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MotoGP Le Mans: Britain's Smith tops wet opening practice

Britain’s Bradley Smith stormed the times in the opening MotoGP session at Le Mans this morning, meeting the flag with his quickest effort, a 1’43.804 to finish the session fastest overall ahead of Johann Zarco and Danilo Petrucci.

A soggy start to the Shark-backed weekend saw the MotoGP riders tentatively take to the 4.2km Le Mans circuit for free practice one, having watched the majority of the Moto3 class endure spills during the first 20 minutes of track action.

Switching their focus from the Portimao rollercoaster to the legendary Bugatti circuit, Pol Espargaro, Alex Rins and Jack Miller took turns at the top as the times began to bed in, the latter returning to the pits after a brief excursion off-track on his fourth lap.


12 minutes in and Andrea Dovizioso held the times from the two spaniards, Maverick Vinales and Pecco Bagnaia rounding out the top-five as conditions plateaued and the standings continued their merry-go-round.

Having sat out of the opening minutes to evaluate the conditions, Smith joined the party and the top-10 on his fourth lap of track action, moving up to seventh three laps later, 0.7 ahead of his Aprilia teammate, as frustrated countryman Cal Crutchlow continued to suffer from his post-surgery conditions, down in 20th.

Bagnaia took charge at the half-way stage with a 1’45.396, with current factory Ducati rider, Danilo Petrucci, stealing his thunder on the next revolution before Vinales topped them both with 20 to go. A determined Petrucci fired in another best to break the 1’45 barrier on his 10th lap of the morning as the majority of the field returned to the pits for new rubber.

Staying out, Franco Morbidelli used the now quiet track to steadily improve his pace, holding court with 12 minutes remaining as the action began to heat back up. Firing out all guns blazing on his final run, Crutchlow entered the top-three on his 14th lap, as Miller returned again to the top, the timing screens ablaze as the battle for session honours took hold.

The final five minutes saw Petrucci and Miller continue to tussle, Espargaro placing the KTM in the top-three ahead of Morbidelli, Vinales and Crutchlow, before the leading Yamaha took his turn at the top. Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi made moves in the closing minutes, sitting third and sixth respectively before Smith stole the position from the Veteran with one minute to go.

A rapid flurry of activity saw the standings change again before a sensational effort from Smith, hitting P1 on the Aprilia as he took the flag, hold the session ahead of Zarco and Petrucci, with Miller, Dovizioso and Vinales rounding out fourth to sixth. Morbidelli, Rossi, Crutchlow and Espargaro concluded the top-10 ahead of Bagnaia, Rins, Joan Mir, Alex Marquez and Aleix Espargaro, a disappointed Fabio Quartararo finishing his first session at home down in 18th.

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