The sun was out and the pace from day one at the Circuit de Jerez was soon met and improved on within minutes of Free Practice 3 for the MotoGP class getting underway. Fresh tyres, adapted settings and sunshine were all key factors in the improvements.
Dry Free Practice 3 in Jerez
Conditions had improved as the opening day went on, and riders eventually brought their times down to the competitive pace seen over previous years, with Honda claiming the top three spots on the timesheet. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was fastest with a time of 1:39.420. Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) completed the top three spots.
Lorenzo finally looking comfortable on Ducati at favourite track
As he adjusts to life on Italian machinery, Jorge Lorenzo who favours the Spanish circuit managed to get his Ducati up to fourth fastest ahead of Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) who is also on the 2017 evolution of the Desmosedici.
Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) who crashed on day one (and was unhurt) was sixth quickest ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Pull & Bear Aspar Team), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), and the Espargaro brothers Aleix (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Pol who got the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing bike into the top 10.
Cool but sunny start to the day
Although there was still a cool air in the atmosphere, and the sun had not burnt off the moisture from the morning dew, it did not stop the riders from getting straight back to it. The Moto3 class had been out on track previous to them which helped to clean up the track again and lay some rubber down for them.
Free Practice 3 is significant as it is the last session that is able to count towards qualifying positions. The top 10 will progress through to Qualifying 2 automatically and the top two from Qualifying 1 would be able to join them… so the heat is on.
Marquez flies to the top of the timesheets
Marquez quickly made his way to the top of the timesheets pushing his teammate down to second. His time of 1:39.413 was proof that there would be many more changes when the session came to a close. The likes of MotoGP rookie Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech3), his rookie teammate, Jonas Folger and Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) had forced their way into the top 10 with a quarter of the session to go, but anything could happen and changes would be made.
Before the final time attack in attempt to remain in the top 10 began, it was Marquez who remained on top. Aleix Espargaro had wrestled his KTM round to shoot up to fourth with 14 minutes to go.. but there was not telling as the tension built up.
Flying lap from Rossi sends him to the top
Nine times world champion, and race winner in 2016, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) who was pushed down to 12th and outside the top 10, jumped straight to the top of the timesheets when he set a time of 1:39.352 with seven minutes of the session remaining. He had been working on a long distance run prior to his time attack.
His success was short-lived however as Pedrosa soon improved and knocked him down to second. Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing) was then able to push the Italian down to third when he slotted in in second, and then Miller moved up to fourth temporarily before rookie, Folger, knocked him down to fifth.
Fantastic lap from Pedrosa
Pedrosa was only getting started however, and improved on his next lap by 0.692 seconds becoming the first rider to lap under 1:39 minutes. He was soon joined by Lorenzo of all people, who was only able to slot in in second as he lost time in the fourth second.
Vinales then went up to third but Folger pushed him down to fourth beating his time and temporarily taking third. Many riders were improving, displaying yellow sectors to indicate personal best times at all sectors.
A quick lap from Crutchlow saw him jump up to third and shortly after Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) who was following after the Brit on track made it into the top ten. A lap from Marquez moved him up to fourth, with over 1.5 minutes remaining; his lap time was 0.391 seconds off his teammate’s at the top.
Chequered flag comes out
The chequered flag went out to end the session and Marquez was first to finish in fourth… for now. Many had managed to squeeze in another lap, Pedrosa was unable to make further improvements but was his top spot secure? Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) who was down in 16th was forced to abort his last lap meaning the factory rider would have to use Qualifying 1 to try and be in with a chance to start the race from the front four rows of the grid.
Pedrosa tops Free Practice 3
Pedrosa finished the vital Free Practice Session 3 on top 0.2 seconds ahead of Lorenzo. Vinales was third, the Spaniard who made such a fantastic start to the season was third. Marquez remained fourth ahead of Rossi Crutchlow and rookie Folger, the highest placed one in seventh. Redding was eighth and a late lap from Zarco left him ninth ahead of Miller in 10th who completed the list of riders who automatically progress through to Q2.
Iannone and Rabat favourites to progress to Q2?
Just outside the top 10, and favourites to progress on in Qualifying after FP3, was Iannone in 11th and Rabat in 12th. Petrucci was 14th quickest ahead of Aleix Espargaro and Alvaro Bautista (Pull & Bear Aspar Team) who was 15th. Dovizioso on the factory Ducati was 16th ahead of Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), and his teammate Pol behind him.
Reale Avintia Racing teammates Hector Barbera and Loris Baz followed ahead of injured Karel Abraham (Pull & Bear Aspar Team), Sam Lowes who was testing a new fairing on the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini in 22nd. Test rider Takuya Tsuda who is standing in for injured rookie Alex Rins for Team Suzuki Ecstar completed the timesheets.