MotoGP Le Mans: Zarco tops record-breaking FP3

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Picture: GeeBee Images

The records kept coming as MotoGP practice continued at Le Mans with Frenchman Johann Zarco topping the times in FP3.

The entirety of the top ten were under the previous circuit record as the 45-minute session concluded on Saturday morning. The Pramac rider’s stunning 1’30.537 bettering Ducati’s Pecco Bagnaia and Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo in the dying seconds.

Ducati Lenovo’s Jack Miller took charge as Saturday morning’s action began before the home hero and reigning champion arrived on the Yamaha M1. Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez joining the leading trio as the session fired up with Bagnaia advancing on his teammate after ten minutes on track.

LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami and Pramac’s Jorge Martin took turns at the top as the pace increased with the pair on the bubble of promotion overall, 1’31.798 the morning’s best after seven attempts with Enea Bastianini’s record-breaking 1’31.148 still over six-tenths clear.

Pol Espargaro suffered the first crash of the morning on the Repsol RC213V, at turn seven, while running eighth in the session and ninth overall as Quartararo returned to the lead.

The second half found Nakagami striving for the top with a 1’31.471, and finding fourth in the combined times before the time was deleted due to track limits in the final sector. Mooney VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi circulating in the session’s top four with 20 minutes on the clock.

Maverick Viñales was the next to push as the Aprilia looked to improve from his 16th position. Fourth in the session was the score thanks to a 1’31.855, with the time still short of promotion before he put his head down and tried again. His teammate, however, was also on the move as he claimed second with an identical time to the reigning champion.

Bastianini’s Gresini was seen expiring at the side of the track as the final quarter of an hour began with teammate Fabio di Giannantonio suffering technical issues of his own in pitlane moments later.

Aprilia looked to lock out the session as Aleix Espargaro headed Vinales on 1’31.5 pace and Top Gun found ninth in the Q2 battle. Quartararo demoting the pair with the Repsol Honda duo and Miller dropping them further as the practice ignited in the closing stages. The Frenchman’s time set a new track record with the first 1’30 at the Bugatti Circuit with Miller circulating just 0.198 adrift as the Ducati too topped the previous target.

Suzuki’s Joan Mir claimed fourth in the combined standings as the promotion battle began. Bagnaia dropped out of contention with seven to go as Bezzecchi claimed tenth on a 1’31.625, Zarco narrowly ahead and so far unable to improve on his Friday time. Pramac teammate Martin slotting into seventh with Nakagami eighth as the two previously precarious Ducati’s lost out.

Bagnaia joined the party with three to go as he promoted himself to fifth, just behind the increasingly improved Martin as Vinales shot for fifth and Bagnaia hit the top - a 1’30.568 now the sensational target.

The penultimate minute found Marquez also under the previous record as he made his way to third, Espargaro claiming fifth on the second RS-GP with Nakagami and both Suzuki’s potentially facing the Q1 fight.

The final flourish saw a Frenchman better the times once again, but this time it was Zarco with a 1’30.537 to the delight of the adoring crowd. Bagnaia, Quartararo and Marquez headed Miller, Aleix Espargaro and Nakagami with a late push from Alex Rins finding eight and Pol Espargaro ninth. Bastianini’s previous record-breaking lap only enough for tenth as the frenetic session concluded.

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