Catalunya MotoGP: Bradley Smith second in 125GP opener

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Bradley Smith ended an opening 125GP practice run in baking hot conditions at the Catalunya circuit in Spain today with the second fastest time.

The British rider was once again the only rider to haul himself into a battle with the fast Spanish quartet of Marc Marquez, Nicolas Terol, Pol Espargaro and Efren Vazquez.

And a brilliant final lap of 1.52.033 secured the 19-year-old second spot behind the dominant Marquez.

Aspar Aprilia rider Smith, who has only ever scored one top six finish at the technical Catalunya track, knocked nearly 0.6s off his previous best time on his final lap to close the gap on Derbi rider Marquez to 0.246s.

The Spaniard though was once again in superb form as he starts his home race near Barcelona bidding for a fourth successive victory.

Marquez, who can become the youngest rider in history to win four races in a row on Sunday, dominated the session and before Smith’s final lap he was over 0.7s clear of the field.

He ended with a best time of 1.51.219 with only Oxfordshire rider Smith able to lap inside of half-a-second of Marquez.

Smith’s team-mate Terol was third fastest as he looks to defend a slender advantage in the title hunt going into Sunday’s 22-lap race.

He posted a best time of 1.51.983 to finish 0.764s behind Marquez.

Espargaro, who is three points behind Terol in the championship chase, had a tough session and he could only take his Aprilia to the fourth best time.

A 1.52.002 left him 0.783s off the best pace and his preparations were hardly helped by a crash with just over 20 minutes left on the clock. He was able to walk unhurt.

British rider Danny Webb, who narrowly missed out on a top six finish at last weekend’s Dutch TT at Assen, ended the session in 12th position.

The Kent rider clocked a fastest time of 1.53.796 to finish over 2.5s off the pace.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt