CLICK HERE to view the results for MotoGP Free Practice (1).

  • Aleix Espargaro tops opening practice session on Open Forward Yamaha
  • Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi quickest of the Factory riders not present at the recent Losail test
  • Tyre misery for defending double Qatar winner Jorge Lorenzo
  • Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez 11th fastest on return from injury
  • Brief delay as Yonny Hernandez tips off in early stages

Aleix Espargaro maintained his excellent pre-season form as the Spanish rider led the way in opening practice for the Qatar MotoGP on the Open Forward Yamaha.

Running the softer option rear tyre, Espargaro set the quickest time of 1m 55.201s on his final lap to finish 0.466s clear of Alvaro Bautista on the Gresini Honda, with Bradley Smith third fastest on the Tech 3 Yamaha around the Losail circuit.

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Reigning world champion Marc Marquez was back in action in Qatar for the first time since breaking his leg in a dirt bike training accident and ended the session in 11th position with a time of 1m 56.682s, which left him 1.481s down on Espargaro.

The session was red-flagged after 15 minutes due to debris on the track when Yonny Hernandez was involved in a spill on the Pramac Ducati at Turn 16. The Colombian rider was sent for an X-ray on his right shoulder following the incident.

After a slight delay of less than 10 minutes FP1 was back underway with Aleix Espargaro at the top of the times following an earlier lap in 1m 55.855s, with Andrea Iannone (Pramac Ducati) and Tech 3 Yamaha pair Smith and Pol Espargaro next.

With 15 minutes remaining Valentino Rossi was into fifth on the Movistar Yamaha M1 with a time of 1m 56.422s ahead of Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa (1m 56.516s) and Colin Edwards on the Open Forward Yamaha (1m 56.542s).

Jorge Lorenzo cut an unhappy figure during his pit stops as he battled wheel-spin on the YZR-M1 on his way to a 1m 56.668s lap and ninth place, mirroring the kind of grip issues he had suffered at the Sepang test.

With ten minutes to go British star Smith claimed the top spot in 1m 55.816s, but five minutes later Alvaro Bautista nudged the British rider from the summit with a lap in 1m 55.667s on the Gresini Honda.

However, Aleix Espargaro powered back into the number one spot with less than two minutes to go, then went even quicker on his final lap in 1m 55.201s to conclude FP1 on top.

Behind Espargaro, Bautista and Smith, Italy's Iannone was fourth ahead of Pol Espargaro - who fractured his collarbone at the recent test. Pedrosa and Rossi rounded out the top seven and were the fastest of the official Honda, Yamaha and Ducati riders, who did not test at the circuit earlier this month.

Texan Colin Edwards was eighth on the second of the Open Forward Yamahas, one place ahead of Lorenzo.

Nicky Hayden was the best of the Open Honda riders in tenth place on the Drive M7 Aspar, lapping in 1m 56.670s and finished in front of Marquez.

Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso were 13th and 14th respectively on the Factory Ducatis, with Crutchlow 1.845s down on Espargaro.

Series rookie Scott Redding was 19th on the Open Gresini Honda after technical problems heavily restricted his track time. Things were worse for fellow Briton Michael Laverty, who didn't record a lap for PBM due to a 'small technical problem'.

Free Practice 1:
1. Aleix Espargaro
2. Alvaro Bautista
3. Bradley Smith
4. Andrea Iannone
5. Pol Espargaro
6. Dani Pedrosa
7. Valentino Rossi
8. Colin Edwards
9. Jorge Lorenzo
10. Nicky Hayden
11. Marc Marquez
12. Stefan Bradl
13. Cal Crutchlow
14. Andrea Dovizioso
15. Yonny Hernandez
16. Karel Abraham
17. Hiroshi Aoyama
18. Hector Barbera
19. Scott Redding
20. Mike Di Meglio
21. Danilo Petrucci
22. Broc Parkes
23. Michael Laverty