On the timesheets his closest challengers may be riding the same bike as him. But Andrea Dovizioso has acknowledged Marc Marquez’s pace is closest to his, as the two stars of MotoGP free practice at Brno repeated their early dominance at Austria’s Red Bull Ring on Friday morning.

The Italian was 0.215s quicker than team-mate Jorge Lorenzo in FP1, Friday’s sole premier class session held in dry conditions, with Marquez a further three tenths of a second and two places further back. As it stands the two men that so hotly contested the 2017 outing are poised to repeat their feats on Sunday.

“In this moment I think we [Marquez and I] have a very, very, very similar pace,” said Dovizioso. “We wanted to put a different tyre at the end – not to improve the lap time, but to compare the two tyres because at the moment the soft and the medium look like the race tyres.

“So we knew there was a big chance to ride in the wet this afternoon, so we used the practice this morning in the best way. We used a soft tyre because it’s a new tyre that we didn’t have last year. At the end we compared the grip with the medium, just to compare.

“It wasn’t a perfect lap; it was a good lap,” he said of his effort in the closing moments of FP1. “On this track it’s impossible to create something special because the layout, I mean there aren’t a lot of corners and you’re braking straight so you can’t make something very different.

“It wasn’t a perfect lap – just the bike worked well. The layout suits my riding my style because there are a lot of hard braking [zones]. It was quite easy for me to start at a good level.”

After beginning work with a new chassis that features carbon reinforcements at Assen, Dovizioso concluded the frame he had been using before was more suited to his needs after a successful test at Brno.

“Very difficult to say what’s different,” he said of the two frames. “We did a comparison at three tracks and we couldn’t understand exactly the difference. We did a good test in Brno with new tyres and we compared again.

“I think Brno is a good track to understand that. The movement of the exit was less. Only that. So we decided to come back, but it didn’t affect anything more than that.”

Friday afternoon’s FP2 session provided MotoGP riders with their first opportunities to test their 2018 machines in the wet since mid-April in Argentina. The Dovizioso-Ducati combination has been incredibly strong in such conditions in recent years, but the Italian feels it is still to early to conclude whether the GP18 is a step up in this respect.

“Still we can’t know about that. We have to do a real practice in the wet. Today wasn’t a real practice. Most of the riders didn’t want to take a risk and we didn’t push. For sure some riders didn’t push. In the middle of the practice there was very low [level of] water.

“After it started to rain very heavily and most of the riders stopped. I think it wasn’t a real practice to understand the level of everybody. The feeling was really good today, but I think we have to wait until a different condition and a different track.”

And his thoughts on the safety of the 2.6-mile layout in wet conditions? “Good,” he confirmed. “I expected very bad grip. But it was good. The first reason I think is the soft Michelin is too soft to make the race and it was very good, the grip.

“Maybe they clean the track more than the past, so there was less rubber on the ground and maybe it helps have a better grip. I think, I don’t know. But it was really good. I want to try the harder spec because I think there is a big difference.”

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