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MotoGP Austria: Pol Espargaro leads opening practice

Red Bull KTM’s Pol Espargaro has taken top spot in the opening free practice at MotoGP Austria, leading Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati by 0.044s with a late charge from Suzuki’s Joan Mir to secure third but his time was removed for a yellow flag infringement.

It was an important session for the MotoGP riders, with rain looking like it could affect proceedings in FP2 – and potentially FP3 too. That meant the premier class needed to take advantage of the dry Red Bull Ring and get themselves into the top 10, just in case the heavens open in FP2 and FP3 before qualifying.

At their home Grand Prix, KTM’s Pol Espargaro was a leading figure throughout at the top of the times, with Dovizioso also looking strong from the get-go.


The duo exchanged P1 in the final five minutes, with Nakagami propelling himself into the top three in the closing exchanges in another ultra-competitive MotoGP™ session.

The Team Suzuki Ecstar machines looked on form in FP1 as Alex Rins finished P4, with Joan Mir taking P3 on his final lap before his time got chalked off for a yellow flag infringement. That was for Bradley Smith's (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) Turn 4 crash, the British rider was up and walking but headed to the medical centre for a check-up.

The leading Yamaha man was Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in P5, the Czech GP runner-up finished ahead of Czech GP bronze medallist Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing).

The Italian and Frenchman finished under half a second from Pol Espargaro’s time, they sit just ahead of Red Bull KTM Tech 3’s Miguel Oliveira. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) sandwich ninth-place Mir, how important could those positions be?

Some big names miss out on a top 10 in FP1, and they’ll be keeping their fingers crossed that the rain stays away this afternoon in Spielberg. They include Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and teammate Valentino Rossi, with Brno race winner Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) also outside a potential Q2 place.

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