MotoGP Austria: Zarco continues his control in FP3

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Prima Pramac’s Johann Zarco maintained his command on the MotoGP timings with a 1’28.964 around the Red Bull Ring on Saturday morning.

Championship leader Fabio Quartararo denied Ducati a clean sweep in the standings by stealing second with his penultimate lap with Lenovo’s Jack Miller bettering three of his closely-matched colleagues to complete the top three.

Mooney VR46’s Luca Marini suffered a cold tyre out lap crash at turn three as FP3 fired up on Saturday morning. Red Bull KTM’s Miguel Oliveira kicking off the second day at the team’s home track from the top of the session times before Friday hero Zarco took charge after ten minutes on track. The Pramac/KTM pattern continuing in the top four as Jorge Martin and Brad Binder joined their cohorts with Suzuki Ecstar’s Joan Mir in fifth.

Aprilia’s test rider Lorenzo Savadori slid out at the new chicane as Aleix Espargaro circulated in eighth. VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi and Monster Energy’s Quartararo finding fifth and sixth before the Yamaha rider’s time was deleted. The demotion was short-lived as the reigning champion claimed second next time around with a 1’30.1 effort, four-tenths down on Fridays outright target as the final half a hour began.

Zarco was on the move as he looked to challenge his own personal best before sector four denied his efforts at turn nine. Maverick Viñales almost collecting Marini at turn one as the RS-GP took avoiding action from 15th.

Tech3 rookie Remy Gardner suffered a high speed off over the crest at turn nine as he looked to trail Viñales on a personal best. The Australian currently sitting 20th in the session and 22nd overall at the halfway stage. Martin off-tracking through the gravel at turn four shortly after.

Oliveira advanced the RC-16 into second overall thanks to a 1’29.843, just 0.006s slower than Zarco after ten laps on track. Mir bettering to take control with 1’29.811 the new target to beat.

The Ducatis of Miller and Zarco ignited in the second half before the final sector continued to deny their efforts. Miller succeeding with a 1’29.7 on his 13th lap to top the times as the threat of rain continued to hover overhead. Gresini’s Enea Bastianini the next to rise, from tenth to fifth leaving the Mooney VR46 duo in the danger zone with less than three-tenths covering the entirety of the top ten.

Takaaki Nakagami arrived with 15 minutes to go as the LCR Honda Idemitsu rider found third before Bastianini advanced the pace with a 1’29.5. Aprilia’s Viñales the next to challenge on his way to second as his teammate crashed out at the chance and Nakagami improved again to consolidate third.

Pecco Bagnaia was the man in danger with ten minutes left on the clock, the Ducati Lenovo rider holding a 1’29.9 best, with Quartararo and Martin narrowly ahead, before he improved to better Miller in fourth. The Australian, however, was also on the move as he stormed the standing with a 1’29.280. Martin claiming fourth as a spate of fast laps came in with Bagnaia finding himself back down in eight and the reigning champion demoted out of the promotion zone in twelfth.

The Frenchman wasn’t down for long as the M1 was the next to take charge overall, 0.012s ahead of the leading Ducati with Bagnaia joining Miller in the top three next time around. Zarco and Bastianini rounding out the top five from Mir, Martin, Marini and Viñales with Nakagami now vulnerable in tenth.

Espargaro headed out on his second RS-GP for the final five minutes from a disappointing 18th in the times. His younger brother three places higher on the leading Repsol Honda with Rins and Oliveira also searching for their promotion potential as the session counted down.

The Aprilia rider almost came to blows with a slower moving Zarco as he fired up for a fast lap push, the 33-year-old forced to go again next time around as Quartararo moved the goalposts out front once again with a 1’29.1. Espargaro securing ninth with a time identical to Martin as Rins entered the Q2 places in fifth and KTM’s Brad Binder found seventh to dropped him back out.

A late push from Zarco saw the Frenchman take the honours with a 1’28.964 from his countryman as Martin split the two factory Ducati’s in fourth. Bastianini, Rins, Binder, Viñales and Mir completing the top ten promotees with Espargaro missing out by a painful 0.002s.

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