Marc Marquez admitted his surprise as he outgunned the factory Ducati MotoGP riders to lead the timesheets on day one at Aragon, despite not testing at the Spanish circuit.

Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso both had the benefit of a test under their belts at Aragon, but it was Repsol Honda rider Marquez who set the pace in FP2, lapping in 1m 47.382s to lead Lorenzo by 0.138s, with Dovizioso – fastest in FP1 – four tenths back in third.

Marquez, who is closing in on his fifth premier class world crown, said: “Yeah of course (surprised). The most important thing today is that from the morning to the afternoon we did a big step on the set-up, on the electronics, and I feel better with the bike. Still we need to improve, but yes it was something that we already expect, that especially both Ducatis would be fast in FP1 because they tested here a few weeks ago.

“But the good thing is that in the afternoon we were much closer with the race pace to them and also in one lap we were fast. But that is not the most important – the most important is that we worked on the race pace.”

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The hot temperatures will put extra emphasis on tyre life this weekend and Marquez says he expects it will be difficult to manage in Sunday’s race.

“It will be tough because with these hot conditions, tyre life and all these things you need to manage really well,” he said.

“Of course this is one of the tracks that is more demanding for the rear tyres, long corners with the slide. We need to understand and work because it looks the tyre drop is there and difficult to manage.

“It looks like Ducati and Yamaha have more information because they tested here, but we are trying to analyse all the performance from the different tyres and will try to choose the best one for Sunday,” he added.

“In the morning the grip was better than in the afternoon. It's strange because the asphalt had more rubber and normally it's better grip, but in the hot conditions the grip is less and it's more difficult to understand the limit. This morning it was better to make a fast lap time, in the afternoon it's harder.”

Movistar Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales once again struggled in opening practice as they slotted into ninth and tenth respectively.

Marquez, though, said the acceleration of the M1 appeared ‘good’ when he followed Vinales in FP2.

“In FP2 I was following Vinales and it's strange because the bike, the acceleration is good, and they were riding in a good way, but then the lap time didn't come,” he said. “So yeah, I could see a few problems, a few weak points, on the bike but.... they need to find!”

Johann Zarco has also been out of sorts on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha since Le Mans and Marquez is at a loss to explain the Frenchman’s dip in form.

“I don’t know. Honestly it's something strange because before Le Mans he was very, very fast. But now it looks like he is struggling, looks like even for one lap in qualifying where normally he was very strong. Why? I don’t know,” said Marquez.

“I cannot say why. But yes, he signed for KTM and looks like he is struggling, but I hope the best for him.”

The reigning champion said he is riding the same bike from Misano, preferring to stick with the same base for the remainder of the season despite trying ‘a few things’ at the post-race test.

“We have exactly the same bike, it was more a test to concentrate on 2019. Of course we tried a few things for this year but we prefer to keep the same base that we know, finish the championship in a good way and next year try to prepare well.”