Reigning double MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo led a Yamaha top three during Thursday night's practice for the season-opening Qatar MotoGP, at Losail.

The Factory Yamaha rider snatched the top spot by just 0.058s from Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow, while team-mate Valentino Rossi turned back the clock to lead most of the 45-minutes.

Riding on a dusty surface, Rossi picked up where he had left off prior to his ill-fated Ducati venture by shooting straight to the top on his first flying lap.

The seven time MotoGP champion then knocked chunks out of his lap time to stay ahead of Lorenzo and Crutchlow as the halfway stage came and went.

Lorenzo momentarily moved ahead, but it was Crutchlow who went top - and stayed there - by just 0.080s over Rossi with five minutes to go. Lorenzo edged ahead of them both with one minute to run, then went a fraction faster on his final lap.

Rookie Marc Marquez was best of the rest, 0.520s from Rossi in fourth for Repsol Honda, with new Ducati signing Andrea Dovizioso claiming a promising fifth place (+0.853s). Marquez and Dovizioso both featured as high as third during the session.

Gresini Honda's Alvaro Bautista (+0.916s) and LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl (0.985s) were the last riders within one-second of Lorenzo, who won from pole at Losail in 2012.

Marquez's team-mate and last year's title runner-up Dani Pedrosa ran wide several times on his way to surprisingly low eighth place (+1.064s). Aspar's Aleix Espargaro was just a fraction slower after a highly impressive performance on his CRT specification Aprilia.

Nicky Hayden (+1.2s) completed the top ten for Ducati, followed by rookies Bradley Smith (+1.6s) and Andrea Iannone (1.9s). Iannone's team-mate Ben Spies - yet to recover full strength in his healing shoulder - was the slowest of the manufacturer riders in 13th place, 1.9s from Lorenzo.

Hector Barbera (Avintia), Randy de Puniet (Aspar) and Karel Abraham were the remaining riders to break the two-minute barrier. New PBM signing Yonny Hernandez was the only faller out of the 24 riders, although numerous others ran off-track as they tested the grip levels.

Lorenzo's lap time was 1.5s from the official Losail race record and almost three seconds from Lorenzo's own 2012 pole time. Significant improvements are expected as the weekends progresses.

The unique four-night Qatar format will see the second and third MotoGP practice sessions held on Friday night.

The top ten riders after FP3 will then progress to the second and final part of Saturday's new knockout qualifying system. The others will fight over the final two places in Q1.

2013 is the second year of the 1000cc MotoGP rules and privateer CRT category. Official pre-season testing was held at Sepang and Jerez, with Honda and Yamaha also visiting Austin.

Thursday practice:
1. Jorge Lorenzo
2. Cal Crutchlow
3. Valentino Rossi
4. Marc Marquez
5. Andrea Dovizioso
6. Alvaro Bautista
7. Stefan Bradl
8. Dani Pedrosa
9. Aleix Espargaro
10. Nicky Hayden
11. Bradley Smith
12. Andrea Iannone
13. Ben Spies
14. Hector Barbera
15. Randy De Puniet
16. Karel Abraham
17. Colin Edwards
18. Yonny Hernandez
19. Hiroshi Aoyama
20. Claudio Corti
21. Danilo Petrucci
22. Bryan Staring
23. Lukas Pesek
24. Michael Laverty


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