Movistar Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales’ first run on the soft-option rear Michelin saw him take charge of the MotoGP timesheets in Austin while rival Marc Marquez crashed twice and was top of a list of riders who went down in free practice three.
Vinales was one of only a handful of riders who bettered their time from yesterday, putting in a 2’03.979 on a surface that was 20° cooler than free practice two and five degrees colder than free practice one. Cal Crutchlow was the only other significant improving rider and bounced himself up to fifth place in the overall standings.
The colder temperature has been blamed for the crashes which started with Alex Rins who went down at turn 19 and has will take no further part in the weekend after fracturing his wrist. Alvaro Bautista was next to fall, this time at turn two while Aleix Espargaro’s first of two crashes happened at turn 13.
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso was next to fall with a carbon copy of Bautista’s spill before Sam Lowes did exactly the same. Marquez went down at the fast turn 18 the first time, losing the rear and Andrea Iannone fell at almost the same time one corner later. Espargaro crashed for the second time at turn 14.
Marquez’ second crash happened on an outlap when a cold rear tyre spat him over the highside at the slow turn 15 before Jorge Lorenzo lost the front on the brakes on the way into turn 19. No riders other than Rins were injured but Iannone looked shaken up by his spill.
With Vinales the only rider into the 2’03s and taking only two laps to do it, warmer conditions this afternoon should see 2’02s from the front runners. Marquez was unable to better his time so far but team-mate Dani Pedrosa used a soft/soft combination to jump up to third place on the combined sheets with a 2’04.206.
Johann Zarco did not improve but remains in fourth place with Crutchlow improving his time. Valentino Rossi put in 14 laps but was slower than he managed in free practice one, let alone the hotter free practice three but he secured sixth place. Despite crashing, Dovizioso ended in seventh overall while Scott Redding improved to eighth and goes through to qualifying two by right.
Jonas Folger and Andrea Iannone are the last two automatic qualifying two men. Jack Miller will be a little miffed to miss out in 11th as the Australian Marc VDS man upped his game by two tenths and only missed out by a tenth. Lorenzo ended in 12th and will have to fight to get through qualifying one.
Danilo Petrucci, Aleix Espargaro and Hector Barbera complete the top ten with Lowes in 22nd and Bradley Smith in 23rd.