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Runaway MotoGP World Championship leader Marc Marquez has laid down the early gauntlet for the Grand Prix of Italy as he comfortably paced first free practice in Mugello.

Scene of his one and only DNF in 2013 - as well as a spectacular high-speed crash in free practice -, Marquez showed no signs of trepidation as he quickly rediscovered his form around the Italian circuit, steadily getting himself up to speed before moving to the top in the closing stages with a best lap of 1min 48.004secs.

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It was enough to deny Valentino Rossi the perfect opening to what will be his 300th GP start this weekend, the Movistar Yamaha rider top of the timesheets for a long period before being usurped his Repsol Honda man Marquez late on.

However, while he would fall three tenths short of his rival, Rossi will at least be encouraged by the consistency of his laps having turned in a series of times under 1min 50secs.

With Andrea Dovizioso predicting a strong turn by Ducati on home soil this weekend, the local marque duly started as it means to go on with both Andrea Iannone and Dovizioso emerging third and fourth respectively at their home circuit

They would emerge ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Mugello winner in fifth place and six tenths down on the front.

Once more, Aleix Espargaro led the Open class in sixth position, ahead of Stefan Bradl and Cal Crutchlow, while Le Mans podium winner Alvaro Bautista was ninth best but only after crashing out of the session with five minutes remaining.

Bradley Smith rounded out the top ten to leave Dani Pedrosa out of the leading positions, the Spaniard over a second adrift of his pace-setting team-mate.

Elsewhere, Pol Espargaro suffered a spectacular crash into turn one mid-way through the session, though he would rejoin on his No.2 Tech 3 Yamaha later in the session to go 12th best.

Beyond Aleix Espargaro, Forward Racing team-mate Colin Edwards was an encouraging 13th fastest as he trials a new chassis this weekend, but it was a difficult session for the production Honda quartet, with Hiroshi Aoyamam 15th, Karel Abraham 17th and Scott Redding 18th, while Nicky Hayden managed just a handful of laps as he propped up the timesheets.

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Apparently waiting to get a tow from the fastest Ducati on track? On his second try, by himself, he was +0.4 s off.which was just the time that Iannone did on both laps to get 3rd. I'm not impressed with "tow-laps.

Iannone, by the way, did a really good Job to put the Ducati on 3rd...!