Marc Marquez topped the third MotoGP free practice session at the Sachsenring track he has come to call his own in recent years, but Maverick Vi?ales wasn't far away, with his pace on the hard rear tyre reason to believe tomorrow's race won't be straightforward, one-way fight.

Despite setting just the sixth fastest time in Friday's one dry session, Marquez confidently stated, "the potential is there" yesterday afternoon, words he duly backed up with the first lap in the 1m 20s - a 1m 20.745s - of the weekend. That had carried him close to half a second clear of the rest. But Vi?ales wasn't done.

Having gone fastest with ten minutes to go when using the medium compound front/hard rear combination, bystanders looked on eagerly when the Movistar Yamaha man fitted softs for the final five minutes. His response was swift as he too, lapped in the 1m 20s - a 1m 20.915s time, clocking in just 0.170s off Marquez's best.

The dry conditions were welcomed by the vast majority of the grid, keen to put more laps on the tyres from Michelin's increased tyre allocation. Vi?ales was certainly one of them, and after a listless showing in the wet FP2 - the 22-year old was just 20th fastest - he went on to show, in the dry at least, he can keep Marquez, winner here for the past seven years, honest.

Ultimately, it was in the undulating track's final sector where the reigning world champion made the difference. A circuit which sees split times separated by the finest of margins, Marquez was a tenth faster than everyone in the final two corners.

An incident packed 55 minutes, home hero Jonas Folger was a fine third, albeit more than a quarter of a second off the #25 factory Yamaha. It was from here that times were really close. The front two aside, less than a second covered the German rookie, and Loris Baz in 20th.

In what is quickly becoming Aprilia's most impressive showing in MotoGP since returning to the premier class in '15, Aleix Espargaro carried his Friday speed over to qualifying day, his fourth fastest time just eleven thousandths off Folger. Impressively, Espargaro's RS-GP has been inside the top five in each of the weekend's three sessions.

Cal Crutchlow was solid fifth, the Honda proving incredibly agile in sector two, while Valentino Rossi put yet more mechanical gremlins behind him to sit a much-improved sixth. The 38-year old's #1 machine stopped early on due to a fuel pump issue. After some quick repairs, he was able to use it, and the 'evo' chassis he prefers, for the final 20 minutes.

Jorge Lorenzo enjoyed a solid session in seventh, with team-mate Andrea Dovizioso a place behind in eighth. Dani Pedrosa, a faller at turn one, was seen gesticulating angrily in Karel Abraham's direction before setting the ninth fastest time. Alvaro Bautista was tenth.

There will be several high profile names in this afternoon's Q1 session, Assen front row qualifiers Danilo Petrucci (twelfth) and Johann Zarco (17th) among them. Both satellite men were fallers late in FP3, with the Italian coming undone at the tight, final turn. Zarco meanwhile joined Abraham in crashing at turn eleven, thankfully without injury.

Sam Lowes failed to improve on his best time from FP1, and ended 23rd as a result. The Englishman had a small slip off at turn 13 early into the 55 minutes.

By Neil Morrison

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CLICK HERE for the full results.

1. Marc Marquez
2. Maverick Vi?ales
3. Jonas Folger
4. Aleix Espargaro
5. Cal Crutchlow
6. Valentino Rossi
7. Jorge Lorenzo
8. Andrea Dovizioso
9. Dani Pedrosa
10. Alvaro Bautista
11.Tito Rabat
12. Danilo Petrucci
13. Hector Barbera
14.Jack Miller
15.Scott Redding
16.Alex Rins
17. Johann Zarco
18.Pol Espargaro
19.Andrea Iannone
20. Loris Baz
21.Bradley Smith
22.Mika Kallio
23. Sam Lowes
24. Karel Abraham

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