Marc Marquez edged out title rival Jorge Lorenzo during opening practice for this weekend's Valencia MotoGP title showdown.

Riding in bright and sunny conditions, Marquez pulled 0.018s clear of Lorenzo on his penultimate lap with Marquez's Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa completing a top three covered by just 0.024s!

Marquez is 13 points ahead of Yamaha's reigning double champion Lorenzo, meaning Marquez needs to finish fourth or higher to become the first rookie title winner since 1978, even if Lorenzo takes victory in the race.

Lorenzo - who sat up midway through the session when informed by his pit board that Marquez was near - pulled up directly behind the 20-year-old for a practice start after the session and looked to give Marquez's rear tyre a little nudge. Marquez glanced back and gave a shake of the head.

Marquez won the Moto2 race from last on the grid after a penalty at Valencia last season, then made his MotoGP debut in the damp post-race test - his only previous MotoGP laps at the circuit.

Pedrosa meanwhile is the most successful rider at Valencia with victories in all three classes, including a third premier-class victory last season. Pedrosa has made clear that there are no team orders this weekend, although he can do Marquez a massive favour by winning the race and therefore preventing Lorenzo from taking the 25 points.

If Lorenzo finishes second, Marquez only needs eighth place to be champion.

Behind the leading trio, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rookie Bradley Smith was a highly impressive fourth (+0.529s) with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) fifth, Alvaro Bautista (Gresini Honda) sixth and Cal Crutchlow (Tech 3 Yamaha) seventh.

Rossi, who announced on Thursday that he will split from crew chief Jerry Burgess at the end of the season, after 14-years together, led the session early on but eventually finished 0.680s behind Marquez.

Behind Crutchlow, LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl - who underwent surgery for a fractured ankle in mid-October - and Ducati team-mates Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso completed a top ten covered by 0.981s. Hayden is making his final Ducati appearance before being replaced by Crutchlow next season, when Hayden will ride an Aspar Honda.

A new Bridgestone hard rear tyre is being used for the first time in a grand prix this weekend. The tyre, which offers better edge grip, was welcomed by riders at the Misano test and means, unlike at most events this year, there could be a real variety in race tyre choice.

The harder tyre is likely to be evaluated in the warmer afternoon session.

CRT class champion Aleix Espargaro, switching from Aspar to the Forward Racing Yamaha project after Sunday's race, is nevertheless riding a 2014 version of the ART this weekend. Espargaro was eleventh fastest and just 0.320s from Dovizioso this morning.

Sunday's grand prix will mark MotoGP's first title showdown since 2006. On that occasion Hayden overturned Rossi's eight-point advantage to claim the title.

Free Practice 1:
1. Marc Marquez
2. Jorge Lorenzo
3. Dani Pedrosa
4. Bradley Smith
5. Valentino Rossi
6. Alvaro Bautista
7. Cal Crutchlow
8. Stefan Bradl
9. Nicky Hayden
10. Andrea Dovizioso
11. Aleix Espargaro
12.Andrea Iannone
13. Randy De Puniet
14.Michele Pirro
15. Yonny Hernandez
16. Claudio Corti
17. Hector Barbera
18.Danilo Petrucci
19.Hiroshi Aoyama
20. Michael Laverty
21.Colin Edwards
22. Luca Scassa
23. Bryan Staring
24. Damian Cudlin
25. Lukas Pesek
26. Martin Bauer



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