Andrea Dovizioso topped the timesheets in both free practice sessions as the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship got underway in the Qatari desert.
A change the time schedule meant the opening free practice session would take place in daylight before FP2 then got underway in the floodlit conditions riders will race in on Sunday.
With temperatures much higher and the track greasier in sunlight, lap times were around a second slower in the morning session, suggesting that FP2 could be crucial for those looking to secure a pass direct into tomorrow evening’s Q2 qualifying session.
Dovizioso’s time of 1’54.361, under the circuit lap record, placed him just a fraction quicker than Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, who is looking strong on the third Ducati GP18 and a potential dark horse for Sunday’s race.
Alex Rins bumped Jorge Lorenzo from the top three in the closing moments of FP2 to place third with the second Suzuki of Andrea Iannone completing the top five.
A close fought pack followed, with three riders within three thousandths of a second of Iannone’s fifth quickest time, led by world champion Marc Marquez who placed sixth for Repsol Honda.
0.001 seconds behind him was team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who was in turn just 0.001 seconds ahead of HRC-backed LCR Honda man Cal Crutchlow. Nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi was a further 0.001 back on Crutchlow in ninth ahead of Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco who rounded out that crucial top ten.
The second Movistar Yamaha of Maverick Vinales will have to fight for his Q2 slot in tomorrow’s warmer FP3.
Taka Nakagami was the quickest rookie on the opening day in 15th place for Idemitsu LCR Honda ahead of Britain’s Scott Redding who makes his debut with the factory Aprilia team. Bradley Smith was 20th for KTM.
Only the top ten from combined free practice times progress directly to Q2 and with track conditions set to be hotter in tomorrow’s FP3, it could be difficult for the likes of Vinales to progress.