The rain that was forecast held off as the MotoGP riders took to the TT Circuit Assen for Free Practice 3; the results from this determined who goes through to the second qualifying session to determine the top twelve places on the grid for the race.
Andrea Iannone (Ducati) dominated on day one and his time of 1:33.591 was the time to beat before the rain hit. As a result of a racing incident with Movistar Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo at the Barcelona GP the Italian has to start the race from the back of the grid as Race Direction decided to penalise him because of his involvement in several similar incidents; but it only seemed to make him more determined.
Eventful start to an incident filled session
Unfortunately for Hector Barbera (Avintia Ducati) he broke down at the start of the session and had to wheel his bike back to the pits. Soon after similar happened to Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) as he also had to go off the track because of a fault with his bike.
More chaos as 2015 champion Lorenzo crashed out at turn seven after shortly after. The front of his M1 Yamaha tucked under on the fast left hander and he was thrown into the gravel. He tumbled and appeared to be in shock as he struggled to get to his feet; he was able to stand ad limp away but it is not what the Spaniard needed after the last meeting where he had a DNF because of the crash with Iannone, and at a track where he already lacks confidence. When he returned to the pits a neck injury was visible; he had gravel rash and bruising.
Pol Espargaro (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) almost replicated Lorenzo’s crash just after the mid-point of the session as the front folded from underneath him. The older M1 appeared to be twitching on the approach as he appeared to be struggling to turn it on the previous corner and he went down in almost the same position as Lorenzo. Fortunately Pol was also unhurt and he was able to return to the pits.
Lucky saves for some riders
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) was forced to make a huge save soon after as he entered turn one. Smoke appeared from the rear of the bike as he appeared to lock the rear tyre but it was determined that it was a front wheel lock up; the jolt from the bike almost threw him off and over the top of the bike however he was able to apply the front brake and slow enough to prevent crashing. Luckily for him there is a huge run of area before the gravel trap at the first turn for him to use; he stayed out on track for a few more laps but had to slow up and encourage the airbag in his leathers to deflate as it had activated when he made the save.
As Maverick Vinales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was pushing to improve his time, he was forced to use the run off area on the corner instead of following in the Lorenzo and Pol’s footsteps. He also appeared to be struggling to turn the Suzuki on the previous right-handed corner; he returned to the pits straight after.
The crashes kept on coming
Two more crashes came with moments of each other as first Michele Pirro, who is filling in for injured Avintia Racing Team rider Loriz Baz aboard his Ducati, crashed at turn one. Then, Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP) crashed at turn sixteen as he entered the final corner of the track. Fortunately both riders appeared unhurt but the pressure was on as not much time remained.
Turn seven caught out another rider as Yonny Hernandez crashed on the way into the corner and his Aspar Team MotoGP Ducati cartwheeled through the gravel destroying itself in the process. All Hernandez could do as watch as he slid to a halt in the gravel trap with his arms up in horror as bits of it flew off and littered the gravel. He was also able to walk away from the fast crash.
Riders only improved in the final stages
Up until the final ten minutes only three riders had managed to improve on the previous times on day one. But then Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) began his pursuit as he became the first to far to beat Iannone’s time set previously. He completed several fast laps and managed to chip away at his time each lap.
Cal Crutchlow, who has just recently confirmed he will remain with LCR Honda, completed a flying lap which guaranteed his spot in the top ten; ahead of the 250th race anniversary of LCR and GIVI. Then Vinales struck knocking all the riders down a spot as he set the fastest time but not for long as Marquez also completed his best time soon after to claim it.
However, it was factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso who on his last lap of the session who managed to set the fastest time and take the top spot finishing the third Free Practice session in the lead with a time of 1:33.308. Marquez was second ahead of Vinales, Rossi and Crutchlow. Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) claimed sixth after a strong lap earlier on in the session ahead of his teammate Danilo Petrucci in seventh.
Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) who recently discovered he will not remain with the team as they have signed Moto2 rider Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) instead, was eighth fastest. Iannone was unable to match his fastest time from day one and finished ninth ahead of Lorenzo who completed the list of the top ten riders who automatically progress through to the second qualifying session.
Because of the daunting weather forceast ahead of the race, when the riders returned to the pits they practiced their quick exchanges from one bike to the other that will be left waiting with them with wet or slick tyres (depending on the conditions at the time). Fortunately this time Iannone did not miss his bike as he did the day before when practicing. His leap was so powerful he managed to miss his second bike.