Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) will lead the MotoGP™ field into qualifying at the Monster Energy Czech Republic Grand Prix after setting a 1:56.037 in FP3. It was an incredibly competitive session on Saturday morning as the top 10 riders were split by just 0.257 seconds, with Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) 0.016 off top spot and Friday pacesetter Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) less than a tenth adrift as the two flying French riders completed the top three.
After finishing outside the top 10 after Friday’s running, nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) wasted no time in getting down to business in FP3. The Doctor launched himself up to P6 with the fastest lap of the session, with LCR Honda Castrol’s Cal Crutchlow also improving his Friday time to slot himself into the provisional top 10.
With 20 minutes to go, only four riders have gone quicker than they did on Friday. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) moved up to P6 on the combined times with teammate Bradley Smith sitting 17th, despite being just 1.172 off the pace. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) then went orange on the time screens but didn’t move up from P9, with teammate Brad Binder then setting his personal best time of the weekend to go P7 and into the top 10 – things were starting to happen now with 15 minutes remaining.
Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) then went close, his time was just 0.063 off P1 but the Spaniard found himself in P4 as the top five were split by 0.080 – the top 10 within three tenths and the top 15 within eight tenths. Morbidelli was about to blitz his teammates time and blow the competition out the water though. On a soft rear tyre, the Italian slammed in a 1:56.037 to go nearly half a second faster than anyone, with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) then setting a time nearly a second quicker than he went on Friday to go P2. The Spaniard was 0.4 off Morbidelli as a busy final 10 minutes followed.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was sitting P15 with eight minutes to go, the Italian needing to find time alongside teammate Danilo Petrucci, Crutchlow, Rossi and more sitting on the fringes. The Doctor was digging deep and propelled himself from P12 to P3 with seven minutes to go and Rossi went quicker again to displace Rins from P2 – a VR46 Academy 1-2 at the top of FP3 with five minutes remaining, and Quartararo made it a Yamaha top three.
It was all going to change inside the top 10 though. After finishing P3 on Friday, Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) was pushing for his fastest time of the Grand Prix after slipping outside the top 10, but the Portuguese rider was down at Turn 13 after tucking the front. Meanwhile, Dovizioso had got himself into the automatic Q2 places but only just, with Petrucci slotting into P7. Nakagami then went up to P9 to push Dovizioso out, and then Crutchlow found some pace on his final flying lap to go P6. Then, after impressing on Friday, Zarco was setting the red sectors. The Frenchman was flying on his last lap and sure enough, it was good enough for the top 10 – and more. Zarco went P2 to split the Petronas Yamaha SRT duo at the top as the chequered flags came out.
After a breath-taking final few minutes, the dust settled. Morbidelli continued his fine form in Brno to lead Zarco and Quartararo, with Pol Espargaro the leading KTM rider in P4. Rossi improved again late on to grab P5, the Italian slotted in ahead of Aleix Espargaro as the top six all sit within 0.146 of each other. Mir set his personal best on the final lap to earn an automatic Q2 position, Crutchlow manages to get the better of Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) in P8 and P9 respectively, with Petrucci getting into the top 10 by the skin of his teeth – a good job from the Italian.
All this means Q1 is set to be an immense battle. Rins, Nakagami, Dovizioso, Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and Binder – among others – all having a great shout of going through. You really don’t want to miss qualifying at the Czech GP with the top 16 riders covered by less than a second – Dovizioso was 0.4 off Morbidelli and sits P14. That’s how close it is.
14:10 (GMT+2) is your time to be in front of the TV for qualifying, FP4 goes ahead just before at 13:30.
Top 10 combined:
1. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) – 1:56.037
2. Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) + 0.016
3. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.097
4. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.103
5. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.113
6. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 0.146
7. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.224
8. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) + 0.226
9. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.245
10. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) + 0.257
Click here for the full results!