Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso celebrated a new, two-year deal by topping the Friday practice times with a lap underneath team-mate Jorge Lorenzo’s outright lap record.
Dovizioso hit the top of the combined timesheets with three minutes left go, setting a 1’31.973 with a medium/soft tyre combination and then bettered it with a 1’31.936 to lead Marc Marquez by 0.168s.
Marquez, who had two near-crashes on the Repsol Honda, used an old hard rear Michelin to set his best of 1’32.109 which was enough to hold off Valentino Rossi’s soft-rear-shod M1 whose best of 1’32.179 was enough for third place.
The Doctor’s best effort put team-mate back Maverick Vinales back to fourth place but both Yamaha men should take heart from their performances as track temperature was 40°C which is into the area where their bike begins not to work. However, the air temperature remained colder, and that will help their cause.
Unusually, Johann Zarco was the slowest of the Yamaha trio but only by 0.075s as the Monster Yamaha’s soft/soft setup carried him to fifth place.
ack Miller continues to mark Ducati's card as part of his aspirations for a GP19 next season if not a place in the factory team as he set the sixth-best time of the day, using a soft rear get within four-tenths of Dovizioso.
Pol Espargaro brushed off a crash to take his KTM to seventh, one ahead of the again-heroic Dani Pedrosa who is having his injured hip drained regularly. The little Spaniard, who had the new Honda aero package nailed to his fairing halfway through the second session, jumped up to eighth with his penultimate lap of the day.
Aleix Espargaro also stuck in a late one to go ninth while Jorge Lorenzo completed the top ten and would be the last automatic qualifying two man should it piss down in the morning.
Britain's Cal Crutchlow put in some good laps on the medium rear early doors and then matched them on the hard before getting a warning from his LCR Honda into Dunlop and then, as his tyres cooled on a slower lap, he lobbed it and dropped out of the top ten.
Tito Rabat, Danilo Petrucci - also a crasher - Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins rounded out the top 15 with Bradley Smith the only rider not to improve his time this afternoon in 18th place. Scott Redding was 21st.