Monster Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo took provisional pole as Saturday’s Aragón action fired up at MotorLand, with just 0.058 seconds splitting the top four.
Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro claimed another impressive second position from Suzuki’s Joan Mir with Ducati’s Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller completing the top five.
The push for promotion ignited the Teruel track on Saturday morning with Takaaki Nakagami taking charge as FP3 began. Espargaro was straight up to speed on the Aprilia in second with Quartararo taking third before Mir arrived on the Suzuki.
Marc Marquez headed a Honda/Ducati party from fifth to eighth as Bagnaia, Pol Espargaro and Miller fired up their free practice, Alex Rins spoiling the pattern as he moved to sixth with his fifth lap of the morning.
KTM’s Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder circulated together in 10th and 11th after the opening 10 minutes of action, followed by Valentino Rossi, Alex Marquez and Cal Crutchlow. The Brit was flying once again as he advanced the M1 into the top 10 with his sixth lap, the riders ahead shuffling positions as the mid-session played out.
Maverick Viñales continued his debut weekend with the Aprilia RS-GP from 15th, the Spaniard circulating eight-tenths off the sessions fastest pace, Mir the only rider to so far improve on their Friday pace at the halfway stage.
With the majority of the pack still undecided on tyre options for Sunday’s 23-lap race, and with increasing temperatures expected across the weekend, the mid-session found the class in race prep rather than hot-lap mode. The time attacks coming as FP3 neared its conclusion.
The top three took the initiative early as Espargaro attacked with 20 minutes to go, Nakagami returning to the top moments later as Mir too set red sectors on his 12th effort. The LCR man held the session with a 1’47.394, two-tenths ahead of Miller’s Friday flyer, Mir slotting in behind just 0.093s back.
Viñales joined his teammate in the top four, albeit 13th overall, with 17 minutes left to play, as Quartararo dropped to fifth, that was until Binder arrived. Alex Marquez was the next to shine, putting two LCR Hondas into the top three, as Oliveira too made it a team affair in fifth.
Quartararo ramped up the pace with 12 minutes remaining, finding second before pushing for provisional pole on his 14th lap. The Frenchman securing a blistering 1’47.046 to top the times. Yamaha looked to be having a promising Saturday as Crutchlow joined the party in third, three-tenths shy of the leading Monster machine, as Jake Dixon pushed the 2019 bike into 18th, just 1.3 seconds off.
Enea Bastianini advanced the Avintia into the top 10 but Bagnaia was the next to strike, the Ducati falling two-tenths short of the overall benchmark in second before improving again. Breaking the barrier with a 1’46.984 and seven minutes to go.
Rossi sat in Q2 contention, from eighth, as the clock counted down and the action continued, Marc Marquez storming his Repsol into the top three with a 1’47.1.
Mir demoted Bagnaia with his 16th lap, by a minuscule two-thousandths of a second margin, the remaining Ducatis’ currently sitting 20th through 22nd in the session standings, with Miller’s Friday time clutching onto the fringes of the overall top 10.
Quartararo took charge in the dying minute, with 0.063s covering the top four riders. Miller’s attack found fifth, just one-tenth back as Alex Marquez crashed out at turn 12.
The Frenchman took the flag from the top of the standings, with little challenge registering on the screens. Espargaro, Mir, Bagnaia and Miller maintained their top five positions with the elder Marquez mirroring his brother at turn 14.
Jorge Martin sat sixth as the session reached conclusion, both Repsol Hondas behind with Nakagami and Bastianini completing the Q2 promotion places.
Johann Zarco was the first to miss out, by 0.052s, with Crutchlow and Oliveira for company as less than half a second covered the top 14.