Although it was dry and sunny for the final Moto3 Free Practice session and Qualifying session of the year ahead of the Gram Premio Motul de la Communitat Valenciana in Spain, when the 250cc class took to the track for the opening session of the day, it was still very cold. As the pit crews wrapped up in layers, scarves and hats, the riders took to the track to make some final preparations ahead of Qualifying.
Strange start today two for some Moto3 riders
The 2016 Moto3 champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had a little trouble at the start of the session as something was loose on the side of his bike, a quick visit to the pits soon sorted it out for him. Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) was clearly very excited to get things underway as he repeatedly pulled a wheelie on his out-lap.
The track is always busy when the Moto3 class take to it, and at the start Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) and Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold) almost came together at turn one; Danilo was forced to bail as they entered the corner and ran on straight instead. As several riders continued to lose laps due to ‘overuse of the track’, including the likes of Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate).
RBA Racing Team rider Gabriel Rodrigo was back to his form from day one as he took the top spot early on in the final practice session, before it was taken from Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46).
Navarro the first to crash
With 27 minutes of the session remaining, Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) crashed at turn 2 of the circuit. The front tucked under him and then the rear came round meaning he was unable to save the Honda from crashing, and he slid across the track before tumbling into the gravel. Navarro appeared to be unhurt.
Brad Binder claimed the top spot with 20 minutes to go and improved on his lap time on his next lap becoming the first rider to break through the 1:40 minute barrier. He was soon joined by Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) who has looked incredibly strong so far throughout the weekend.
With just 5 minutes remaining, Stefano Valtulini (3570 Team Italia), a team that won’t be returning to the championship next year, crashed at turn 10 of the circuit. The front tucked under and it slammed him down on the track, he too seemed to be OK.
Late flurry of laps at the end of FP3
In the final few minutes, Juanfran Geuvara (RBA Racing Team), who was quickest on day one of Free Practice in Valencia, went back to the top as he beat Brad Binder’s previous time. It did not last long however, as along came Andrea Locatelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) to take the lead when he lapped 0.262 seconds quicker than Geuvara; his time of 1:39.628 meant he eas the one to watch ahead of qualifying.
Free Practice 3 finished up with Locatelli leading ahead of Guevara, rookie Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) completed a last minute flying lap to take third, and Brad Binder and Quartararo completed the top five. Antonelli was pushed down to sixth, Mir down to seventh, and Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) who finished on the podium at the last round in Sepang, finished the session in eighth. Pull & Bear Aspar Mahindra teammates Jorge Martin and Francesco Bagnaia completed the top 10.
Warmer temperatures in time for Qualifying
The temperature had increased significantly by the time Qualifying for the Moto3 class got underway. The crews had taken some layers off, the track temperature was up and the competition was on.
Within minutes of the session starting, there were two crashes at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit. First, Vicente Perez, who is replacing injured John McPhee on the Peugeot MC Saxoprint Mahindra came off at turn three. He appeared unhurt but had landed on his hip.
Guevara makes an amazing save
Then Guevara made one of the most amazing saves of the season. As he approached turn six, the back end slid and threw him up and over the bike. He landed on his knees beside the bike, and as they continued to travel forward, he was able to get up to his feet smoking his boots as they slid, and then used his left foot to apply the back lever. So brave, courageous and highly skilled, he managed to bring it to a controlled stop, safely, and then remounted and continued on with the session.
Migno has a huge crash
With 32 minutes of the session remaining, Migno had a huge crash at turn nine. He was thrown over the bike and he and the bike ended up in the gravel battered. His airbags, leathers and protective padding appeared to have taken the brunt of his injuries, and when they returned to the pits, it was a waiting game for him as he sat with his helmet on as his crew fixed his bike. They had to work on the radiator and front brake, but he did make I back out in time for the last challenge.
With 12 minutes of the Qualifying remaining, Mir made his way to the top of the timesheets temporarily securing pole. It came after a few efforts as he lapped the Spanish circuit, at one point Albert Arenas (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) got in his way (which he decided to display his anger as he waved to Arenas several times). Just minutes later, Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing), who tends to stay out on track on his own, managed to lap quicker and stole pole from Mir which lasted until the final few stages of the session.
Unfortunately for Adam Norrodin (Drive M7 SIC Racing), he crashed at turn 12 of the circuit. His bike tumbled sideways damaging itself in the process, fortunately Norrodin was OK. As this occurred, the Red Bull KTM Ajo teammates Brad Binder and Bo Bendsneyder mobbed Stefano Valtulini (3570 Team Italia) sandwiching him on track as they passed him on either side as they pushed. It was also day over for Lorenzo Petrarca (3570 Team Italia) as he had to run off the track due to smoke coming from his engine.
Riders take their final pit stop
Just seven minutes of the final Qualifying session of the year remained and the majority of riders were in the pit for the final time before their last time attack. Some riders took a more relaxed approach to the end of the session choosing to remain in the pits to avoid the mad dash. It was not long until everyone was out on track though and they were making their last attempt to qualify better for the season finale.
The session came to an abrupt end early for Danilo however as he crashed at turn five of the session having touched the kerb, the rear of the bike slid and it threw him up and over it. The bike came to a stop on the other side of the track, after it hit him in the back, but he was able to get straight up to his feet. Locatelli crashed out at turn 4 having only qualified in 23rd before the session had even finished.
Late flurry of laps in the closing stages
Flying laps came in in the final moments as Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3), shot up to fourth, and Bastianini slotted in in second. But then, the 2016 champion, Brad Binder, lapped quick enough to steal pole position, and rookie Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), who is nursing a shoulder injury, took second behind him as he had been following the champion on track. The flag went out to end the session, but several had already crossed the line to start one more lap and so it was not over yet.
Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM AJO) was able to take fourth, but as he completed his last qualigying lap of the season, rookie Aron Canet lapped at 1:39.26 which was enough to score the Spaniard pole for the season finale; the first of his Moto3 career. Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia) also stunned in the final stages as he managed to score a front row start as he set the third quickest time. Unfortunately for Quartararo, he had his final lap cancelled again for overuse of the track.
The final Moto3 grid of the 2016 is as follows…
Canet will be joined on the front row of the final grid of the season, by the Moto3 champion Brad Binder and Ono. Bulega was pushed down to fourth quickest and leads the second row ahead of Guevara and Antonelli. Mir will head the third row ahead of Oettl ad Bendsneyder in ninth and Bastianini completes the top 10. He is joined on the fourth row by Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Sky Racing Team VR46), and Di Giannantonio.
Karel Hanika, who is making a wildcard appearance for the Freudenberg Racing Team, qualified in 13th on the grid ahead of Rodrigo and Martin. Bagnaia, who got a go of the MotoGP Ducati as a result of winning a bet when he won two Moto3 rounds, is 16th on the grid ahead of Navarro who is battling for second in the championship with Bastianini, they are joined on the sixth row by Migno.
Raul Fernandez, who is replacing injured Maria Herrera on the MH6 Team KTM, is 19th on the grid ahead of Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) and another replacement rider Perez who is 21st on McPhee’s Peugeot MC Saxoprint. Tatsuki Suzuki (CIP-Unicorn Starker) is 22nd ahead of Quartararo who will start from 23rd after having his final lap time cancelled. Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) is 24th and Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia) will start his last Moto3 race from 25th.
Arenas, Locatelli and Danilo will start ahead of Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) in 29th and Norrodin has to start from 30th after not making it out again after his crash. Wildcard rider Daniel Saez (GA Competicion), Enzo Boulom (CIP-Unicorn Starker), 3570 Team Italia teammates Lorenzo Petrarca and Stefano Valtulini, along with Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate) make up the rest of the grid of 35 riders.