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MotoGP Portimao: Last-minute lap record for Arenas, McPhee 12th

Albert Arenas concluded Friday’s Moto3 Portuguese practice at the top of the times after a last minute afternoon effort stole the session, and the overall standings, from Jeremy Alcoba and Tatsuki Suzuki. John McPhee rode his Petronas SRT into Q2 contention with the 12th fastest time of the day.

Blue skies, sunshine, and extended free practice greeted the Moto3 class on its first day at the newly-resurfaced Algarve International Circuit as two 55 minute sessions provided the opportunity to learn the rollercoaster layout. Filip Salac unfortunate to miss out, due to his heavy Valencia crash, Raul Fernandez’ younger brother Adrian, filling in for the final round.

Jaume Masia was the first rider up to speed on the track’s debut appearance in the MotoGP Championship, the Leopard rider taking advantage of his prior knowledge thanks to the Junior World Championship with 1’50.656 the time to beat so far, Suzuki and Arenas joining the top-three after the opening 20 minutes.  


The first casualty of the fresh design came in the form of Stefano Nepa, falling foul of turn 14 at the halfway stage as Romano Fenati advanced the times to second, with Masia following suit 10 minutes later at the same place.

The last 20 minutes began with Fenati finding his rhythm as he soared to the top, over a second clear of the rest of the field, Fernandez taking fourth ahead of Arenas with Tony Arbolino on eighth. Ai Ogura circulated on the edge of the top-10, just a tenth faster than McPhee with the Scot soon advancing strongly to third as he followed Fenati, the Italian unfortunate to succumb to the last corner on the next revolution.

The final five minutes saw the pack swarm together, a slipstream advantage the aim for the majority with a few riders continuing to work on their solo pace. Masia returned to the top with two minutes to go with a stunning 1’48.896, Jeremy Alcoba taking third from Gabriel Rodrigo as Sergio Garcia and McPhee joined the top-six.

The flag dropped with Masia maintaining control and Fenati holding off Arenas for second, with Garcia, Andrea Migno and Fernandez rounding out fourth to sixth. Deniz Öncü held seventh from Alcoba and McPhee with Rodrigo, Arbolino and Celestino Vietti concluding the top-12, a disappointed Ogura 1.8 adrift of the fastest times, in 26th.  

Tropical conditions, by recent standards, greeted the Moto3 riders for the afternoon practice as the track temperatures reached 30℃ for their final session. Masia began as he had left off, at the top, with Dennis Foggia and Arbolino now for company as the early laps registered before Fernandez advanced his KTM into second after the opening 10 minutes of action. Alcoba rose to the challenge on his seventh lap as he continued to close in on the morning’s fastest, just half a second down, with Niccolò Antonelli and Ogura moving into Q2 contention inside the top-10 with 20 minutes gone.

A 1’48.641 gave Fernandez the fastest Moto3 time at the Algarve on his eighth lap but the KTM rider was just getting into his groove. Advancing his time yet again, by almost three-tenths, on the next revolution saw the Spaniard almost a second clear from Alcoba and Arbolino as Kaito Toba outran the Leopard pair with half an hour to go.

The top-10 remained mostly unchanged for the mid-session lull until Darryn Binder made his move with 23 minutes remaining, the CIP machine slotting into fifth as Foggia leapfrogged his teammate for sixth while Arenas arrived to take fourth with his 13th effort.

The reignited afternoon suddenly burst into life as the timings reshuffled. Alcoba headed the charge with a 1’48.188 from Suzuki and Fernandez with Arenas, Arbolino and Nepa now behind. Foggia led teammate Masia for seventh and eighth while Migno and Toba claimed the edge of the top-10 ahead of an impressive performance from new face Adrian Fernandez, Binder and Vietti with Ogura down in 15th. A quiet start had found McPhee circulating in 21st for the early part of the afternoon session before the Scot dropped further, to 28th, ahead of the closing shootout.

The entire field left the pits for the final dash with just four minutes remaining, two flying laps the plan and provisional Q2 places the aim. The usual chaos ensued as traffic impeded on a number of riders’ first attempts, Alcoba holding tight at the top as the last push began but it was Arenas who won out with a new lap record - a 1’47.987 - as the chequered flag flew.


Suzuki concluded the afternoon with the third fastest time from Fernandez and Masia with Foggia, Öncü, Arbolino and Ogura finishing the top-10. Nepa took 11th from Fenati, a late charge from McPhee securing 12th as Jason Dupasquier and Sergio Garcia claimed the final Q2 spots. Vietti and Binder losing out in the chaos to sit 24th and 27th respectively with all to play for tomorrow morning.

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