Andrea Dovizioso put Ducati on top in the first free practice session for this weekend’s MotoGP race at Le Mans, lapping almost a quarter of a second quicker than nearest rival Marc Marquez.
The Italian's best lap of 1m34.034s came in the closing seconds of the session, as rising track temperatures led to a flurry of late improvements in the final minutes.
Marquez said on Thursday that his healing little finger was back to "100 percent" fitness, and the Spaniard showed this was the case with a time just 0.246s slower than Dovizioso on his final flying lap.
Jorge Lorenzo was his usual smooth and calculating self, posting consistent lap times during the 45-minute session and setting a best time just 0.021s off Marquez in the final reckoning to go third fastest.
The factory Yamaha rider was chased closely by LCR Honda's Cal Crutchlow, who also made a last-ditch improvement to go fourth, just nine thousandths away from Lorenzo.
The Tech 3 team enjoyed a strong start to their home race, with Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith lapping at the front early on. As the factory riders improved, Espargaro was gradually shuffled down to fifth position, still within three tenths of Dovizioso, with Smith getting bumped down to 10th place.
Scott Redding also gave the frontrunners something to think about, as the Marc VDS rider consistently threatening the top riders and eventually ended the day in sixth position, just ahead of points leader Valentino Rossi and the best of the Pramac Ducati riders, Yonny Hernandez.
It was a delicate session for Ducati's Andrea Iannone, with the Italian nursing a badly bruised shoulder after dislocating it at a private test at Mugello at the start of the week.
He fought through the pain barrier to finish in 9th place, while Dani Pedrosa, returning to action after a three race layoff following his arm surgery, set the 13th best lap time aboard the factory Honda.
|14||Stefan Bradl||Yamaha Forward||1.333|
|18||Mike Di Meglio||Ducati||1.663|
|20||Alex de Angelis||ART||1.768|
|23||Loris Baz||Yamaha Forward||2.127|