The 20-year-old rookie comes into the Red Bull Indianapolis GP with the points lead and riding two consecutive race wins. The Repsol Honda ace earned those victories while preseason title favorites Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa were ruled out and later hindered by broken collarbones, so this weekend’s meeting after a month-long break should be a bit more telling in terms of exactly where everyone stands as the season enters its second half.
While one sessions does not make a weekend, any thoughts that Marquez would back down now were quickly swatted away by the gifted youngster who boasts a full 0.3-second advantage in FP1, logging a fast time of 1:40.781.
That gap was not to Lorenzo or Pedrosa, however, but new Ducati signee Cal Crutchlow, who’s hoping to make the most of his lame duck rides on a satellite Tech3 Yamaha M1 before tackling the difficult task of attempting to tame the Desmosedici.
Lorenzo was next best on the works Yamaha, nearly a half-second back on Marquez at 1:41.261, followed by Stefan Bradl, fresh off his first-career MotoGP podium scored last time out at Laguna Seca.
Living legend Valentino Rossi was fifth, followed by GO&FUN Honda Gresini ‘s Alvaro Bautista and Pedrosa.
Andrea Dovizioso threw down a quick lap late to lead the Ducati contingent, nudging past home track hero Nicky Hayden.
Fellow American Ben Spies was eleventh, followed directly by his Pramac teammate, Andrea Iannone, as the two return to action following injury-related layoffs.
The MotoGP stars will return to the track at 2:05pm for FP2.
Moto3 ended the mid-season break with opening free practice at Indianapolis on Friday. Jonas Folger topped the timesheets for Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3, but few lap times came as light rain fell in the second half of the session.
Folger led the way with his best lap time of 1’50.379, with Isaac Viñales and Alex Rins second and third for their respective Ongetta-Centro Seta and Estrella Galicia 0,0 teams. Maverick Viñales was fourth for Team Calvo as spots of rain slowed the pace.
Practice 1 marked a return for Moto3, last in action at the German GP on 14th July. Ana Carrasco (Team Calvo) was the first crasher of the weekend, on her second lap, while championship leader Luis Salom (Red Bull KTM Ajo) cruised to 15th place.
Britain’s Danny Webb was absent, having parted company with the Ambrogio Racing outfit. He is being covered for this weekend by Frenchman Jules Danilo, although an official replacement rider is yet to be confirmed by the team.
Moto3 continues with Free Practice 2 at 1:10pm local time (GMT -4).