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Title leader Marc Marquez dominated a soaking wet opening practice session for the Japanese MotoGP, which saw a dramatic clash between Cal Crutchlow and Jorge Lorenzo in the closing stages.

Crutchlow lost control of his LCR Honda under braking for turn nine, harpooning the Ducati rider ahead of him. Fortunately, both were able to walk away, Lorenzo making his displeasure clear.

Marquez had set the pace from the 13th minute onwards, at one stage enjoying a near two-second advantage over the field, which his rivals slowly eroded to just 0.168s.

But the Repsol Honda star - running carbon discs - responded in the closing minutes to push the margin back over the one-second barrier, which only Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro was able to break before the session concluded.

Nevertheless, Espargaro was 0.875s from Marquez, who holds a 16-point title led over Andrea Dovizioso and 28-point advantage over Maverick Vinales heading into the first of the consecutive flyaway rounds.

Dovizioso finished the session in fifth (+1.246s) and Vinales ninth (1.499s).

Between Espargaro and Dovizioso were Pramac's Scott Redding (the rider who had earlier closed to within 0.168s of Marquez) and the unfortunate Lorenzo. The Spaniard had been continuing his strong form on the Ducati, in a session that saw all the GP17 riders run the downforce fairing.

Suzuki used FP1 to debut its one-remaining in-season fairing upgrade in the hands of Alex Rins, who was behind Johann Zarco and Crutchlow in eighth.

Bradley Smith, boosted by the recent news that he will definitely remain as a KTM MotoGP race rider in 2018, completed the top ten (+1.887s), just ahead of team-mate Pol Espargaro.

Redding's team-mate Danilo Petrucci had been fast early on, only to suffer a technical problem with his GP17, finishing the session in twelfth.

Valentino Rossi, who had warned on Thursday about the 2017 M1's ongoing issues in the wet, was only 19th fastest (+3.200s) as he began his second event since breaking his leg. Marquez's team-mate Dani Pedrosa again looked to struggle to generate heat in the Michelin rain tyres, finishing the session in 20th (3.288s).

There may not currently be a full time Japanese MotoGP rider - Takaaki Nakagami will fill that role in 2018 - but three home riders are on the grid this weekend due to replacement or wild-card opportunities.

Quickest this morning was young Yamaha test rider Kohta Nozane, brought in as a last-minute replacement for the sick Jonas Folger at Monster Yamaha Tech 3, in 15th. Experienced 'mentor' Katsuyuki Nakasuga was 22nd as a Yamaha wild-card, with Hiroshi Aoyama completing the field for Marc VDS Honda, as a replacement for the injured Jack Miller.

The wet weather is expected to last for much of the weekend…


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