Italian veteran Valentino Rossi struck a blow for the over-40s with a sizzling performance to top Saturday’s third practice session ahead of Sunday’s San Marino MotoGP.
The 41-year-old seven-time champion produced a fastest lap of 1min 31.861sec, outside the track record of 1min 31.629 sec but quick enough to head the overall practice times and qualify him directly for Q2 later on Saturday.
It marked a welcome return to form for the Yamaha rider as he has struggled recently to stay with the pace, prompting him on Thursday to quash rumours that he would be retiring at the end of the season.
Rossi, who lives just a few kilometres from the Misano circuit, found plenty of local support from the sparse crowd who are allowed to attend a MotoGP event for the first time this coronavirus-disrupted eason.
Second quickest was his factory Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales with Frenchman Fabio Quartararo, also on a Yamaha from the SRT satellite team, in third.
Quartararo goes into the race with a three-point lead in the championship standings ahead of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso.
The riders with the 10 best times from the three free practice sessions go straight into the second qualifying session (Q2), which determines the first 12 places on the starting grid.
The others must participate in a preliminary qualifying session (Q1) of which the two fastest go into Q2.
San Marino MotoGP combined free practice times
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha) 1:31.861, 2. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) at 0.075, 3. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha-SRT) at 0.100, 4. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati-Pramac) at 0.268, 5. Alex Rins (ESP/Suzuki) at 0.345, 6. Joan Mir (ESP/Suzuki) at 0.377, 7. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Ducati-Pramac) at 0.387, 8. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati-Avintia) at 0.407, 9. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) at 0.420, 10. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) at 0.557