On Friday, his pace caught many, including pre-race favourite Andrea Dovizioso, off guard. Showing that was no fluke, Marc Marquez produced a near-flawless performance to top MotoGP FP3 at the Red Bull Ring on Saturday morning.

As the chequered flag was shown, Marquez could boast of a 0.423s advantage over impressive rookie Johann Zarco, an ominous gap considering the Austrian track’s short 2.6-mile length.

And it was not just pace that will have his title rivals worried; Marquez spent the middle part of the 45-minute session working on Michelin’s hard rear tyre compound, with his pace – a string of low-mid 1m 24s - as strong as anyone’s. This, at a track on which Honda struggled massively a year ago.

To give Zarco his due, Marquez wasn’t the only name to impress. The Frenchman had sat atop of the standings with little over a minute remaining, his final soft tyre run enough to sit as the best of the rest.

The championship leader and reigning world champion aside, the gaps between the rest of the top ten were a handful of hundredths - not tenths - of a second. Last year’s victor Andrea Iannone was a heartening third, thanks to a late run. The Italian had sat outside the top 20 until a final push.

Jorge Lorenzo ensured four different manufacturers occupied the first four places, the Majorcan just 0.025s back of Iannone, the man he replaced at Ducati. There were considerable improvements for Valentino Rossi – using Yamaha’s newest aerodynamic fairing – in fifth, after suffering from flu this week.

Andrea Dovizioso was the only rider not to improve on his best time from Friday. The Italian was a measly 16th fastest in FP3, but his FP2 time was enough for him to sit sixth in the combined free practice leaderboard. Rossi’s Movistar Yamaha team-mate Maverick Viñales was one place, and 0.003s behind in seventh.

Satellite Ducati duo Loris Baz (eighth) and Karel Abraham (ninth) were next up, the latter expertly using Marquez’s slipstream as the barometer for his quick lap. Cal Crutchlow squeezed into the top ten thanks to a lap at the very end, his time displacing countryman Scott Redding in tenth. Crutchlow recovered from an earlier fall at turn three to make the Q2 cut.

The result means Redding will fight among team-mate Danilo Petrucci (twelfth), Jonas Folger (13th), championship challenger Dani Pedrosa (15th), Alvaro Bautista (16th) and Aleix Espargaro (18th) in Q1 for two spaces in Q2 this afternoon.

Other than Crutchlow, Bradley Smith (24th) the only other faller in the session, the Englishman falling on the entry for turn one.


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