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MotoGP Portimao: Quartararo heads dramatic FP3

Monster Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo concluded a dramatic FP3 at the top of Portimao’s MotoGP times as he held off Franky Morbidelli and Pecco Bagnaia with an impressive 1’39.044 lap.

The rapid session began with Aleix Espargaro heading a gaggle of Ducati’s for the morning free practice. 1’41.7 the early pace after just the prototype machine’s first hot-laps before the Desmosedici power shone once again, by securing the top-three - Johann Zarco leading Bagnaia and Jack Miller - with the Aprilia demoted to fourth. The following laps brought improvements from the Petronas pairing of Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi as they deposed the factory Ducatis, with home talent Miguel Oliveria bettering the lot, to take second, just six-hundredths off the Pramac.

The battle developed as Oliveira and Zarco repeatedly improved, the duo swapping places at the top as the times decreased, 1’40.008 now the benchmark as Morbidelli and Bagnaia dropped the KTM rider to fourth. Half a second separated the top-eight after the opening 15 minutes. Quartararo heading the Espargaro brothers with teammate Maverick Viñales joining the fun, just 0.001s off the Repsol Honda in front.


A third of the session complete and the Suzukis were circulating together in ninth and 10th, Luca Marini running strongly in 11th ahead of his elder brother with Brad Binder and Miller behind - the latter Ducati’s Friday effort, however, so far enough to keep him within the Q2 promotion zone.

LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami had attempted to ride after yesterday’s dramatic FP2 crash at turn one but the Japanese rider dejectedly looked to call time on proceedings after five laps, the returning Marc Marquez also taking a steady approach to the morning as he evaluated his arm strength, circulating in 18th.

22 to go and Espargaro was back on the move with the RS-GP, finding second in the session, third overall, with a 1’40.044 before hitting the track hard again next time around. His second effort was enough to storm the times, breaking into the ’39’s with the fastest time of the weekend so far - a 1;39.690. With the top-six holding Q2 places, there was work to do for Viñales, Pol Espargaro and Alex Marquez, the riders siting inside the session’s top-10 but adrift in the combined standings.

As the clock clicked down the majority headed for fresh tyres, Marini left out on track to impress as he sailed his VR46 Avintia into second position with a stunning lap just 0.071 off the top spot. Zarco, Bagnaia and Morbidelli holding on to the to-five before the final shootout began with Oliveira leading a factory Yamaha lockout further down the standings.

Miller was the first to strike, with 12 to go, shaving over three-tenths from the time to beat as he improved the time to a 1’39.345. Oliveira, Alex Marquez and Pol Espargaro also advancing, to third, fifth and sixth respectively, as the action fired up.

Quartararo came achingly close to a ’38 time on his 15th lap as he took another three-tenths bite, the Monster Energy rider also dangerously close to track limits as he searched for the perfect lap. Morbidelli looked to emulate his Yamaha cohort as the pair sat on the 1’39.0 bubble, 0.051 separating the duo with Miller now in third.

A dramatic crash for Jorge Martin on his final out-lap saw a wrecked Pramac barrel roll through the gravel at turn seven, the yellow flags enabled as the young spaniard looked pained and seeking assistance with the red flags issued shortly after. A conscious Martin was eventually stretchered to the waiting ambulance as the riders attempted to refocus ahead of the session restart, just over four minutes left on the clock.

The pack returned to the rollercoaster layout as one as the green lights flashed, Quartararo the only rider to hold back as he entered the track alone. A one and done shootout building the anticipation as the times immediately began to flicker. Alex Rins the first to make an impact as his Suzuki struck for third, Marini continuing to shine as he improved his time to sit sixth with a 39’6. The closing minute saw further drama as Alex Marquez endured a high side at turn three with the LCR man already out of Q2 contention. The final push saw Quartararo maintain his control on the standings from Morbidelli and Bagnaia with Zarco, Rins and Miller into the top-six. Marini held seventh at the flag from Aleix Espargaro and Oliveira with Viñales claiming the final promotion place with his last lap effort.

The younger Marquez concluded the session 11th ahead of a disappointed Joan Mir with Pol Espargaro settling for 13th ahead of Rossi and the elder Marquez brother. Binder and Danilo Petrucci sat 16th and 17th as their KTM battles continued, with Enea Bastianini, Martin, Lorenzo Savadori, Nakagami and Iker Lecuona concluding the standings.

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