Reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez screamed to the top of this morning’s third practice timesheet, setting a 1’48.252 to lead Maverick Vinales by three-tenths with Dani Pedrosa in third place.
But 23 days after breaking both bones in his right leg, 38-year-old Valentino Rossi has grabbed an automatic qualifying two spot, taking tenth place on the Movistar Yamaha with a lap less than a second slower than Marquez’ best.
Rossi’s performance wasn’t the only eyebrow raising moment, however, as KTM test rider Mika Kallio also made it into qualifying two by right, setting the fifth-quickest time. The Finn put in a 1’48.811 - two seconds faster than team-mate Bradley Smith - to only trail Marquez by half a second.
Marquez, Vinales and Pedrosa all started the session with a soft front and medium rear and ran 1’49s pace, which is a good indication of tomorrow’s race pace while fourth-placed man Alvaro Bautista is a good chunk behind, using the soft rear for his best lap.
Kallio also began on a medium rear but switched to the soft for his second and third runs. He has 1’49s pace on both compounds while Andrea Dovizioso could only find 1’49s pace with the soft - but that is not a problem for the Desmosedici GP17 which is capable of race distance on the soft.
Cal Crutchlow, like Marquez, ran the soft front for the whole session as opposed to the hard which the two HRC men usually favour. The LCR Honda rider ended in eighth, one behind Aleix Espargaro, but will race the medium rear.
Andrea Iannone pulled one lap out of the bag to finish in ninth place while Rossi put in 12 flying laps. It’s hard to gauge the Italian’s pace as he got progressively faster with the medium but then had to swap to the soft for the time attack lap.
Jorge Lorenzo missed an automatic Q2 spot by less than a tenth of a second, denied by auld enemy Rossi, and will have to fight it out with Pol Espargaro and Danilo Petrucci for the two promotion places.
It was a bad session for Monster Yamaha with Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger both crashing and ending in 19th and 23rd places respectively. Sam Lowes also crashed and was 24th.