Champion Mir struggles to qualify in Qatar heat

Doha (AFP) –


Reigning champion Joan Mir failed to make it into the top 10 on Saturday after the third free practice session at the Qatar MotoGP and left himself facing an extra qualifying heat for the season-opener.

In baking temperatures at the Losail International Circuit, the top 10 spots for the first Grand Prix of the season remained unchanged from Friday.

Although Mir, a Spaniard who rides for Suzuki, was sixth fastest in the last practice run, he could not improve his best time from the day before which left him 11th as he struggled to overcome difficulties fine-tuning his bike's electrical systems.

Only the top 10 performers in the first three practice runs qualify directly for the second and final round of qualification during which pole position is up for grabs.

Mir will attempt to rejoin the leading pack during the first round of qualification from 1700 GMT.

Ducati's official riders, Australian Jack Miller and Italian Francesco Bagnaia, led having dominated Friday's second run. They were followed by Frenchmen Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and Johann Zarco (Ducati-Pramac) and Spaniard Alex Rins (Suzuki).

The top 10 was rounded out by Spaniard Maverick Vinales on a Yamaha, Italian Franco Morbidelli who was fastest on Saturday on his Yamaha-SRT, Spaniard Aleix Espargaro for Aprilia, Italian Valentino Rossi of Yamaha-SRT and Spaniard Pol Espargaro, Honda's new recruit.

Spaniard Marc Marquez (Honda), whose run of four straight titles was ended after he broke an arm in a crash in the opening race last season, is still out and will miss the first two MotoGP of 2021 at least.

Combined fastest times from the first three practice sessions at the Qatar MotoGP:

1. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati) 1min 53.387sec, 2. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Ducati) 1:53.422, 3. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha) 1:53.575, 4. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati-Pramac) 1:53.586, 5. Alex Rins (ESP/Suzuki) 1:53.623, 6. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) 1:53.639, 7. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 1:53.676, 8. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 1:53.727, 9. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 1:53.874,10. Pol Espargaro (ESP/Honda) 1:53.901