Maverick Vinales picked up where he left off in winter testing by setting a blistering pace in first practice for the Qatar Grand Prix at Losail. The Spaniard was ominously quick in the closing stages of FP1, going faster than last year’s pole position time to outpace Marc Marquez by six tenths of a second.
The session got off to something of a false start for Cal Crutchlow who suffered a mechanical failure on his first timed lap of the evening, forcing him to commandeer a trackside scooter and re-join on his spare LCR Honda. He wasn’t the only Briton to have difficulties with debutant Sam Lowes crashing at turn nine on his Gresini Aprilia.
Meanwhile, Vinales had a trouble-free session and was already lapping in the 1:55s on his first run of the night. His 1:55.668 was overhauled by Jorge Lorenzo three minutes from time, the Ducati making up four tenths on the home straight, but that triggered a stunning response from Yamaha’s new signing.
Running in close circulation with Marquez, Vinales set a scorching pace to go fastest on a 1:54.739 with the reigning champion unable to get within half a second of his compatriot. Maverick wasn’t finished there though, knocking another four tenths off his own benchmark next time around to underline his supremacy, Marquez ending up 0.596s down in second.
Dani Pedrosa was third fastest on the second Repsol Honda while Jonas Folger produced another of the session’s stand-out performances to snatch fourth from Lorenzo. Loris Baz grabbed sixth with a last-gasp effort while Crutchlow rebounded from his earlier problems to take seventh, just ahead of Moto2 champion Johann Zarco.
Valentino Rossi trailed his team-mate by a second-and-a-half in ninth, suggesting his testing struggles were not a case of sandbagging, while Aleix Espargaro dragged his Aprilia into the top ten.
2017 Grand Prix of Qatar: Free Practice 1 Classification
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