Johann Zarco picked up where he left off in last year's Spanish MotoGP race, by again being the top Yamaha rider in Friday practice for the 2018 event.

The Frenchman put his satellite Tech3 machine third quickest, just 0.091s from fastest man Cal Crutchlow (Honda), despite none of the Yamaha riders attending any of the private tests on the new Jerez asphalt.

"Pretty happy about the first day. The asphalt is just so good, because you can have some extreme lines with your riding, and the bike is never moving," said Zarco, confirmed as a 2019 factory KTM rider on Thursday.

"And without the test here in Jerez, we are competitive, so every comment I was saying to the team from this morning to this afternoon, we were improving.

"So when you are going in this way, that every time it's positive things on the bike and on the track, you can relax yourself and be much faster. So I'm happy for that and I want to keep that pace for the next days."

Factory riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales were only ninth and twelfth fastest, and again searching for grip, but Zarco remains confident:

"It's true that last year here we were struggling with the used tyre, but now the track is different. Now we can be faster and even the way we are using the bike, we can control much more the rear traction. So let's see. It's the game.

"We are working to feel good in the race. At the moment with the medium tyres, I did great laps, even with many laps on the rear tyre. So for the first day we are more than positive.

"We'll try to keep that for Sunday and work with small things on the bike to play with it even more. I think I will have a good chance for the podium on Sunday."


Rookie team-mate Hafizh Syahrin had a far tougher day, the Malaysian struggling with recent injuries from a cycling accident on his way to 24th (+1.874s)

“I feel very good with the bike, but my condition is not at 100 percent, because I still feel the pain on the left side of my upper leg," said Syahrin, whose 24th birthday is tomorrow.

"So I try to gain confidence on the M1 with this and also try to find a good position on it, as it disturbs me a little bit while controlling the power of the machine.

"Anyway, my sensations on the bike are very good, for the moment it’s only me, I need to be more prepared and try to rest a bit now in order to be able to give my best tomorrow again.”


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