Aleix Espargaro immediately responded as his rivals closed in on him to remain on top after the Catalunya FP3 session.

Backing up a supreme team performance in FP2 where the Aprilia riders held a 1-2, Espargaro leading the way, that time held it’s own for much of the early part of the session.

Picking up the pace as first Fabio Quartararo drew near, then Johann Zarco, the home rider made sure his special helmet got plenty of coverage with an equally special lap - his 1m 38.771s response was a new lap record.

 

This is Marc Marquez’s FINAL ROLL OF THE DICE! | Crash MotoGP Podcast 48 Part 1

It was Zarco who claimed second on the Prima Pramac Ducati leading a stream of bikes by the factory as they looked to hunt down home hero Espargaro. His penultimate lap took the Frenchman to within 0.131s of the best time.

Next in the Ducati dominance of the top ten was Zarco’s Pramac team-mate Jorge Martin after he made the most of his final flying laps.

Fourth went to Mugello winner Francesco Bagnaia, with fellow factory rider Jack Miller improving to climb from fourteenth to a provisional third before being shuffled back to fifth.

Reigning champion and championship leader Fabio Quartararo was swamped by the bikes from the Bologna factory so his lap was only good enough to hold sixth as the top Yamaha.

The Frenchman went a little too soon and was caught by the flurry of late flying laps, but is still comfortably directly through to Q2.

Luca Marini made moves late on to climb up to seventh after a quiet start to the session for Mooney VR46, building into his run to place yet another Ducati inside the top ten.

Pol Espargaro was one of two fallers in the session (along with Brad Binder) as he pushed hard to respond when Takaaki Nakagami moved into seventh. Back on track the Barcelona local found his rhythm and his determination paid off - finishing eighth and the only Honda in the top ten in Marc Marquez’s absence as he has his fourth arm operation - Nakagami finished the session in 17th.

Alex Rins lap helped usher his Suzuki team-mate Joan Mir out of the Q2 places - Rins finished FP3 in ninth while Mir never recovered and ended his morning in 13th.

Rookie Fabio Di Giannantonio was the best of the Gresnini duo to claim the final top ten spot.


Big names to battle it out in Q1.

 

With only two progression places up for grabs Q1 looks set to be frenetic.

Maverick Vinales was the first rider to just miss out. After his superb second on Friday which saw the day end with an Aprilia 1-2, the Spaniard couldn’t quite match his form, his gesticulations in his pit box suggesting he struggled with wheel spin on his way to eleventh.

Triple winner in 2022 Enea Bastianini will also be staking a claim for one of those places after he finished FP3 down in twelfth.

The stacked Q1 will also include 2020 World Champion Joan Mir, race winner Miguel Oliveira and Taka Nakagami as well as several former support class champions, all capable of securing one of the two slots available.