Championship leader Stefan Bradl set the pace in first practice for the Czech Republic Moto2 Grand Prix but the times were as close as ever, promising another thrilling weekend ahead. The German hit the front with just under 15 minutes remaining with a 2:03.651, usurping early pacesetter Julian Simon, and held off a late challenge from Alex De Angelis.
The San Marino rider got to within 0.084s of Bradl on his final lap and although the Viessmann Kalex man improved slightly as the chequered flag flew, the gap only extended to 0.149s. Aleix Espargaro impressed to go third despite riding with a fractured vertebra with Simon dropping back to fourth.
Andrea Iannone showed signs of a timely return to form with fifth place while Esteve Rabat took a strong sixth for Blusens-STX. Another man desperate for a return to the podium is Scott Redding and the Briton ran in the top six for most of the session. He eventually slipped to seventh but will be pleased to be only half a second down on Bradl.
Italian Claudio Corti took a surprise eighth on the Italtrans FTR ahead of Thomas Luthi while Bradley Smith rounded out the top ten on the Tech 3 Mistral. The British rookie will be looking to continue his strong start in the Intermediate class which has taken him to three podiums in the first half of the season.
Simone Corsi, third in the championship, was 0.993s back in 12th while Marc Marquez made a quiet start on the weekend where he goes in search of a fourth straight victory. The Spaniard, who trails Bradl by 47 points, finished FP1 in 18th position.