Nakagami tops extraordinary FP3 as 0.098 splits top seven

A hugely dramatic FP3 shoot-out has gone the way of Takaaki Nakagami but the major talking point was Marc Marquez's frightening crash

LCR Honda Idemitsu's Takaaki Nakagami will lead the MotoGP™ grid into qualifying at the Red Bull Grand Prix of Spain after a hugely dramatic FP3 unfolded at Jerez. The Japanese rider was handed top spot after Franco Morbidelli's best lap was chalked off for exceeding track limits, but the major talking point was eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez's (Repsol Honda Team) frightening crash at Turn 7 - his first since returning from injury.

There were 15 minutes left when Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP's Fabio Quartararo became the first man to better Bagnaia's best from Friday, a 1:37.010 the best of the weekend so far. Morbidelli then moved ahead of Bagnaia too five minutes later, the Italian only 0.073 seconds behind his factory counterpart Quartararo. There were four minutes on the clock when the World Champion Joan Mir showed his hand. A 1:37.036 lifting the Team Suzuki Ecstar man up to second on the timesheets, surely confirming an automatic place in Q2 for the first time this year.

An incredible lap then came in from Morbidelli, as the Petronas Yamaha man got to within a tenth of Viñales' outright lap record. But the lap was cancelled seconds later for exceeding track limits and Morbidelli was shuffled back down the timesheets as a result. That allowed Nakagami to jump to the top of the timesheets after the Japanese star posted the first, legal, sub-1:37 of the weekend: a 1:36.985. He was joined in the top three by wildcard wonder Stefan Bradl (Honda HRC) as the German produced a stunning 1:37.026 to go third fastest.

Huge drama then struck at Turn 7 as the eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez crashed out heavily. The front-end of the Spaniard's RC213V washed away without much warning at 180km/h, sending him barrel-rolling through the gravel trap and flying into the air fence. Immense concern was etched across the faces of the Repsol Honda team members as the Spaniard remained down in the gravel trap next to his wrecked Honda. Thankfully, the number 93 rose to his feet, sheepishly albeit, and walked to safety. He was later shown arriving back to the box, seemingly okay, after what was, no doubt, a frightening moment. He did, however, head to the medical centre for further checks after his first fall since his injury return, but confirmed he's "all good" and will return to the track in FP4.

With the chequered flag now out, nobody was able to trouble the top four meaning Nakagami, Quartararo, Bradl and Mir were cemented as the premier class pacesetters heading into Q2. Aprilia Racing Team Gresini's Aleix Espargaro continued his fine weekend by taking fifth overall, ahead of Viñales and Morbidelli who both set the exact same lap time. The pair's 1:37.083 meant that only 0.098 of a second was the difference between the fastest seven riders in MotoGP™.

Friday's fastest man Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) left it late to improve on his FP2 lap, stealing a Q2 spot with the chequered flag out by moving to eighth fastest. Taking the final two spots in Q2 were Pramac Racing's Johann Zarco and Team Suzuki Ecstar's Alex Rins, with Ducati Lenovo Team's Jack Miller the unfortunate man to miss out in 11th. The Australian 0.203 seconds behind the fastest man of FP3 yet will have to fight it out of Q1 later on Saturday. He'll be joined there by Marquez and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who likewise suffered a bizarre crash at Turn 5 earlier in FP3.

A hugely dramatic MotoGP™ FP3 has set us up nicely for a blockbuster fight for pole position at 14:00 local time in Jerez. With less than two tenths of a second splitting the fastest ten premier class riders, it will be simply unmissable action

Top 10 combined:
1. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) – 1:36.985
2. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.025
3. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.041
4. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.051
5. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 0.064
6. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.098
7. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.098
8. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.151
9. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.172
10. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.193


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