The third Free Practice sessions determines the top ten riders who will automatically progress through to the main Qualifying session ahead of the fifth round at Le Mans, France. Speculation surround Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) who was rumoured to replace Jorge Lorenzo at Movistar Yamaha next season as he recently announced his move to Ducati. It was confirmed that nothing was a ‘done deal’ as riders are still in negotiations.
Lorenzo set the pace straight away lapping below 1:33 minutes almost matching his fastest time set in FP2 which was a few tenths quicker than anyone else. The order stayed almost the same initially as Andrea Iannone (Ducati) placed himself in the second spot. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) improved enough to place himself third initially ahead of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) and Pol Espargaro on his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha at what is the home GP of his team and sponsors.
Crashes for some Spaniards
Crashes came early on in the session as two Spaniards slid out. Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) crashed out at turn fifteen in the first third of the session. The front of his GSX-RR tucked in in the final corners. He was unhurt but seemed stunned as he picked up his bike and ran across the track to enter the pits where he received a push from Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS).
Rookie Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) also crashed this time at turn three with less than half of the session to go. He was able to walk away but could not get bike started.
Lorenzo was man to beat in final section of session
Riders really started to push in the last fifteen minutes of the session to make it into the top ten. Lorenzo was able to take more time off his best making 1:32.533 the time to beat. Pol Espargaro looked close however seemed to lose time in the last two sections of the track. He was only a tenth off Lorenzo but then Iannone was flying but could only managing third after only managing to improve his time late on.
The final laps and everyone meant business. Lorenzo, Pol Espargaro, Iannone, Marquez and Vinales were guaranteed a place in Q2. Pedrosa made a last stitch attempt to place in sixth forcing Rossi down to seventh ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati). On his last lap Iannone stole the top spot with a time of 1:32.528 and by the end of the session it was British riders Bradley Smith (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) who claimed the last two spots.
It is not over yet...
The remainder of the field still had the chance to compete in Qualifying 2 which allows the top two to progress for a chance to place higher on the grid ahead of the race. Returning injured rider Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) was just outside the top ten in eleventh, his time was less than a second slower of that set by Iannone as was Petrucci’s teammate Scott Redding who placed in twelfth.
Aleix Espargaro was unable to return to track for long following his crash previously and so would need Qualifying 1 to give him the opportunity to place higher on the grid. He finished thirteenth in FP3 ahead Hector Barbera (Avintia Ducati), Yonny Hernandez (ASPAR Team MotoGP), Miller and Hernandez’s teammate Eugene Laverty.
Local lad Loriz Baz (Avintia Racing) seemed to struggle and finished eighteenth fastest in FP3 ahead of the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini riders Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista who finished just ahead of Rabat following his crash.