Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder denied Aleix Espargaro in the closing seconds to top the Jerez MotoGP FP1 times with a 1’38.013 lap, after the Spaniard had dominated the majority of morning practice.
The Aprilia rider had fended off session-long charges from a gaggle of Yamahas and the determined Johan Zarco, before Marc Marquez continued his return to form to deny them all and claim third with an equally late-charge.
Two familiar faces returned to the track as FP1 fired up, with Stefan Bradl back on the Repsol Honda for his first wildcard outing, while Tito Rabat suited up in Pramac colours as a replacement for the injured Jorge Martin.
The opening shots saw Yamaha take charge, initially locking out the top-three before Bradl and Aleix Espargaro advanced the times. Franky Morbidelli was back out in front from the factory pairing next time around, before Espargaro and Fabio Quartararo improved once again, with Valentino Rossi this time finding fifth.
10 minutes done and the times were already sitting at last year’s fastest race pace, Quartararo holding court with a 1’38.344, from the Aprilia and his fellow Yamaha’s, with Bradl leading a Honda train as Pol Espargaro and Marc Marquez completed the top-seven.
Half an hour to go and Joan Mir was the only rider so far not to have set a time, initially choosing to sit out of the early session as the track warmed up before suffering technical issues on his early attempts, while the majority of the pack returned to the pits ahead of their second run.
The elder Espargaro’s 1’38.2 was the time to beat as action resumed, Johann Zarco the first to threaten as he advanced to third, with the Yamaha’s continuing to fine-tune their times either side.
Alex Rins upset the Repsol sequence as he entered the top-10 in eighth before Takaaki Nakagami swept through as head Honda in sixth with 15-minutes to go. Marc Marquez lead the way for the factory outfit in seventh with his younger brother neatly completing the set in 11th.
The closing 10 minutes saw Brad Binder as top-KTM, in 12th, as the South African circulated ahead of the Ducati pairing of Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller, with Danilo Petrucci heading Mir and Rossi as one-second separated the top-15.
Espargaro’s Aprilia was back on a charge as the clock hit eight to go, consolidating his lead as he shaved fractions off his impressive time as Bagnaia joined the top-nine, just half a second adrift.
Improvements from Miguel Oliveira and Binder saw the two KTM’s inside the top-five before a late-charge from Marquez placed the returning hero back at the top, in second. A dominant final effort from Binder, however, allowed the South African to close the session in control with his 1’38.013.
Espargaro’s Aprilia sat second from Marquez as the first 45-minutes concluded, Bagnaia up to fourth thanks to his last attempt, with Quartararo completing the top-five as FP1 drew to a close. Zarco claimed sixth from Oliveira, Pol Espargaro and Viñales, with Mir 10th ahead of Nakagami, Morbidelli and Lorenzo Savadori.
Rins completed the morning in 14th from Bradl, Alex Marquez, Miller, and Petrucci with Enea Bastianini heading Rossi, Rabat, Luca Marini and Iker Lecuona at the tail end of the standings.