Aleix Espargaro quickest during Free Practice 3 for the 2021 MotoGP season finale at Valencia, as Valentino Rossi springs a late career surprise by snatching a top ten place and direct access to Qualifying 2.

But there was concern for Pol Espargaro, Repsol Honda's only rider this weekend and second fastest on Friday, who suffered a massive highside when he was fired off his bucking RCV though the fast Turn 13 and taken away on a stretcher.

The Spaniard was conscious but clearly in pain and currently undergoing checks in the medical centre.

Older brother Aleix, frustrated at recent struggles with the Aprilia RS-GP in cool conditions, was fastest for most of the session although Jack Miller's Friday afternoon time remained quickest overall until Suzuki's Joan Mir hit the top with ten minutes to go.

Miller soon fought back, but Espargaro put the anguish of seeing his brother hurt to one side as he pipped the factory Ducati rider by 0.018s.

Franco Morbidelli also enjoyed a strong session for third, his best in the dry since returning from knee surgery, with Miller's team-mate Francesco Bagnaia in fourth.

Rossi, whose legendary MotoGP career reaches its conclusion this weekend, was towed into seventh as he chased protégée Bagnaia with two-minutes remaining. 

Although pushed back to tenth, Rossi clung on to the final Qualifying 2 place with a lap time just 0.296s from Espargaro, meaning The Doctor is now guaranteed to start his final MotoGP race within the top 12.

Fabio Quartararo, who said he was 'lost' as he struggled to eleventh with surprise fall on Friday, edged out Rossi for ninth this morning.

Johann Zarco returned to the pits with his Ducati smoking with 30mins to go, returning to claim eighth. Zarco starts the finale just two points behind Miller for fourth in the world championship.

This weekend is also the last grand prix for Danilo Petrucci (switching to the Dakar) and Iker Lecuona (moving to WorldSBK).

Marc Marquez will finish the season where he started it, on the sidelines, missing his second event in a row due to vision problems triggered by a training accident. The Repsol Honda star won't be back on a MotoGP bike until 2022.

While the riders' (Fabio Quartararo) and constructors' (Ducati) world championship have already been decided, Ducati Lenovo holds a 28-point lead (maximum of 45 points still available) over Monster Yamaha for the teams' title…

Valencia MotoGP, Circuit Ricardo Tormo - Free Practice (3) Results
Pos RiderNatTeamTime/DiffLapMax
1^11Aleix EspargaroSPAAprilia Gresini (RS-GP)1'30.529s16/17327k
2˅1Jack MillerAUSDucati Team (GP21)+0.018s16/21334k
3^10Franco MorbidelliITAMonster Yamaha (YZR-M1)+0.085s18/20323k
4˅1Francesco BagnaiaITADucati Team (GP21)+0.123s21/21329k
5=Jorge MartinSPAPramac Ducati (GP21)*+0.185s18/20331k
6^1Joan MirSPASuzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR)+0.233s20/21327k
7˅1Takaaki NakagamiJPNLCR Honda (RC213V)+0.248s16/20332k
8^2Johann ZarcoFRAPramac Ducati (GP21)+0.257s21/23329k
9^2Fabio QuartararoFRAMonster Yamaha (YZR-M1)+0.262s21/23323k
10^11Valentino RossiITAPetronas Yamaha (YZR-M1)+0.296s20/22323k
11˅7Alex RinsSPASuzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR)+0.337s21/22327k
12˅4Brad BinderRSARed Bull KTM (RC16)+0.364s20/21329k
13^3Iker LecuonaSPAKTM Tech3 (RC16)+0.583s19/20323k
14^6Luca MariniITASky VR46 Avintia Ducati (GP19)*+0.606s16/20324k
15˅1Alex MarquezSPALCR Honda (RC213V)+0.623s22/23332k
16˅1Danilo PetrucciITAKTM Tech3 (RC16)+0.688s19/20320k
17^1Maverick ViñalesSPAAprilia Gresini (RS-GP)+0.710s18/19327k
18˅9Andrea DoviziosoITAPetronas Yamaha (YZR-M1)+0.848s21/22323k
19˅2Miguel OliveiraPORRed Bull KTM (RC16)+0.859s20/21327k
20˅1Enea BastianiniITAAvintia Ducati (GP19)*+0.860s17/18331k
21˅19Pol EspargaroSPARepsol Honda (RC213V)+0.966s10/14329k


* Rookie
Official Valencia MotoGP records:
Best lap:
Marc Marquez SPA Honda 1m 31.116s (2019)
Fastest race lap:
Jorge Lorenzo SPA Yamaha 1m 29.401s (2016)

By Peter McLaren