Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso may have been quickest out the box at Qatar, yet the fastest man at the end of the first track action at Losail International Circuit was Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales, with the Spaniard continuing his blistering pace pre-season testing.
With 67% humidity and a temperature of 22 degrees Celsius greeting the grid on Day 1, the riders had just a single practice session on Thursday at the Grand Prix of Qatar due to the altered timetable, but this was enough for the Viñales to relegate Repsol Honda Team’s reigning Champion Marc Marquez to second, 0.596 off P1.
Viñales’ stunning chart topper of a lap was a 1:54.316 on a new tyre – only four tenths off the pole lap record set by then-rookie Jorge Lorenzo on his MotoGP debut in 2008, making a record-breaking weekend look even more likely.
Another scene pacesetter from pre-season testing was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, the only rider other than Viñales to feature in the top five at every test in 2017, who finished the session third fastest.
Rookie Jonas Folger had yet another impressive outing on the Tech 3 Yamaha, taking P4 on the timesheets on a final dash – with Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo completing the top five as the quickest Ducati on track in his GP weekend debut in red.
The ride of the day was from Avintia Racing rider Loris Baz, who shot up into the top six on his final lap, just ahead of LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow, who recovered from an early mechanical problem to take seventh, ahead of the second fastest rookie Johann Zarco on the other Tech 3 Yamaha.
Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi was ninth quickest after a late improvement – but still an incredible 1.483 off his new teammate – with Aprilia Racing’s Aleix Espargaro completing the top ten.
Unsurprisingly, Sam Lowes was first crasher of the day, as he through his Aprilia through the gravel.
The MotoGP™ field are back out on Friday and open the night at 18:00 local time (GMT +3).