A cool track was always going to cause trouble for the premier class but once the slips and slides were dealt with, it was time to have a go at the outright circuit record. The morning started with cold tire trips through the gravel trap for Xavier Simeon, Pol Espargaro and Dani Pedrosa. Meanwhile, an increasingly twitchy Marc Marquez planted his flag at the top of the standings and was untroubled until the halfway point of the session, when Cal Crutchlow started his charge for Q2. The Brit’s already impressive time looked pretty safe to ensure his right of passage but once his pursuers switched to fresh rubber, it became a different story.
This particular story had five riders dropping under the lap record in the final minutes of the session and last year’s victor, Maverick Viñales came out on top. The Spaniard wasn’t just a one lap wonder and had just come off a fairly impressive long run on used soft tires, rolling out mid 1:32s.
Marquez started his own time attack with an unsuccessful yet extended save attempt in turn three but the Repsol rider dusted himself off and was able to continue his charge, albeit with asymmetric DIY aero enhancements. It proved to not be much of an interference as he was soon joining the select handful of riders who beat the lap record, eventually settling for second and possibly comforted by his great pace on a used medium rear tire.
Much like Marquez and as opposed to his teammate, Valentino Rossi trialled the medium rear but could not quite challenge the pace of his two younger rivals, although the Italian was only two tenths off the lead of the session. Home crowd hero Johann Zarco had no problem sneaking into the top ten and perhaps more worrying for the trio ahead was his pace on soft tyres throughout the session.
Andrea Dovizioso kept pretty low key throughout FP3 and could not improve on his own best time from Friday but that benchmark guaranteed him a safe fifth position in the combined standings, narrowly ahead of teammate Jorge Lorenzo. Jack Miller added another Q2 ticket to his portfolio, becoming a familiar sight in the top ten on Saturday mornings. Aleix Espargaro added an Aprilia to the mix in eigth position overall, half a second off the lead Yamaha, while Tito Rabat made another surprise appearance at the business end in ninth spot.
The final Q2 place went to Andrea Iannone, who saved a rather mediocre Friday standing at the expense of Cal Crutchlow, who was best of the rest although just six tenths off the lead. The LCR rider will have to face fierce competition in Q1 from the likes of Danilo Petrucci, Alex Rins, Pol Espargaro and Dani Pedrosa, who managed to improve his time following his early crash but not quite enough to make a difference.