Rossi returns as Valencia rain puts brake on third practice times

Valencia (Spain) (AFP) –


Australian Jack Miller heads into European MotoGP qualifying topping the combined practice timesheets after a wet track on Saturday made life difficult for riders in the third session which marked Valentino Rossi's return.

The seven-time world MotoGP champion made his comeback for Yamaha having missed back-to-back races at MotorLand Aragon last month after testing positive for Covid-19.

The 41-year-old was cleared on Friday to compete following two negative tests.

He got the green light to return to the MotoGP 'bubble' too late for Friday's opening two sessions in which Ducati rider Miller set the fastest lap.

After rain overnight, conditions on Saturday proved impossible for anyone to dislodge Miller.

Johann Zarco did best of all on the slippery circuit ahead of Rossi's teammate Maverick Vinales, who must start Sunday's race from the pitlane as punishment for exceeding the number of engine changes.

With three races of the season remaining, Joan Mir heads the battle to succeed Marc Marquez as world champion.

Suzuki's Mir, winless in MotoGP, leads the standings by 14 points from Fabio Quartararo, with both riders sneaking into the practice top 10 and a direct ticket to Q2.

The two fastest riders from Q1 go on to Q2 which determines the make-up of the front four rows of the grid for Sunday's latest instalment in this coronavirus-truncated campaign.

Leading combined practice times after Saturday's third session:

1. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati-Pramac) 1:32.528, 2. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) at 0.092s, 3. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 0.276, 4. Takaaki Nakagami (JPN/Honda-LCR) 0.338, 5. Pol Espargaro (ESP/KTM) 0.424, 6. Alex Rins (ESP/Suzuki) 0.629, 7. Brad Binder (AFS/KTM) 0.731, 8. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) 0.764, 9. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha-SRT) 0.809, 10. Joan Mir (ESP/Suzuki) 0.877