Within minutes of the final Free Practice session getting underway, 2016 MotoGP champion, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) was in the gravel after missing the apex on a cold tyre. Fortunately the Spaniard did not drop his Honda, and instead managed to travel through the gravel and escape it with ease where he was able to continue on with the final 30 minute Free Practice session.
Ducati incredibly familiar with the Italian track, Mugello
Initially it appeared to be the Ducati squad that dominated as the riders settled back into lap time within the 1:48 minute marker. After approximately six minutes, Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) was the first to lap under 1:48 minutes with a time of 1:47.979.
Crutchlow crashes out at the start of Free Practice 4
Unfortunately for Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) who appeared to be having a slightly difficult day (the British rider had openly expressed his thoughts that he feels that Michelin have intentionally brought a tyre to suit the Ducati as it is their practice track and they have done a lot of lap times there), he ran wide off the track spoiling his momentum. Fortunately he was quickly able to re-join after avoiding a crash on tyres that he felt were not hard enough a compound for his liking.
Marquez also appeared to be struggling with the front end of his Honda. On turn 15 approximately 10 minutes in, he was forced to rescue a crash as the front almost followed and he was almost thrown from the rear when he exited the turn. Marquez has previously expressed that the hard compound Michelin is still not hard enough for his liking either.
Rossi tops the timesheets once again
Approaching the 12 minute mark, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) who was injured in a Motocross crash in between rounds, and is wanting to do well in front of his own fans after a disappointing crash in Le Mans where he came off with corners to go, was pushing hard and returned to the top of the timesheets, where he finished Free Practice 3 with a time of 1:47.753. He managed to keep fellow Italian, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) at bay who was also displaying the potential to secure pole.
Things settled at the top as although riders pushed and completed personal best times, they were unable to come near the time set by the nine times world champion. Pirro continued to impress as he made his way to second as the top Ducati; the time testing the Desmosedici at the Italian track was certainly paying off for the Italian wildcard.
Rossi crashes out at the end of Free Practice 4
Then however, the already battered and bruised Rossi crashed at turn 12 of the circuit as he began to accelerate out of the right hand turn. The rear started to come around and the front extended and so both he and the bike flew into the gravel but after a moment he was back up to his feet looking to see what had happened. The session was over and he finished top in FP3, so there was no mad panic to return however he would need to have his bike returned as soon as possible ready for Qualifying 2.
Zarco ends the final practice session on top
It was Zarco who finished top of Free Practice 4 in Mugello however as a late lap meant he stole the prime spot from the factory Yamaha rider. His time of 1:47.690 saw him finish quickest however it was over a second slower than Rossi’s time during Free Practice 3.
Rossi was second before Qualifying ahead of Marquez in third. Alvaro Bautista (Pull & Bear Aspar Team) was the top Ducati in fourth ahead of test rider, Pirro in fifth. Rookie, Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech3) who has just had his contract extended through to 2018, was sixth ahead of Dovizioso, Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha), Lorenzo and Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) who completed the top 10.
Short break before intense Qualifying 1
There was a short break in proceedings after Free Practice 4 before the first of the Qualifying sessions got underway. Petrucci was first out of the pits keen to get a quick lap on the board with a clear track ahead of him. Bizarrely, Zarco remained in the pits possibly because he was lacking in surplus tyres for Qualifying.
Initially, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammates Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith acquired the top spots when the fast laps started to come in. Then along came the Reale Avintia Racing team riders Hector Barbera and Loris Baz came along to take over at the top.
It was still early though even though only they were starting to approach the halfway mark with nine minutes remaining. Folger pushed and set a low 1:47 minute lap which temporarily placed him top before Petrucci stepped in to take over when he lapped just 0.02 seconds quicker.
Zarco climbs to the top after late start to the session
It was intense as riders watched on as the final few minutes approached. It was now or never, and a lot of riders were gunning for that top spot. Zarco finally made his way out with five minutes remaining more than likely hoping to complete two important flying laps.
Barbera was displaying a strong second sector as he rode around out on his own. His form continued on through to the third sector, as was the same for Crutchlow who was behind him on track. Barbera went top with a time of 1:47.272 provisionally claiming the top spot but only briefly as Crutchlow went 0.052 seconds quicker knocking him down to second.
Folger crashes out ending day early
Then unfortunately for Folger, the day came to an abrupt end when he had an unusual crash. He appeared OK as he was able to get straight back to his feet; however he was out of time and had to settle for finishing out of the top two.
For his teammate Zarco however, he kept on pushing and on his second lap he went top with a really low 1:47 minute lap ahead of Petrucci who slotted into second and pushed Crutchlow out of the top two spots. It wasn’t over though as although the flag had went out, the riders managed to sneak in one more lap.
Zarco and Petrucci progress through to Qualifying 2
Zarco improved once again on his final attempt after an amazing final sector. Crutchlow could not come near meaning that when they crossed the line for the final time on day two, it was Petrucci who had done enough to secure second and he and the Frenchman would have a short break before they got the chance to battle for a spot on the front four rows of the grid in Qualifying 2.
Riders keen to get the final session underway
Lorenzo was keen to get out of the pit lane as quick as possible when the final session got underway, but he was held up slightly which meant that Marquez was able to follow him on track. Initially, the first flying laps saw Pirro once again go pole, and Marquez and Lorenzo temporarily slotted in behind.
Third crash for Aleix Espargaro
Disappointingly for Aleix Espargaro, he had his third crash of the weekend at turn nine of the track with just over 10 minutes to go. He was OK, although covered in dust from the gravel, and seconded a nearby scooter and returned to the pits with the owner, hoping to return to the track and improve further.
Marquez goes top
Moments later, Marquez improved further and went top of the timesheets however the likes of Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), Petrucci, Rossi and Vinales were all displaying red sectors. Petrucci stole first from him as he shot over the line with a time of 1:47.266.
There was still a long way to go should they get down to the pace set by Rossi earlier on in the day. Around the midway point, the majority of the riders returned to the pits for a short stint, while Lorenzo remained out on track and hot on the pace. Despite a quick opening sector he was only able to complete a personal best during the session which placed him third. With six minutes remaining, Aleix Espargaro who managed to return in time made his way back out on track hoping to set a fast time.
Intense end to the final MotoGP Qualifying session
It was incredibly intense at Mugello as the session was drawing to a close and there was no telling who was going to claim pole as so many oozed the potential. The Ducatis were coming into form, as Bautista provisionally claimed pol with a time of 1:47167 just after Pedrosa had claimed it, with Rabat in tow bringing the Spaniard up to fourth. Vinales was pushing hard though and was first to lap under 1:47 in the Qualifying session setting a provisional pole with a time of 1:46.575. Then, with one minute to go, Petrucci squeezed into second however his lap time was cancelled.
There were yellow sectors displayed throughout the tower of times as the riders pushed hard to try and get on the front row. Marquez appeared to be held up by Zarco and on his last attempt was only able to scrape second.
Vinales claims third pole of the season in Mugello
Vinales watched on after completing his final lap to see whether his pole position was going to be in jeopardy but no one was even close. His time of 1:46.575, which was 0.86 seconds off the record set by Iannone in 2015, claimed him his third pole of the MotoGP season. He will be joined on the front row by Rossi, who benefited from Petrucci’s lap time being cancelled, and so he will start from second on the grid. Joining them in third is Italian Ducati Team rider, Dovizioso.
An amazing performance from wildcard, Pirro means he is fourth on the grid leading the second row ahead of Repsol Honda teammates Pedrosa and Marquez in fifth and sixth. The front two rows consist of two Yamahas, followed by two Ducati, followed by two Hondas.
Lorenzo heads the third row in seventh on the grid ahead of the top independent team rider, Bautsita in eighth, and Petrucci’s cancelled lap meant he will start from ninth on the grid. Rabat’s tactics will see him start from 10th on the grid ahead of rookie, Zarco and Aleix Espargaro as the top Aprilia in 12th.
Frustrating fifth row start for Crutchlow
An angry and frustrated Crutchlow, who was seen throwing his protective gear when he returned to the pits after Qualifying 1, will start the race from 13th on the grid at the front of the fifth row. He will be joined by Barbera and rookie, Folger. Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) who has been unwell during the build-up of the weekend in Mugello, is 6th ahead of Baz and Pol Espargaro who will start from 18th on the KTM.
Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) is 19th ahead of Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing) and returning MotoGP rider, Karel Abraham (Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati) who is still carrying injuries in 21st.The final row is made up of Sam Lowes (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who is finally looking comfortable in 22nd, ahead of Smith and Sylvain Guintoli, in 24th who is stepping in for injured Alex Rins for Team Suzuki Ecstar.