings off the left hand side of his Ducati; the two carbon fibre additions snapped off instantly and ended up in track. It did not stop Iannone however as he continued on without them instead of pitting, possibly unaware of their loss.

Currently on the top of the independent team championship, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), who has unfortunately not collected any points in the last round in Sepang, and so he has not confirmed that his success yet, was the first to improve and made his way into the top 10 from 11th on the time sheet. His first flying lap after returning from the pits saw him jump up to sixth after he smoked the rear tyre around Valencia; he returned to the pits after doing so. Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Aleix Espargaro also jumped up to fourth from sixth, pushing his brother Pol down to sixth.

It meant that Dani Pedrosa, who is making his return after suffering a huge-side aboard his Repsol Honda in Motegi, was pushed out of the top 10. Pedrosa suffered a broken collarbone, fibula and his toe with the crash and missed the three ‘flyaway’ rounds as a result.

The action began with seven minutes to go

Just seven minutes of the session remained and this is when the action began to start. Movistar Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo who led after day one, and is wanting to end his career with Movistar Yamaha with a win in the season finale before he moves to Ducati, improved his own time. Then along came Marquez to improve on it and he claimed the top spot with a time of 1:30.258.

Then Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati), who is battling for the Desmosedici GP17 next year with his teammate Danilo Petrucci, jumped up to eighth. It was not safe though as Pedrosa moved up to fourth, and Smith jumped up to eighth pushing the Brit Redding back out of the top 10.

Iannone soon responded jumping up to eighth pushing Crutchlow out of the top ten. Maverick Vinales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was able to challenge for the top spot as he was able to jump up to second just 0. seconds behind leader Marquez. Just as the session came to a close, Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) crashed out at turn four of the circuit. He appeared unhurt as he rolled over the tyre wall to get to the safety area.

Marquez leads the top ten progressing to Qualifying Two

The flag went out and it was still intense on track as riders pushed to complete their last flying lap. The flurry of excitement means that the results cannot be guaranteed until the last man crosses the line. Marquez remained the quickest at the end of FP3. Vinales remained second (he then messed up his practice start pulling a massive wheelie by accident), and Lorenzo’s fastest time from day one during Free Practice 2, was enough to secure him third; the 2016 MotoGP champion opted to cover race distance alternatively analysing tyre performance in the process.

Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was fourth quickest ahead of Pedrosa who ended up fifth. The Espargaro brothers followed on, Pol was sixth as the top independent rider ahead of Aleix (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in seventh. Iannone was eighth ahead of nine times world champion Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha), who along with Smith completed the top 10 riders who automatically progress to Qualifying 2.

Crutchlow and Redding the favourites to lead Qualifying One

Crutchlow was just outside the top 10 in 1th as his time was not enough to allow him to progress, but he remains the favourite to progress through after Qualifying 1. Behind him, as the other favourite, Redding was 12th quickest after FP3. He finished ahead of his Italian teammate Petrucci, Hector Barbera on the Avintia Racing Ducati was 14th, and Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), who are showing their support to the charity (RED) sporting red leathers and livery to raise awareness for diseases in deprived areas, completed the top 15; Bradl will be completing his last race in the MotoGP in Valencia as he is returning to the World Superbikes.

Despite his crash, Miller remained 16th on the timesheet ahead of Eugene Laverty (Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati) in 17th, a rider who is also looking to get a great result on his last MotoGP race as he too is set to return to the World Superbikes. Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), who is sporting the same charity livery and leathers as his teammate, rookie Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Hernandez completed the top 20. Loris Baz (Avintia Racing) is 21st as he comes to the end of a tough season haunted by injuries.

Significant improvements from the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team on their MotoGP debut

On its debut in the MotoGP, Finnish rider Kallio, test rider for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, was able to reduce the time set in Free Practice 2 by a further 0.802 seconds. Although he was last on the timesheets, as expected as it has never competed amongst the other machines yet, he managed to reduce the gap to the leaders to just 2.514 seconds meaning it surely won’t be long until that machine is competitive.