Swiss rider Thomas Luthi clocked the best time on the opening day of Moto2 testing at a sun-drenched Jerez circuit in Spain today, with Scott Redding, Bradley Smith and Gino Rea all outside the top 10.
Luthi’s pace of 1.42.627 on the Suter machine put him 0.226s clear of Japanese rider Takaaki Nakagami, who is riding a Kalex frame.
Claudio Corti and Pol Espargaro were third and fourth quickest respectively ahead of the impressive Marc Marquez, who made a brilliant return to action by setting the fifth best time.
The Spaniard was back on track with his Moto2 rivals for the first time in five months since he suffered serious nerve damage in his right eye in a practice crash for the Sepang race in Malaysia last October.
The former 125GP world champion only rode a Moto2 bike for the first time in Alcarras and Albecete last week. But he was immediately back on the pace in Jerez this afternoon in perfect testing conditions.
Temperatures reached over 20 degrees with clear blue skies and Marquez clocked a best time of 1.43.080 to finish just 0.453s behind Luthi.
Redding’s Marc VDS Racing team-mate Mika Kallio rounded out the top six with a personal best of 1.43.209.
British teenager Redding just failed to make the top 10. His best time of 1.43.478 was just 0.011s behind 2010 Moto2 world champion Toni Elias.
Redding was using a new 2012 spec Ohlins front fork for the first time while also struggling with a migraine, but the Gloucestershire rider was unable to replicate the form he’d shown in previous tests in Valencia and Jerez where he'd finished inside the top two.
The final three-day test in Jerez sees the Moto2 field all using the officially supplied by 600cc Honda engine but Redding is optimistic he can improve his pace and position tomorrow.
Tech 3 Racing rider Smith was 17th fastest but bullish about a new chassis and swingarm package he tested on the Mistral 610 machine.
It is the third major winter revamp for the French-built machine and he set a best time of 1.43.804. That was just over a second away from Luthi’s pace.
Londoner Rea, who finally confirmed his 2012 deal with the Gresini Moriwaki squad earlier this week, ended up in 22nd place on the timesheets. He logged a 1.44.151 to finish 1.524s back of Luthi.