The vital 45 minute third practice session got underway for the MotoGP class at the Circuit of the Americas ahead of the third round of the MotoGP season. It was overcast, the temperature was down and the wind was up meaning that the riders would face more difficulties on the bumpy race track.
Huge crash for Rins who was the first of many to go down
Within minutes of the session getting underway, as rookie Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Alex Rins began to increase his pace after his warm up lap, crashed at the end of his lap in a big way. He came off at turn 19 and was able to get back up to his feet but was seen supporting his left wrist with his right hand. Rins unfortunately had to be taken to the medical centre to be checked over for his injuries.
It was later confirmed that he had fractured his left wrist and was declared as unfit to continue with the event in America. The Spaniard has just recovered from several and the beating was less than needed.
Moments later, the newly engaged, Alvaro Bautista (Pull & Bear Aspar Team) crashed out at turn two of the track. As he leaned into the corner on what would have been colder tyres, the front end tucked and he slid with the bike into the run-off area. Fortunately he was quickly up his feet and able to return to the pits.
Fantastic save from Miller
Jack Miller then made an incredible save aboard his Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda as he made his way around the track. He fell off the side of the bike on a left-hand corner, but somehow was able to pick it back up and continue riding. He stayed offline for a while probably to allow the blood to get back round to his arms after his near-miss.
Another crash occurred moments later at turn 13, this time for Aleix Espargaro who came off his Aprilia Racing Team Gresini bike. The turn is the first right hander after a number of left-hand corners and he got caught out, ending up in the gravel but looking unhurt. Close behind him was Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) who had to respond quickly to avoid crashing alongside the Spaniard; Rossi was later seen continuing on straight as he missed the apex of a left-hand turn.
Turn two proving notorious in the cool conditions
Then Andrea Dovizioso came off at turn two , the front end folded, he went down, banged his head on the track and slid out as Bautista did, his Ducati destroying itself in the gravel trap. Dovizioso’s airbags more than did their job as he was able to get straight back up to his feet in the inflated set and had to catch a lift back to the pits.
Then turn two claimed another victim as rookie Sam Lowes (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) also got caught out. Approaching the turn with caution he too lost the front end but after sliding, his bike catapulted once it hit the gravel and smashed against the pit wall. Fortunately Lowes also appeared unhurt however he look incredibly disheartened.
Cool conditions meant slower times
The cooler conditions at the American track was playing much to the advantage of Marc Marquez who stole the top spot on the timesheets in the closing stages of Free Practice 2 on day one. He was able to lap at a time of 2:04.061, rookie Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech3) and Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) who had dominated before-hand.
Marquez leads another burst of crashes
But then the Spaniard came off at turn 19 with 21 minutes to go. As Marquez exited the right-hand corner, the bike slid out from under him and both slid into the gravel. He was able to get back up to his feet and run to try and recover his bike straight away but he had to leave his bike to be recovered by the Marshalls and it was so buried and damaged.
Then Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar was down and hurt at another corner on the track. As the Marshalls dug his GSX-RR out of the gravel, Iannone was doubled over and looking incredibly uncomfortable as he tried to get away from the track, and had to lean up against the wall as he came to terms with what just happened. Fortunately, he was later able to walk back appearing to not carry any injuries, but looking incredibly fed up.
Then things went from bad to worse for the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini riders and crew as Aleix Espargaro had his second crash of the session. He ran wide as he approached the turn and the rear went from under him causing him to slide out; possibly due to rider error. He remained unhurt but was angry and frustrated as he slammed down his clipboard when talking to his pit crew.
Riders put off by the events during the session
Just 12 minutes of the session remained, and due to the number of crashes there were not many out on track at what would usually be a busy time. Nine crashes had occurred up to now, both of Aleix Espargaro’s bikes were damaged so he had no choice, but the others that remained in the pits were probably aware of the difficulties they were facing because of the conditions and chose to wait rather than push.
Jorge Lorenzo stayed out and was trying to finally get to grips with his factory Ducati which he has struggled with so far this season; a season where many fans hoped he would repeat the success of former Ducati rider, Casey Stoner. The Spaniard was able to improve setting a new personal best on several occasions during this session in particular. Rossi also remained out and took advantage of the quiet track.
Marquez has second crash of the session
Just when you thought there could surely be no more crashes during the session, Marquez went down and out of the race again; this time at turn 15 of the track with four minutes to go. He went down at the left-hander and the flick from the rear threw him up and over the bike so he appeared to be sitting on It as it smashed onto its side. He was lucky not to get tangled up with it as he ended up in its line of trajectory. This time he was able to pick it up and return to the pits on it.
Then with just over two minutes remaining, Lorenzo came off at turn 18. As he exited the corner and approached turn 19, he appeared to brake too early and was thrown off the left of the bike. Both ended up in the gravel; he was able to get up to his feet immediately, and was shaking his head as the Marshalls recovered his bike behind him.
Vinales and Pedrosa do the unthinkable
It seemed impossible that anyone could improve with the conditions as they were, and with so many struggling, but then, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) decided to change that. Pedrosa set a personal best time that meant he was able to jump up to second behind Marquez’s previous time. But then Vinales knocked him down a spot as he smashed the 2:04 minute barrier and lapped at 2:03.979 before calling it quits for the session.
It meant that Marquez had no choice but to watch on from the pits as he was pushed down to second and Pedrosa ended up third after his fast lap. Zarco was the fastest rookie and independent team rider in fourth because of his FP2 time. LCR Honda rider, Cal Crutchlow was able to improve and set his fastest time so far and ended up fifth making it three Hondas in the top five.
A lack of improvement in FP3 from Rossi saw him finish sixth quickest ahead of Dovizioso, British rider Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing) improved during FP3 and ended up in eighth, rookie Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech3) in ninth and Iannone completed the top 10 who automatically progress through to Qualifying 2.
Miller and Lorenzo favourites heading into Qualifying 1
Just outside the top 10, and top contender to join the others in Q2, was Miller who despite looking strong was 11th because of his fp3 ahead of Lorenzo who ended FP3 in 12th with his time from FP2. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing), Aleix Espargaro, Hector Barbera (Reale Avintia Racing) and Bautista were unable to improve and their FP2 times kept them in positions 13 to 16 on the timesheets.
Loriz Baz (Reale Avintia Racing) and Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) made improvements during FP3 and ended up 17th and 18TH. The remaining riders Rins, now ruled out, Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Karel Abraham (Pull & Bear Aspar Team) who is injured after his off on day one, Lowed, and Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) were all also unable to improve and completed the timesheets.