In many ways, the opening practice session of the 125cc Japanese Grand Prix summed up the season so far. Johann Zarco spent as much time as anyone at the top of the timesheets but as we've seen on so many occasions this year, Nicolas Terol got the better of him right at the death.
The weekend got off to a dramatic start as Japanese wildcard rider Jun Ohnishi ran onto the grass at turn six on his out lap before falling back onto the track. Finnish rider Niklas Ajo appeared to make contact with the 25 year old rookie as he lied on the circuit but he looked to have escaped serious injury.
As the riders got to grips with the 4.801km Motegi circuit, Zarco established himself at the head of the running order but Maverick Vinales, Alberto Moncayo and Jonas Folger all had brief spells in front of the Frenchman.
The final few minutes turned into a straight fight between the title contenders with Zarco and Terol trading blows. The Derbi rider looked to have claimed the top spot with a 2:00.046 but Terol raised the bar seconds later, clocking a 1:59.436 on the Aspar Aprilia.
Vinales and Vazquez ended up in fourth and fifth respectively while Luis Salom jumped up to sixth on his final lap. Moncayo therefore was pushed down to seventh ahead of Adrian Martin and Sandro Cortese while Hector Faubel rounded out the top ten, thankfully recovered from his heavy crash at Aragon.
Danny Webb led the British quartet, putting in an impressive performance to put the Mahindra in 11th place. Danny Kent made a quiet start in 14th but Taylor Mackenzie will have been more than satisfied with 22nd. Like Mackenzie, Harry Stafford is racing in Japan for the first time and ended the opening practice session in 27th.