Livio Loi backed up his impressive testing form at Losail by topping the timesheets in both Thursday practice sessions ahead of the Moto3 season opener. The Belgian was among the pacesetters in the recent pre-season test at Qatar and carried his momentum into the first day of practice although the headlines were stolen by stand-out displays from several rookies.
The first sessions was dominated for the most part by Jorge Navarro who pulled out a one-second advantage over the rest of the field at one point. The Estrella Galicia rider clocked a 2:06.538 which looked set to remain unbeaten but Loi had other ideas, edging ahead of the Spaniard by eight hundredths of a second.
Nicolo Bulega was third fastest, albeit six tenths back, and he wasn’t the only rookie to light up Losail with reigning Red Bull Rookies champion Bo Bendsneyder going fastest shortly after the halfway point in FP2, making full use of a tow from teammate Brad Binder. The Dutchman was knocked off the top by Bulega fourteen minutes from time but Loi had the final word, clocking the only sub-2:06 lap of the night.
Rookies filled the next two places with Leopard Racing’s Joan Mir proving there is life after Danny Kent for last season’s champions, demoting Bulega to third as the Italian suffered a crash. Romano Fenati finished fourth on the second Sky VR46 KTM with Francesco Bagnaia fifth on the leading Mahindra while Brad Binder ended up the quicker of the two Red Bull Ajo riders in sixth.
Andrea Locatelli was seventh for Leopard ahead of Jakub Kornfeil and Niccolo Antonelli, another rider to tumble on the opening day, while the flurry of late improvements relegated Bendsneyder to tenth.