Espargaró fastest in opening Qatar practice
20 March 2014 – Aleix Espargaró topped first practice for the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix on Thursday evening.
The Forward Racing rider, who impressed throughout pre-season testing, clocked a best time of 1:55.201 in the closing stages of the session to lead Gresini's Álvaro Bautista by a comfortable margin of 0.466 seconds.
Britain's Bradley Smith placed his Tech 3 Yamaha machine third, just ahead of Pramac's Andrea Ianonne and team-mate Pol Espargaró, who was the last of the runners to get within a second of the ultimate pace.
The factory runners were a long way off pace-setter Espargaró as the 45-minute session came to a close.
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa wound up sixth, 1.131 seconds adrift of pace-setter Espargaró. Valentino Rossi followed on the lead works Yamaha, two places ahead of team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, whose tyre woes continued.
Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden were the last of the top ten runners in eighth and 10th places respectively.
Marc Márquez's weekend got off to a quiet start, with the reigning World Champion, who has been recovering from the leg break he sustained during a training crash last month, finishing 11th on his Repsol Honda machine.
Ducati duo Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso, competing in the Open class, wound up 13th and 14th.
Yonny Hernández caused a brief stoppage and was taken to the medical centre after falling heavily.
Second practice at the Losail International Circuit begins at 6pm local time (GMT +3) on Friday