Andrea Dovizioso put Ducati ahead of the home manufacturers to lead opening practice for the Japanese MotoGP at Motegi.

The Italian, aiming to become this season's ninth different race winner, made big progress during his final run - taking the top spot from Honda's Marc Marquez by 0.245s on his 16th and last lap.

Marquez - who has his first chance to clinch the 2016 title this weekend - had led the session since the seventh minute, the Spaniard improving his best time twice more around the stop-go circuit, the hardest of the season for brakes.

Movistar Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, Marquez's last remaining championship rivals, were third and fourth respectively and the final riders within half-a-second of Dovizioso.

Separated by just six points in the world championship standings, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Maverick Vinales (Suzuki) were just 0.035s apart during FP1. Vinales took several trips across the gravel after testing the braking limits of his GSX-RR.

Team-mate Aleix Espargaro was a solid seventh, ahead of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda). Aprilia's Alvaro Bautista made an impressive start in ninth, just ahead of factory Ducati replacement Hector Barbera.

Barbera has been parachuted in from the Avintia team as a last-minute replacement for Andrea Iannone. The Spaniard was 1.067s from new team-mate Dovizioso this morning, during his first ride on the 2016 Desmosedici - a machine two years newer than his usual bike.

Jack Miller and Bradley Smith are making their comebacks from injury this weekend, the Marc VDS Honda rider sitting 16th in FP1 while Smith looked to be struggling with movement in his knee on the way to 21st (+5.629s). The Englishman did however complete 13 laps.

Smith's 2015 Suzuka 8 Hours winning team-mate Katsuyuki Nakasuga began his wild-card appearance in 18th.

Former Australian Superbike champion Mike Jones, thrown in the deep end as a replacement for Barbera at Avintia, was 7.867s off Dovizioso after his first 15 laps on a MotoGP bike.

1. Andrea Dovizioso
2. Marc Marquez
3. Jorge Lorenzo
4. Valentino Rossi
5. Dani Pedrosa
6. Maverick Vi?ales
7. Aleix Espargaro
8. Cal Crutchlow
9. Alvaro Bautista
10. Hector Barbera
11. Pol Espargaro
12. Danilo Petrucci
13. Stefan Bradl
14. Scott Redding
15. Yonny Hernandez
16. Jack Miller
17. Eugene Laverty
18. Katsuyuki Nakasuga
19. Tito Rabat
20. Loris Baz
21. Bradley Smith
22. Mike Jones

CLICK HERE for full results.


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