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MotoGP Le Mans: Fernandez leads final Moto3 practice, McPhee eighth

Raul Fernandez topped a bright but bitter FP3 at Le Mans this morning, outperforming Celestino Vietti and Romano Fenati in another frenetic Moto3 battle for position as suspension penalties once again played their part in deciding the order.

John McPhee secured his place in Q2 with a calm and methodical ride to eighth.

Blue skies and sunshine greeted Moto3 for final practice action at the French GP on Saturday, leaving the 31-strong class effectively starting from scratch in the drastically different but bitterly cold conditions.


Suspended from the last 15 minutes of FP3, due to irresponsible riding in Barcelona, Khairul Idham Pawi, Gabriel Rodrigo, Ricardo Rossi and Friday’s fastest rider Filip Salač had all to prove as the session got underway, but it was Jaume Masia who rose to the top in the initial stages, Rodrigo and Albert Arenas looking to challenge at the end of their first runs.

A steady start saw McPhee circulating carefully in the lower reaches of the standings as the track warmed before moving through to sixth in as many laps just as Fenati and Vietti also found their groove to join the front runners.

With just three minutes of his track time remaining, Rodrigo looked to improve on his personal best, a 1’43.098 the time to beat so far having held the top-spot since his seventh lap but the Argentinian failed to make further headway before his early return to the pits.

The pace increased again as the countdown hit 12’ to go, Vietti advancing to lead an equally rapid trio of Andrea Migno, Masia and Arenas, McPhee again relegated to 19th before beginning his second run.

In the final push it was Fenati who initially headed the times from Fernandez and Vietti, the Spaniard advancing to P1 in the dying minutes and continuing to find time as he diced with the determined Italian. McPhee jumped back up to seventh on his penultimate lap as the majority of the field scrambled for their last chance lap, the Scot finding the flag in eighth but safely within the Q2 classification.

Fernandez ultimately claimed the session honours from Vietti and Fenati, Migno, Tony Arbolino and Arenas completing the top-six. Ayumu Sasaki and Masia finished either side of McPhee with Sergio Garcia, Carlos Tatay, Stefano Nepa, Darryn Binder and Ai Ogura claiming the final all-important Q2 places. Rodrigo missing out as his early best was only strong enough for 20th.

More disappointment followed for Salac, Rossi and Pawi as the trio’s fastest times were all removed due to the laps being completed just inside the final 15 minutes of their suspended session, leaving them 27th, 30th and 31st overall.

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