Alex Marquez led proceedings at the end of the opening day at Sepang for the Malaysian MotoGP event, while title hopefuls Jorge Martin and Francesco Bagnaia secured Q2 spots.

The race was on in the early stages of the session as dark rain clouds loomed over the Sepang International Circuit, the majority of the pack aiming to bang in good lap times to protect from the possible precipitation.

Indeed, Honda’s Marc Marquez lapped just 0.002s adrift of FP1 leader Martin’s benchmark on his first flying lap. Brother Alex would smash this effort with a 1:58.705s just moments later, his time standing for a decent portion of the test.

Martin managed to eclipse it with a 1:58.523s as the session approached a thirds-distance, the Pramac Ducati ace heading out early on new tyres having struggled to put in a front-running effort early on due to traffic.

Fortunately for the riders, the rain ultimately never arrived and they were able to run their sessions largely as planned. This saw times steadily reduce as the outing progressed, though the battle for the top spot looked to be contested by Marquez, Martin and KTM’s Brad Binder.

Marquez sat top on a 1:59.227s before Martin then fired in the first sub-1:58s lap of the weekend, Binder narrowly missing out after having to roll off due to a crash for RNF Aprilia’s Raul Fernandez.

Marquez had a little more in the tank though and hit back at the death with a 1:57.823s, an effort enough to leave him at the top of the pile by 0.174s ahead of Martin as the session wound down.

Jack Miller was the surprise package on his KTM as the Aussie completed the opening day in Malaysia third overall just ahead of team-mate Binder, who had taken the best out of his tyres at the end.  

Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales was fifth ahead of VR46’s Luca Marini, while Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo ended up seventh overall despite losing his final effort due to coming across team-mate Franco Morbidelli touring on the racing line on his final attempt.

Bagnaia struggled to match the pace of his title rival once again, but still bagged eighth on his factory Ducati to secure an automatic pole shootout berth. Marco Bezzecchi was ninth for VR46, while the other Pramac entry of Johann Zarco rounded off the top ten and the guaranteed Q2 men.

Morbidelli missed out by fractions in 11th overall just ahead of the other factory Ducati of Enea Bastianini, while Augusto Fernandez won the battle of the GasGas’ in 13th.

Meanwhile, it was a tough day for Honda as Marc Marquez could manage only 15th as the fastest RC213V, just clear of Repsol team-mate Joan Mir while Takaaki Nakagami wound up down in 21st for LCR.

Australia rostrum finisher Fabio di Gianantinio was also left with work to do on Saturday after his best gambit was enough for only 14th. At the same time, Aleix had a horrendous day that saw him crash his Aprilia a total of four times across Friday’s two sessions.

Seemingly struggling with the front of his RS-GP, Espargaro went down at Turns 1, 5 and 9 across the test en route to a lowly 20th in the final classification.

Ducati wildcard Alvaro Bautista also struggled to make an impression on his first premier-class race weekend since 2018. The freshly crowned double World Superbike champion struggled to close the gap to the leading runners as he got to grips with the Desmosedici, the Spaniard ending the day 22nd overall and 2.4 seconds adrift of Marquez’s benchmark.

He did at least best LCR’s Iker Lecuona by a tenth-of-a-second, the Andorran standing in for the injured Alex Rins at the Italian outfit this weekend.

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