MotoGP Austria: Marquez blitzes pack to lead final practice

Picture: Bonnie Lane

Reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez blitzed the pack with his final lap in today’s third practice at the Red Bull Ring, using the soft Michelin rear to pull out a 0.423s gap after setting a blistering run of laps on the hard tyre to make him tomorrow’s danger man.

Marquez put in six 1’24s laps on the yellow-banded rear tyre in preparation for Sunday afternoon and then switched, like everyone else, to the soft to set a 1’23.459 with his final flying lap. Johann Zarco, on a soft/soft combination, had been leading with a 1’23.882 but his time was blown away by the Repsol Honda man.

Zarco, though, stuck with his favoured soft rear for the whole session and on paper can give Marquez hard time tomorrow with 11 laps in the 1’24s and two in the 1’23, which mirrors Marquez.

It was the opposite for team-mate Dani Pedrosa who struggled this morning, finishing in 15th place and a second off the pace. The Spaniard will have to go through qualifying one in order to claim a halfway-decent grid position.

Last year’s winner Andrea Iannone pulled some pace from nowhere to finish in third place on a 1’23.945 on the Ecstar Suzuki while Jorge Lorenzo hauled himself into fourth place with his soft-tyre lap but the former champion is around a second off the pace on his race tyre at the moment.

Valentino Rossi climbed off his sick-bed to top the session with four minutes left to run. The Movistar Yamaha man went out today with the new aero package and set a best of 1’23.995 but also had six laps in the 1’24s on the medium rear.

Team-mate Maverick Vinales is able to run a similar pace and was 0.054s slower than The Doctor in terms of outright speed, picking up seventh on today’s timesheet. Andrea Dovizioso’s time from yesterday was enough to keep him in seventh.

Loris Baz hauled himself into a qualifying two spot with his last lap on the Avintia Ducati while Karel Abraham was canny with his caravanning today, first getting a tow from Rossi to set a 1’24.369 and then another from Vinales to end on a 1’24.109 for ninth place. The Czech rider did put in two other unaided 1’24s in his last run making four in total.

Cal Crutchlow suffered a crash at the start of the session, going down at turn nine after a problem with his engine braking according to team principal Lucio Cecchinello. He bounced back to set a 1’24.182 for tenth which put Scott Redding out of an automatic Q2 place.

The Pramac Ducati man ended in 11th and will have to fight with team-mate Danilo Petrucci, as well as Pedrosa, for a place in the final session.

Jonas Folger has today ditched the frame upgrade he raved about at the Brno test, reverting to the one he started with at Losail and he ended in 13th, with Hector Barbera 14th. Jack Miller struggled down in 21st with Sam Lowes 23rd. Bradley Smith suffered a crash and is last.

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Picture: Bonnie Lane
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