World championship leader Andrea Dovizioso emerged at the top of a closely contested opening practice session for the Spanish MotoGP at Jerez.

Riding in bright and sunny conditions the Ducati star made his first and only appearance at the top of the timesheets in the final minute of the session.

The Italian had used a soft front-medium rear tyre combination for this two earlier runs, but switched to a medium-soft to set his 1m 39.268s best on his penultimate lap of the morning.

That put Dovizioso, who has never finished on the podium at Jerez in the premier-class, 0.007s ahead of home favourite and reigning world champion Marc Marquez.

The Repsol Honda rider is the pre-vent favourite after setting an ominous pace during a private test at the resurfaced circuit in March.

Pol Espargaro celebrated his new KTM contract with a brilliant third place, achieved while chasing Valentino Rossi in the closing stages.

Espargaro was only 0.043s from Dovizioso and fellow session leader Rossi - although later bumped to sixth - just 0.220s from the top.

Yamaha will be especially encouraged by the Italian's start given they are the only factory team not to have conducted a private test at the track since the new asphalt was laid.

Pramac Ducati team-mates Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller were sandwiched between Espargaro and Rossi after a competitive start.

Behind Rossi was KTM's 2019 signing Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech3), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) and team-mate Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha), while Scott Redding (Aprilia) completed the top ten for provisional direct access to Qualifying 2.

Suzuki's Andrea Iannone featured towards the sharp end of the timesheets on several occasions but was ultimately pushed back to eleventh, just ahead of KTM wild-card Mika Kallio and Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro.

Defending event winner Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was only 14th - but with a best lap time 0.666s from Dovizioso!

Dovizioso team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, celebrating his 31st birthday today, was directly behind Pedrosa on the timesheets on a morning when the top 18 riders were covered by less than one-second.

CLICK HERE for the full FP1 results...

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