Marc Marquez was in ominous form in third practice ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, the Spaniard almost half a second clear of the field this morning.
Marquez and Honda worked hard at the Brno test last week on setting up the bike, particularly the electronics, for the Red Bull Ring after struggling at the circuit last year.
Sixth fastest at the end of Friday’s running, Marquez spent much of the session working with the various tyre compounds available in view to the race – the Spaniard incredibly quick on the hard option.
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso held top spot for most of the 45 minutes by virtue of his 1m24.046s from second practice, though the Italian was shuffled back to sixth on the combined times after a late flurry of fast laps.
Valentino Rossi, who struggled on his Yamaha on Friday, was in better form this morning and shot to the top of the pile with a 1m23.995s with three minutes to go.
He was quickly deposed by Tech3’s Johann Zarco, who edged ahead with a 1m23.947s, bettering that with a 1m23.882s on his next tour.
Marquez, now fitted with a fresh soft slick, set the timing screens ablaze and blasted to top spot with a 1m23.459s, putting him 0.423s clear of Zarco in second.
Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone languished outside of the top 20 halfway through third practice, but shot up to third at the chequered flag to bag a place in Q2 ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and Rossi.
Maverick Vinales did not look quite as comfortable as his Yamaha team-mate this morning, but still made the Q2 cut with the seventh best time. Loris Baz, Karel Abraham and Cal Crutchlow – who crashed at Turn 9 15 minutes into the session – completed the top 10.
Scott Redding was unlucky to miss a Q2 place by just 0.008s in 11th, while Danilo Petrucci was mystifyingly off the pace in 12th.
Jonas Folger spent much of Friday struggling to adapt to the new chassis he tested at Brno last week and ditched it for this morning. The German still couldn’t find any pace and faces Q1 after finishing the session 13th.
Hector Barbera, who had been sixth on the combined times ahead of today’s running, slipped to 14th, while Dani Pedrosa was a surprising 15th.
Bradley Smith was another faller in that session, the KTM rider sliding off at the first corner in the closing seven minutes.