Andrea Dovizioso maintained a narrow advantage over Cal Crutchlow at the top of the timesheets after FP3 at Motegi while Valentino Rossi relied on a last-gasp effort to secure an automatic Q2 spot. Dovizioso has now finished fastest in both dry sessions so far this weekend but the story of FP3 was the fight to secure a top ten spot, Rossi doing so with the final lap of the morning.
Sunny skies were a welcome sight for the riders after the damp conditions on Friday afternoon, especially for Alex Rins who climbed straight into the top ten at the start of final practice. Dani Pedrosa was another needing an improvement overnight and the Honda rider found it with 15 minutes remaining, with his and Rins’ laps knocking Rossi down into eleventh.
The final five minutes resembled a qualifying session with every rider fitting a new tyre in the hope of securing a Q2 place. Rossi looked to have done so with a 1:46.053 which dragged him up to eighth but improvements for the Pramac Ducatis of Jack Miller and Danilo Petrucci plunged him back into the danger zone again.
Ultimately, a high-speed crash for the latter at turn 12 proved decisive with Petrucci powerless to defend his top ten place, and a final flyer from Rossi saw him leap up to fifth, knocking his compatriot into Q1.
Dovizioso was never in any danger and his 1:45.107 saw him edge out Crutchlow by 0.027s. Johann Zarco and Marc Marquez ensured the top four identically resembled yesterday’s while Rossi and Pedrosa were the big movers, finishing fifth and sixth respectively. Maverick Vinales was seventh ahead of the Suzukis of Rins and Andrea Iannone while Miller’s ascent into the top ten dropped Alvaro Bautista into Q1.
2018 Motul Grand Prix of Japan (Combined Free Practice)
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