Thomas Luthi left it until the final minute of first practice before snatching top spot from Pol Espargaro in Qatar. Pre-season testing suggested a tight battle between the Suter and Kalex riders and that was evident in the first official session this evening.
Esteve Rabat, teammate to Espargaro in the Pons 40 HP Tuenti squad, was quickest when the initial runs were completed on a 2:02.565 but Espargaro lowered the target time by four tenths with a quarter of an hour to go. Rabat rebounded back to the top shortly afterwards but the Pons Kalex domination was broken by Luthi, who clocked a 2:01.284.
Championship favourite Marc Marquez used Luthi's slipstream to grab fourth ahead of Simone Corsi and Andrea Iannone, two riders who will look to challenge Marquez for the title. Marc VDS Racing are a team who will also hope to muscle in on the leading fight and they finished seventh and eighth, Mika Kallio slightly quicker than Scott Redding, with Mike Di Meglio and Takaaki Nakagami rounding off the top ten.
Bradley Smith showed promising pace for Tech 3 after a difficult winter and the Briton will be quietly satisfied with 11th, 1.343s off the pace while Johann Zarco impressed on his debut outing in Moto2, just seven hundredths further back in 14th.
Gino Rea also has a steep learning curve ahead of him on his Grand Prix debut but the Londoner was a solid 23rd in FP1, three tenths and four places ahead of his experienced teammate Ratthapark Wilairot.