MotoGP Aragon #2: Arenas tops FP3 despite penalty, McPhee into Q2

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Albert Arenas commanded the FP3 times at Motorland Aragon this morning with a rapid 1’57.564, from Raul Fernandez and Celestino Vietti, despite the leading pair receiving a penalty suspension for the final quarter of an hour.

John McPhee secured direct entry to Q2 in the dying seconds as his last lap placed him 14th at the flag.

The final Moto3 free practice this weekend got off to a frantic start due to the continuation of penalties incurred last-time-out as 11 riders were scheduled to miss out on track time as the session drew to a close. Jeremy Alcoba, Sergio Garcia, Niccolò Antonelli, Fernandez, Ayumu Sasaki and Arenas were each suspended from the last 15 minutes of FP3 after third-time-offences of riding slowly during qualifying with Davide Pizzoli, Filip Salač, Khairul Idham Pawi, Gabriel Rodrigo and Jaume Masia missing out on the last 25 minutes after their fourth offences. Ricardo Rossi was also penalised but is out of the entire weekend due to a positive Covid-19 test.

As the track action fired up it was Darryn Binder who rose to the top as the first rider to set a lap time under Friday’s fastest, with a 1’57.913, Vietti and Arenas holding the session’s top-three but still slightly adrift of Masia’s best from FP1.

An early crash at turn 8 dented McPhee’s progress with 15 minutes gone, the Scot sitting P13 in the session and on the fringes of the Q2 positions as Fernandez took over at the top with the first gaggle of penalised riders already leaving the track.

An early bath beckoning, Arenas advanced the pace again on his last lap, shaving 0.08 off Fernandez’ effort as the pair headed for the pits sitting 1-2 in the times from Sasaki and Binder as the final quieter-than-normal 15 minutes got underway.

McPhee returned to the track with six minutes remaining and a lot of work to do as the Petronas rider sat 21st and just outside of Q2 entry overall. His first attempt advanced his time but was only good enough for 15th while his final effort pushed him up to 12th in the session and 14th overall, a nervous wait ensuing as the last laps registered before a sigh of relief as he realised he was safe for the coming afternoon.

Arenas concluded FP3 on top from Fernandez, Vietti, Romano Fenati and Ai Ogura with Sasaki, Binder, Dennis Foggia, Tony Arbolino and Tatsuki Suzuki rounding out the top-10. Deniz Öncü, Masia, Alcoba and McPhee claiming the final automatic promotions into Q2.