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Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) took charge in FP3 at the BMW M Grand Prix of Styria after the Spaniard slammed in a 1:23.456 to head Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) by 0.153 going into qualifying this afternoon. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) claims P3 having set the exact same time as Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) – the Japanese rider’s second best time quicker than the Italian’s – as the top 15 in FP3 were covered by less than half a second. It was another tantalisingly close premier class session.
After struggling throughout Friday, Championship leader Quartararo wasted no time on Saturday morning. The Frenchman went P10 and then P9 ahead of teammate Franco Morbidelli in successive laps as the combined timesheets changed almost immediately. Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) was back on track after undergoing surgery on a fractured scaphoid on Wednesday, and the Czech GP podium finisher propelled himself into the top 10. The Frenchman was up to P8 after five laps, a miraculous effort, which pushed Morbidelli into P11.
The riders then started to work on race pace and getting laps in on used tyres, until there were 20 minutes to go. Quartararo was the first man out on shiny fresh Michelin soft and rear rubber, but it was Yamaha rival Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) who was at the top of the combined standings. Quartararo slotted into P2 just 0.011 off, with Mir and Nakagami improving in the top five. Zarco again went quicker to go from P10 to P8, with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) then getting himself into the top 10 to shove Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) down to 11th. Things were starting to really heat up in the battle for automatic Q2 promotion in Styria with 15 minutes on the clock left.
Rins wasn’t outside the top 10 for long though as the Spaniard sprung his GSX-RR into 5th place, with Quartararo getting the hammer down to take the P1 baton by 0.010 with eight minutes to go. Then, Mir hit a home run to go to the top of the standings and on his next lap, the number 36 moved the goalposts further to lead the field by 0.151. There was drama for Austrian GP podium finisher Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) in the latter stages of FP3. After going P6, Miller was then down at Turn 6, but would it prove costly in terms of the top 10?
With two minutes to go, Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) was back inside the top 10 after getting shuffled down the order, with triple Red Bull Ring race winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) now on the fringes. However, DesmoDovi clawed his way back up into P3 on his penultimate lap, with Nakagami then going from P10 to P3 shortly after – the duo setting the exact same time. This swapping and changing saw Miller slip down to 10th and with Binder just 0.003 slower in 11th, could there be a shock on the cards?
Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) sat 14th and was threatening with a great time, but The Doctor was wide at Turn 9 and despite an improved lap, Rossi didn’t progress up the timing screen. And with Binder unable to improve, Miller was safe – just.
So, heading into qualifying, Pol Espargaro and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing have been toppled – for now. Mir leads the way by over a tenth from an improved Quartararo, with Nakagami and Dovizioso enjoying another good spell of form in FP3. Viñales rounds out a top five that are split by 0.161, with Pol Espargaro 0.182 back in P6 having not improved his Friday time. Oliveira goes straight into Q2 for the second weekend in a row after finishing 7th, with Morbidelli getting a late personal best lap time in to end FP3 in P8. Rins is less than three tenths off his teammate’s time in P9, Miller gets away with it to finish 10th.
MotoGP™ recap: Espargaro fires on Friday yet again
Q1 will be a belter. Binder, Zarco, Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) and Rossi – among others – will all fancy their chances of earning a Q2 place. Qualifying gets underway at 14:10 (GMT+2), who are you backing to grab Styrian GP pole position?
Top 10 combined:
1. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – 1:23.456
2. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.151
3. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 0.154
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) + 0.154
5. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.161
6. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.182
7. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) + 0.269
8. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.271
9. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.298
10. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) + 0.339
Click here for the full results!
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