A heart-stopping session for the World Championship leader as another title contender misses the top 10
Marc Marquez has set the fastest lap of a thrilling MotoGP™ FP3 at the Animoca Brands Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. The Repsol Honda Team rider set a 1:48.462 to bag P1 on his final lap in a session in which the title contenders were on a knife edge throughout. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing), Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team), and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) all had to dig deep to get into Q2, while Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) scraped into 10th. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), who is fourth in the standings, will have to go the long way to fight for pole this Saturday afternoon.
On the attack straight away
Despite thoughts on Friday that conditions would be too cool for riders to lap faster in FP3, Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) made an early move from 11th to fifth on combined times with a 1:29.658, then to fourth with a 1:29.534 as he started his first serious time attack and second with a 1:29.510 next time around. He was back to third when Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) jumped to the top on a 1:29.353, before Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) shifted the benchmark to a 1:29.196.
Just behind Viñales, however, Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) was charging to a 1:28.616 which lifted him from P14 to P1, as the top 10 started to resemble something of a turnstile for the title contenders. Bagnaia was fifth when he set a 1:29.289 with just over 10 minutes to go before being shuffled back to ninth, then rebounding to fourth on a 1:29.060. Aleix Espargaro was just into the provisional Q2 positions when he set a 1:29.305 but he was out again when Quartararo came through with a 1:29.039 and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) followed him around to clock a 1:28.965. It got worse for Aprilia’s ‘Captain’ when Miller jumped from 22nd to third with a 1:28.822.
The title contenders all battle to make the top 10
That was far from the end of the story, though. Aleix Espargaro was back up to fourth with a 1:28.825 in the final minute, then Marc Marquez improved to second on a 1:28.652 before being bettered by Luca Marini’s (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) 1:28.592. With the chequered flag out, Aleix Espargaro made his spot in Q2 safe when he climbed from eighth to third with a 1:28.639, although Marc Marquez was tailing him around Phillip Island and moved back into P1 with a 1:28.462. Meanwhile, Quartararo had slipped to 13th on the timing screen when he punched out a 1:28.858 to move into ninth. Alex Marquez relegated him to 10th when the Spaniard set a 1:28.765 just after, but ‘El Diablo’ held on to his berth in Q2.
So, after all of that, the top five was Marc Marquez, Marini, Martin on that earlier 1:28.616, Aleix Espargaro, and Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) on a 1:28.690. Miller is firmly in the fight for pole at his home event with a 1:28.721 which leaves him sixth, ahead of Alex Marquez, Bagnaia, Viñales, and Quartararo. In something of a surprise, Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) misses out on the top 10 by one position and just 0.045 seconds after topping both FP1 and FP2. Most notable going into Q1, though, is arguably Bastianini in 14th on a 1:29.023.
That stage is set for a scintillating afternoon of qualifying. Catch FP4 at 13:30, then it’s Q1 from 14:10 (GMT +11)!
MotoGP™ FP3 Top 10
1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) – 1:28.462
2. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.130
3. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.154
4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) + 0.177
5. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.228
6. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.259
7. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) + 0.303
8. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.306
9. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) + 0.315
10. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) + 0.396