Suzuki closest challenger to Ducati on Day 1

Rins takes P3, with Iannone close behind in P5

Borgo Panigale dominated the top on Day 1, but it was Hamamatsu factory Suzuki who were the closest challengers. Behind the two Ducati machines of Andrea Dovizioso and top Independent Team rider Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) staked a big claim in the first battle of the year – and teammate Andrea Iannone wasn’t far back in fifth.

“I’m quite happy because the work we did in the winter was good,” says Rins following the first day. The Spaniard explained their work ethic: “In Free Practice 1 we only used one set of tyres to find the right rhythm, whilst in FP2 we focused on being quick over one lap.” The Suzuki rider also mentioned that he expects it to be a big group fighting at the front on Sunday.

Iannone, meanwhile, wants to be in that fight. One of the most spectacular gladiators on the grid, the ‘Maniac’ was just hundredths off his teammate despite rounding out the top five. He says it’s not quite as positive as testing in terms of the bike, but the pace is positive nevertheless.

“The feeling with the bike was not so bad, but compared to the test the bike is worse,” explains the number 29. “We have less grip and we’ve struggled more, but the positive is that the feeling is good and we are trying to improve in each practice. Dovi is very fast with the Ducati but we are not so far compared with other riders, so we will try to continue in this way. We have time tomorrow and we’ve worked very well and compared to the test we are quicker, so we’re positive.”

Will the Hamamatsu factory be able to break the Ducati hold on Day 2? Qualifying begins at 19:20 local time (GMT +3).