After a long winter of resting and testing, the sound of MotoGP engines got us all out of hibernation with the first practice session of the 2018 season in the premier class. New season but a familiar picture in Qatar, with the championship runner-up Andrea Dovizioso the first to dip into the 1:55s and then consolidate in his position as race favourite by topping the session.
Despite struggles throughout testing, the Yamaha found some speed in Valentino Rossi’s hands, the newly re-signed veteran getting close to top honours, only six hundredths of a second separating him from his compatriot. Three tenths behind, Marc Marquez wiggled his Honda to the top three to aid his quest for a podium at one of his less favoured tracks.
To make it four factories in the top four positions, Andrea Iannone got his Suzuki within a tenth of a second of the world champion. Jorge Lorenzo ditched the aero fairing, fussed over the foam on his seat and got annoyed at his practice start but the Spaniard still found some speed to finish fifth and keep Johann Zarco at bay. The Frenchman was consistently at the business end of the timesheets, as was Cal Crutchlow, who finished six tenths down on the leader in seventh position.
Alex Rins followed up on a good winter test with a decent placement in eight position, followed by Danilo Petrucci in ninth and Tito Rabat greatly enjoying his new Ducati to complete the top ten.
Over half a second down on their respective teammates were Maverick Viñales in eleventh position and Dani Pedrosa in twelfth, with the first Aprilia in thirteenth spot through Aleix Espargaro.
The honour of top rookie went to Hafizh Syahrin, Tech 3’s Malaysian rider one second down on the leader, in fifteenth position.