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Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) is the rider to beat heading into Moto3™ qualifying at the Grande Premio MEO de Portugal, the Honda rider setting a blistering 1:47.398 to beat Championship leader Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) by 0.303 seconds in FP3. Rookie Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) completed the top three as the two other title contenders miss out on a top 14 place: Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) was P15 and Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) had to settle for P22.
It was another beautiful start to proceedings at the Algarve International Circuit, however none of the riders improved their Friday times in the opening 20 minutes of FP3. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was fastest in the session from teammate Kaito Toba – who was P15 on the combined times – with future Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Masia P3 with 15 minutes to go.
Things started to happen though. Toba improved his time and so did Fernandez – the Spaniard was now P2 on the combined times, 0.085 seconds off Arenas. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) and Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) were now into the top 10 as the riders now started to push for an automatic, top 14 Q2 spot. All three title contenders were inside those places with 12 minutes to go, it was vital that they stayed there.
The timing screens then settled before the Moto3™ field got themselves set for a five-minute dash. Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) and Barry Baltus (CarXpert PrüstelGP) jumped to P5 and P7 to shove Ogura down to P13 – the danger zone. Baltus then propelled himself into P4 as he shadowed Fenati on track, the latter improving his time but staying P5 as they lapped alone. The rest of the competitors were just about to start their final fast lap attack, most would only get two bites at the cherry.
As the riders crossed the line to complete their laps, it was impossible to keep up with how many changes occurred. Alcoba went fastest with teammate Gabriel Rodrigo and Andrea Migno (SKY Racing Team VR46) also going ahead of Arenas as Arbolino suddenly found himself P20, Ogura was P11 with one lap left. That changed though. Arbolino didn’t improve on his final lap and while Ogura did, it wasn’t enough to keep him inside the top 14. Ogura ended Free Practice in P15, with Arbolino P22.
A disaster for the two title contenders, but job done for Championship leader Arenas. P2 behind Masia is a great way to head into his most important Grand Prix qualifying session, Alcoba heads Rodrigo and Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) in the top five. Migno, Toba, Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0), Fernandez and Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) rounded out the top 10.
So, a massive 15 minutes will be coming up for Ogura and Arbolino this afternoon. And it’s not a given they’re making it into Q2. The likes of McPhee, Fenati, Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse), teammate Niccolo Antonelli, Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power) and the rest who are more than capable of ruining two title contenders’ Saturday.
Tune in for Moto3™ qualifying at 12:35 local time (GMT+0).
Top 10 combined:
1. Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) – 1:47.398
2. Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team) + 0.303
3. Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) +0.453
4. Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) + 0.520
5. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) + 0.550
6. Andrea Migno (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 0.577
7. Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.603
8. Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) + 0.652
9. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.674
10. Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 0.712
2 weeks ago