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Le Mans MotoGP: Marquez tops tight opening Le Mans practice

Marc Marquez fastest during Free Practice 1 for the 2014 French MotoGP at Le Mans - top ten covered by 0.7s.
CLICK HERE to view Free Practice 1 results for the 2014 French MotoGP.

Marc Marquez led the way during a close opening practice for the French MotoGP, at Le Mans on Friday morning.

The reigning world champion, who has won all four races from pole this season to build a 28 point lead over Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, moved to the top at the midway stage of the 45-minutes.

Riding in sunny but relatively cool conditions - and leaving black lines on corner exit - Marquez, who announced a new two-year contract with Honda earlier this week, saved his best for last to conclude the session 0.189s ahead of Pedrosa.

Valentino Rossi was only 14th at the midway stage, then moved steadily up the order until his final lap put the Italian into third place, just 0.253s from Marquez.

Rossi, who revealed on Thursday he plans to start negotiations for a new two year Yamaha contract, has one new frame available this weekend, aimed at improving braking.

Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo didn't notice a difference and wanted to keep both his bikes the same, so has opted to stay with the older chassis. Lorenzo was second to Marquez for a substantial part of FP1 before ending in fourth (+0.270s).

Lorenzo plans to concentrate on the softer option rear tyre this weekend, after a disappointing fourth place on the medium compound at Jerez.

Pedrosa and LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl have both undergone arm pump surgery since the Spanish round. Neither showed signs of soreness, with Bradl leading the first half of the session on the way to sixth (+0.406s), just behind Gresini Honda's Alvaro Bautista.

Andrea Dovizioso was the leading Ducati rider in seventh (+0.547) with team-mate Cal Crutchlow, riding with new cooling ducts on the front brakes of his Ducati after fluid overheating problems forced him to retire in the Jerez race, in twelfth (+1.110s).

The Ducati riders, like the Open class, have rear tyres one grade softer than the Factory class Hondas and Yamahas, meaning a choice of the extra-soft and soft this weekend.

The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team got their home event off to a dramatic start when Bradley Smith fell in the opening five minutes. The Englishman slid off on entry to the Chemin Aus Boeufs chicane at the end of the back straight, sending his bike cartwheeling through the gravel.

Smith was soon back on track and finished the session in eleventh (+1.103s), while rookie team-mate Pol Espargaro saved a big tank slapper and a trip down an escape road on his way to ninth (+0.601s).

Behind Pol Espargaro, Pramac Ducati's Andrea Iannone and top Open class rider Aleix Espargaro (Forward Yamaha) completed a top ten covered by just 0.745s.

Hiroshi Aoyama narrowly got the better of Aspar team-mate Nicky Hayden to lead the production Honda challenge in 13th (+1.310s), with Espargaro's team-mate Colin Edwards next after countryman Hayden in 15th (+1.821s).

Ioda's Danilo Petrucci is absent due to a broken wrist at Jerez, with his planned replacement Luca Scassa breaking a femur in testing at Mugello.

Free Practice 2 takes place this afternoon.

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

Tagged as: Honda , Marquez

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