Within minutes of the third Free Practice session for the MotoGP class beginning at the Autodromo del Mugello in Florence, Italy, ahead of the Gran Premio D’Italia Oakley, getting underway, there were two crashes as riders were possibly caught out with the cool track conditions.
Two crashes in the opening minutes of Free Practice 3
Quickest at the end of day one, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) was the first to crash out on a left hand turn; he had a low slide at the quick turn 13 that sent him into the gravel and he appeared to have hurt his elbow. Moments later Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) came off at the fast turn 11; he tumbled through the gravel as did his Ducati Desmosedici GP17.
Temperature up meaning improvements early on
Within minutes however, the likes of Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) was able to improve on his previous time. Whether that was because he wasn’t running well on the opening day, or whether the track was ready for fast times as the temperature increased, he was able to jump up to eighth. Moments later, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) was able to set the fastest times through sectors one and two which enabled him to jump up to third.
More quick times from the likes of crasher on day one, Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) and others meant that conditions were clearly ideal and that the session was going to be action packed. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) then set a fantastic time of 1:47.173, after a weaker first two sectors, and was able to claim the top spot during the session and on combined times just 10 minutes into the session; the team are said to have received an upgrade to the engine that they were expecting previously that was proving effective.
Almost a pile-up of Yamahas at turn one
Three Yamaha riders were out on track together. Rookie, Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) led ahead of Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) who was injured in between rounds during a motocross training incident, and Vinales followed. As he entered turn one, Rossi had a tighter inside line than Zarco, but had to slow right down to avoid the French man who has claimed two podiums already, and thus spoiled the momentum of his teammate behind him as Vinales had to brake to avoid hitting the Italian; he was not happy and waved his hand, but Rossi never looks behind.
Crash no. 2 for Petrucci
Hoping to do well on home turf was Petrucci who 20 minutes into the session was quickest during the first two sectors of the Italian circuit. He dropped down to a personal best time on sector three, and overall managed to move up to sixth on the timesheets. But having struggled previously, he couldn’t get the Ducati stopped heading into turn one of his next lap and dropped it at the right hand turn. He appeared unhurt but his second crash meant that his team had their work cut out to get him back out on track before the session finished.
Pirro making a wildcard appearance in Mugello
Another man who was looking incredibly strong on home turf was wildcard rider, Michele Pirro who 25 minutes in was quickest during sectors one and two with the Ducati Team. He lost time in the final two sectors, but once again was quickest during the opening half of the lap net time around. The third sector was letting him down, although he was making improvements and he couldn’t seem to budge from ninth because of the final sector.
All the Ducatis were thriving in the opening sectors of the laps which is made up of long straights. The acceleration of the Italian machine is well known and the long start-finish straight was proving beneficial to them.
Last minute changes before the final surge
The riders revisited the pits for what would be their final time where they made last minute changes to settings ahead of the final time attack that would be used in an attempt to remain in the top 10 at the end of Free Practice 3, that would also allow them to automatically progress to Qualifying 2 later on in the day; the remainder of the pack would have to battle it out during Qualifying 1 for the top two spots as those riders can continue on.
A quiet track saw Alvaro Bautista (Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati) looking strong with a red first two sectors. Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing) was also strong in sectors one and three.
Strong finish to Free Practice 3 for Rossi
The switch to soft tyres was proving beneficial. Rossi was on a mission, determined to do well in front of his home and he was pushing and after going quickest during the first three sectors, he only completed a personal best time in the final sector which saw him go up to fourth. He then continued on, with pains in his chest and his arm (that he was originally unaware of) to begin a second strong lap.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was also looking strong however he dropped to a personal best time on the third sector. As Rossi crossed the line he improved up to second and Pedrosa up to fourth; they potentially were safe to progress through to Qualifying 2.
Lorenzo gets in Iannone’s way then goes quickest
Unfortunately for Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) he had a fast lap spoiled by Lorenzo. He overtook the Spaniard, and looked to be able to recover but then he ran wide. He turned around and gestured to Lorenzo; he was not happy with the Spaniard being in his way.
It did not spoil things for Lorenzo however as he began a very quick lap on his next attempt. He was flying, looking fast and controlled with five minutes of the session remaining, and became the first rider to lap under 1:47 minutes when he went top with a time of 1:46.911.
Marquez temporarily on top
Hi success was short-lived however as along came the 2016 MotoGP champion, with Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) in tow and he went to after improving on Lorenzo’s time by 0.046 seconds. Rabat was able to slot into fourth by following the factory rider.
Rossi almost sets a new record
Several riders were pushing as Pirro snuck into the top 10 with two minutes to go forcing Crutchlow down to 11th. Still over a minute remained, and that at this level proves to be plenty of time for improvements as we witnessed when Rossi lapped at 1:46.543, 0.322 seconds quicker than Marquez and stole the top spot before the flag went out. His time was quicker than the Circuit Record Lap set during the race in 2013 by Marquez (1:47.639) however it was just slightly slower than Iannone’s Best ever Lap in 2015 (1:46.489).
There were further improvements down the field as they scrambled to finish in the top 10. Behind quickest man Rossi, Marquez was second ahead of Lorenzo who was pushed down to third. Bautista was fourth as the top independent rider ahead of Vinales who finished the session in fifth. Rabat amazingly finished sixth ahead of wildcard rider, Pirro, fastest in FP1 Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Pedrosa and Aleix Espargaro, who remained in the top 10 and go directly through to Qualifying 2.
Zarco and Crutchlow favourites for Qualifying 1
Just forced out of the top 10 was Zarco who finished up 11 but as the favourite to progress through after Qualifying 1. The second favourite, finishing FP3 in 12th was quickest at the end of day one, Crutchlow. British rider Redding was 13th ahead of his teammate, Petrucci who was 14th after his two crashes. Hector Barbera (Real Avintia Racing) was 15th ahead of German rookie, Jonas Folger; who has just had his contract with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 extended through to the end of the 2018 season understandably.
Finishing 17th after his final attempt was spoiled, was Italian rider Iannone. On Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s debut in Mugello, Pol Espargaro finished 18th ahead of Frenchman, Loris Baz (Reale Avintia Racing). British rider, Sam Lowes (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) completed the top 20. Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), who had a difficult weekend in Le Mans, was 21st ahead of Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Karel Abraham (Pull & Bear Aspar Team) and Sylvain Guintoli who is standing in for injured Alex Rins for Team Suzuki Ecstar, who completed the timesheets.
Lorenzo was quickest during sector one and four at the end of the session, but Rossi dominated sectors two and three, his times through those sectors allowed him to secure the quickest time at his home circuit.