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Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) looks like he’s going to take some beating ahead of the final qualifying session 2020. The Australian is top of the combined Free Practice standings at the Grande Premio MEO de Portugal thanks to a scintillating 1:39.205 in FP3, home hero Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) is chasing Miller hard in P2 though to finish 0.125 seconds away. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) produced the goods but teammate and World Champion Joan Mir missed out on a top 10, as did Valencia GP winner Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT).
As MotoGP™ began their second day of action at the stunning Algarve International Circuit, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) wasn’t feeling any ill effects from his FP2 crash and sat top of the FP3 session in the early stages. None of the riders had gone quicker than they did on the opening day with Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) now top with a 1:40.513, over a second shy from Zarco’s FP2 pace. A lot of the riders were trying or continuing to use the hard-rear tyre at the beginning of Saturday’s track action, as Nakagami returned to the summit with a 1:40.485 on the medium-rear with just over 30 minutes left on the stopwatch.
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) miraculously escaped a huge crash at Turn 7 as the Spaniard ran onto the grass coming into the braking zone. An amazing escape for the number 44 rider who was soon back in maximum attack mode on his next lap. The KTM star went P3 in the session before Oliveira then placed himself P3 to quickly shove Pol Espargaro to P4. Still though, the combined times were remaining unchanged with 25 minutes left.
Oliveira then led the morning session by nearly a couple of tenths from Nakagami, before Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) continued to impress – the Spaniard slotting himself into P2 with 20 minutes to go. Then, the first soft-rear tyre time came in. Nakagami was the man to return to the top and on his next flyer, the first 1:39 of the day came in – a 1:39.804 was good enough to move him into the top 10, Morbidelli was now out of the automatic Q2 places.
Soft tyres were now pretty much everywhere on the timing screens and FP3 was about to get very lively. Miller then provided the competition with a new benchmark. The number 43 was top of the combined standings with a 1:39.414, 0.003 faster than Zarco, then Oliveira jumped into the top 10 to go second in the session with his best lap of the weekend. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) improved too, the Frenchman was now third overall as everyone was now riding the rollercoaster as fast as they could.
Rins was P17 on Day 1 and was struggling with his shoulder around this demanding circuit. However, the Spaniard set two consecutive personal best laps to propel himself into P11, just 0.016 seconds off Pol Espargaro in P10.
With three minutes to, personal best orange sectors lit up everywhere. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) shot into the top 10 before Oliveira went P1, with Nakagami going P2 soon after. Miller was now P3 and both Suzukis were currently outside the top 10, Mir had been pushed to P11. Pol Espargaro then returned to the top 10 to push Crutchlow out before Rins slammed in an almighty lap to go P1, a 1:39.355. Oliveira was then back on top of the pile, but Miller was flying.
The Aussie, on his final flying lap, displaced Oliveira by just over a tenth to snatch P1 at the close of play as fellow Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) climbed to P3, before Miller’s time shoved him back to P4. Nakagami finishes P5 behind the leading quartet as Zarco slips to P6 after failing to go quicker on Saturday morning. The Frenchman’s time is still good enough for P6 overall, compatriot Quartararo is straight into Q2 in P7. Pol Espargaro is P8 with Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) joining Zarco in finishing inside the top but failing to go quicker in FP3, and a huge shoutout goes to 10th place Bradl. A fantastic effort from the HRC test rider who finishes just 0.364 adrift of Miller’s time.
2020 race winners Morbidelli, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and World Champion Mir will all have to contest in Q1 this afternoon. It should be an absolutely belting final qualifying session of the season in Portimao as 0.8 seconds covers the top 18 riders and it goes without saying – you do not want to miss it!
14:10 is when Q1 kicks off for the premier class, tune in!
Top 10 combined:
1. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) – 1:39.205
2. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) + 0.125
3. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.150
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) + 0.199
5. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 0.206
6. Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) + 0.212
7. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.275
8. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.308
9. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.331
10. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.364
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