Marco Bezzecchi led the way in the first-ever MotoGP practice session in India at the Buddh International Circuit ahead of Honda’s Marc Marquez.
The 22 premier class pilots were granted an extra-long first practice outing totaling 70 minutes, ten longer than usual, in order to learn the Buddh venue.
Times slowly worked their way downwards across the session as the riders felt their way around the tricky five-kilometer circuit, VR46 Ducati’s Luca Marini the first to set a representative effort of 1:47.880s.
Jorge Martin looked to be the man making the most progress as he later lowered the benchmark down to 1:47.049s and then soon after broke into the 1:46s. His time at the head of the field was short-lived however after Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales posted a 1:46.643s, though title contender Martin swiftly moved back into the session leadership.
Bezzecchi meanwhile had focussed on quietly working his way around MotoGP’s newest location, the Italian saving his best until last with a storming 1:45.990s in the closing minutes of the outing.
His final gambit ultimately proved unbeatable for the rest of the field, Marquez getting closest thanks to a late push of his own, though the Spaniard lacked 0.139s to move clear of Bezzecchi.
KTM’s Brad Binder ended up third overall just ahead of RNF Aprilia’s Raul Fernandez, the sophomore racer keen to build on the promising performance he illustrated last time out at Misano.
Turn 1 proved to be the hotbed of action as the bulk of the field took turns running wide at the bend at some point during FP1, Binder crashing after running wide at one point while Aleix Espargaro in particular inspected the run-off on several occasions along with many other riders.
Martin was shuffled back to fifth in the final reckoning just ahead of Vinales, while the other Pramac Ducati of Johann Zarco claimed seventh ahead of Marini.
Fabio Di Gianantonio was ninth on his Gresini-run Ducati, while Joan Mir completed a solid session for the factory Honda outfit to complete the top ten.
The top 13 riders all finished within a second of Bezzecchi, with GasGas’ Augusto Fernandez, LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami and Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro all squeezing within this margin.
Nakagami’s running was interrupted by a large crash at Turn 1 in the latter half of the test, the Japanese pilot losing the front of his RC213V on entry to the slow bend. His bike subsequently was destroyed as it barrelled through the deep gravel, though fortunately, Nakagami escaped without injury.
Francesco Bagnaia eased into things slowly as he managed only 15th overall, just over a second off the ultimate pace, the series leader just over three-tenths-of-a-second up the road from the other factory KTM of Jack Miller.
It was also a tricky session for Yamaha, with Fabio Quartararo showing decent pace in the early goings before his FP1 was curtailed by technical issues with both of his M1 machines. He lost drive on both occasions, firstly on the run to Turn 4 early in the session before his spare bike gave up the ghost on entry to Turn 1 later on.
The Frenchman thus closed out the test in a lowly 19th just behind GasGas’ Pol Espargaro, who suffered a pair of crashes at Turns 4 and 12 respectively, while team-mate Franco Morbidelli was 21st. The duo lapped 1.5 and 2.1 seconds off the pace respectively.
Michele Pirro, who is deputizing for the injured Enea Bastianini within the factory Ducati team this weekend, was the first MotoGP ace to crash at the Buddh circuit after the Italian went down at Turn 5 after running wide onto the dirty run-off area. He ended up 20th in the final classification, while fellow stand-in Stefan Bradl completed the runners in 22nd for LCR in place of Alex Rins.
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