MotoGP Catalunya: FP3 record keeps home flag flying for Espargaro

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro maintained his dominance at home with an all-time record at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in FP3.

The Spaniard’s 1’38.771 set the pace for the morning shootout. Prima Pramac locking out the remainder of the top three as Johann Zarco headed Jorge Martin in second and third.

FP3 fired up with a KTM charge as Brad Binder and Tech3 rookie Remy Gardner topped the opening 1’40 efforts from Mugello pole sitter Fabio Di Giannantonio. Ducati’s Jack Miller set the first 1’39.960 of the morning as the Gresini rider joined him once again for second with Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo up to third. The rookie run continued as VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi and WithU Yamaha’s Darryn Binder demoted the reigning champion with times on the bubble of 1’40, di Giannantonio holding his ground as he returned to contention in the middle of the trio of fresh talent with his fourth lap.

LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami was the next to capture the runners up spot as the session bedded in before Quartararo set the pace, two-tenths shy of the outright target, while the elder Binder crashed out in sector two at turn four.

Martin began a more promising Saturday from seventh in the times as teammate Zarco arrived to third. Mugello winner Pecco Bagnaia’s first flying effort found fifth as Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins ran tenth with Joan Mir seven places behind.

Half an hour to go and Gresini’s Enea Bastianini took over tenth in the session but still just adrift of his Friday fastest. Pol Espargaro crashing the Repsol Honda out at turn five three minutes later.

The 2020 Champion entered the top ten, in sixth, at the halfway point with his 1’40.002 the gateway time for Q2 promotion. Less than a tenth separating him from his teammate who sat 15th overall.

The Aprilia’s finally arrived with 20 minutes to go as Maverick Viñales hit the top with a 1’39.442, 0.04s shy of his teammate’s Friday best. Espargaro running 21st in the session before he bettered his own benchmark twice in quick succession culminating with a massive 1’38.771 for a new all-time circuit record.

15 minutes to go and Martin claimed third from Quartararo and Miller. Bastianini joining him in the top four next time around as Rins made his way to sixth - demoting his teammate out of Q2 in the process.

The Suzukis were on a roll as the clock counted down, Mir joining Rins in seventh before the number 42 struck for second, half a second adrift of the leading Aprilia. A duo of Frenchmen demoted him next time around as first Quartararo then Zarco took over the position. Luca Marini making his case for promotion in eighth on the Mooney VR46 with Pol Espargaro regrouped and following for ninth with Bagnaia the gatekeeper with eight minutes left.

The Ducati leader was demoted out of contention by the factory’s rookie as di Giannantonio bettered his own teammate by 0.001s for fifth. Bagnaia hitting back for fourth, with Rins now fifth as the battle continued.

Vinales improved with a 1’39.4 to hold split the Gresinis in seventh with five minutes left on the clock. Marini now in the danger zone with Mir cut adrift. Miller rose to third, three-tenths off the fastest effort, before Martin bettered both the Australian and his Pramac teammate to take second. Marini and Bastianini now outside the top ten with Vinales and Pol Espargaro on the cusp.

The late shuffles continued as Zarco swapped with Martin, Bagnaia bettered Miller and Espargaro put the Repsol up to seventh. Marini and di Giannantonio sat ninth and tenth as the chequered flag prepared with Vinales, Bastianini and Mir facing the Q1 fight once again.

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