The premier class joined the party on Saturday morning with the threat of rain looming large over them. The circuit started dry but just as bumpy and it looked like we may get a routine practice session for much of its duration, until rain started falling in the final ten minutes. Marc Marquez led the entirety of FP3, initially about a tenth off the Friday benchmark and cutting that down to a frustrating nine thousandths of a second on his second run. The world champion did not get another proper shot to dethrone Andrea Iannone as the weekend’s fastest man but did put his name at the top of the pile for FP3.
Johann Zarco was the first man to minimally shake up the overall hierarchy by sneaking into the top ten on his first few laps. The Frenchman’s joy was Pedrosa’s misfortune as it pushed him out of the top ten but the Honda rider fought back soon enough. Zarco finished the session in second position, four tenths down on Marquez, with Iannone another two tenths down. While Iannone remained the fastest man over the three practice sessions, Zarco also ensured his Q2 rite of passage as fifth fastest.
Behind them, championship leader Cal Cruchlow was fourth in the session and sixth overall. A somewhat winged Andrea Dovizioso was a rare sighting in the wilderness of Texas, the Italian flaunting some aero bodywork that he used to save himself from the danger zone. The Italian finished the session fifth and will go straight to Q2 from eighth position overall.
Dani Pedrosa will have been disappointed that the rain waited until the final ten minutes to give him some respite but the Spaniard did put together a great lap for sixth position in FP3 and the final ticket into Q2. Maverick Viñales was over a second slower than Marquez in the morning session and got nowhere near his Friday time but the Yamaha man was seventh at the end of FP3 and had no qualifying worries given his impressive Friday pace.
Alex Rins, Valentino Rossi and Scott Redding completed the top ten for the session but while Rins and Rossi were already safely into Q2, Redding’s achievement did not reflect on the overall classification. The lucky man who won the Q2 raffle was Jorge Lorenzo, who snuck in a save of his own to finish eleventh but happily into ninth position over the three practice sessions.
The likes of Aleix Espargaro, Danilo Petrucci and Jake Miller would have been left frustrated knocking at the doors of the top ten but eventually having to take a detour through Q1.