By Lisa Lewis

British rider Sam Lowes lead the way after Thursday's action drew to a close, topping the combined Moto2 timesheets after thundering to a new lap record in the opening practice session for the intermediate class.

The Speed Up rider's 1m 59.717 took the best time at Losail under the two minute threshold for the first time, returning to top FP2 before raindrops returned to curtail the action for most of the session.

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Lowes came into Qatar in fine form after having topped the final test at Jerez.

Johann Zarco held on to second overall for Ajo Motorsport, the best placed of the Kalex riders who filled the remainder of the top ten with his time from FP1 of 2m 00.339.

Reigning champion Tito Rabat, the first man to return and attempt to defend their title since the class was introduced, made the most of the damp conditions, keeping it consistent and moving into second in the final run of the day for Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS, with the third best time overall.

The ever improving Axel Pons finished the day in fourth for AGR, with Taka Nakagami finding a return to his old form to fill fifth on the combined times for Idemitsu Honda Team Asia, with both riders finding pace despite the weather.

Sixth overall went to Tom Luthi (Derendiger Racing Interwetten) as he gets to grips with a Kalex for the first time.

Sandro Cortese finished the day seventh Dynavolt Intact GP, Xavier Simeon (Federal Oil Gresini) also climbed the order in FP2 for eighth.

The top rookie on the opening day was Alex Rins, who took ninth as he continues to find his feet at the Paginas Amarillas HP 40 Team. The final spot in the top ten went to the second AGR bike, piloted by Jonas Folger, who set his best time in FP1 and did not improve in the evening.

Luis Salom set his first laps of the weekend in FP2 after aborting his first lap of the earlier session only to return and crash at turn 10, the Paginas Amarillas HP 40 rider pushed hard to come back for 13th.

Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), found big improvements after a tough first outing to improve by almost half a second to finish Thursday 18th overall.

Other big names unusually lower down the timesheets were 2014 championship runner-up Mika Kallio (Italtrans) in 19th and Dominique Aegerter (Technomag Racing Interwetten) in 25th - around three seconds of the pace of Lowes.

A competitive season is predicted for Moto2, with 14 previous race winners lining up on the grid.