Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa remained in charge of the MotoGP timesheets in the third free practice sessions at Jerez but had Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo in close attendance with Maverick Vinales coming up to third with his first run of the weekend on Michelin’s soft rear.Pedrosa, on a medium front, set a 1’38.580 to go under Lorenzo’s race lap record set on Bridgestones in 2015 but is still six-tenths outside the Mallorcan’s circuit best but that could go this afternoon in qualifying two. Lorenzo was two-tenths off his compatriot’s time, ending on a 1’38.798 using the same tyre option as the Honda man.
Vinales stuck his Movistar Yamaha in third with two minutes left to run - again with that medium/soft combo - setting a 1’38.809 and he was followed across the line by reigning champion Marc Marquez on a 1’38.971. The Repsol man was the last rider under the 1’’39s barrier.
As it becoming the norm in the last ten minutes of FP3, soft tyres were being thrown at fast laps for a top-ten spot and it was the old weasel Valentino Rossi who was the first to take a chunk out of his time from yesterday, moving from just outside the top ten to top of the tree with a 1’39.352 while Scott Redding also improved to fourth on a 1’39.428.
Pedrosa opted not to use the hard front but set the mark with a 1’39.272 while Redding jumped to second on a 1’39.313. Jack Miller, second yesterday, nabbed fourth on a 1’39.412 but was immediately demoted by the Monster Yamaha of Jonas Folger as Pedrosa and Lorenzo began sparring.
It was the tiny Spaniard who won out with his final lap and the Ducati man couldn’t get any closer than 0.218s. Vinales left it until there was just three minutes left to hop to third but he was nipped back by Folger’s 1’39.155. However, Vinales wasn’t to be outdone.
Cal Crutchlow, on a hard/soft combo, bounced into third with two minutes left but he was shoved back to fourth by Vinales’ last lap and then further demoted by Rossi as Marquez jumped to fourth. Folger finished in seventh, one ahead of Redding who did improve his lap time to a 1’39.216.
Johann Zarco squeezed into an automatic Q2 spot with his penultimate lap, putting in a 1’39.364 and Miller took the final slot in tenth on a 1’39.412. Estrella Galicia team-mate Tito Rabat just missed Q2, finishing in 12th and one ahead of Andrea Iannone’s Ecstar Suzuki into 11th.
The Italian’s former Ducati team-mate Andrea Dovizioso missed Q2 by a mile, ending in 16th place and more than a second slower than Lorenzo after making a mistake in sector three on his final flying lap.
Ducati-mounted Danilo Petrucci was just behind Rabat and one ahead of Aleix Espargaro who is running a front tyre temperature sensor on his Aprilia after his struggles in Texas. Alvaro Bautista ended in 15th. Bradley Smith put his KTM into 17th, one in front of team-mate Pol Espargaro.
Sam Lowes was using Aprilia’s aero-package at the start of the third session and dropped his laptime by 1.4s to finish less than two seconds off the pace.