Avintia Ducati’s Hector Barbera topped the opening practice session ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, after Andrea Dovizioso had his late benchmark time cancelled.
Spaniard Barbera has endured a tough season aboard the 2016 Desmosedici, with only one top 10 finish serving as the highlight so far. As a result his future at Avintia and in MotoGP beyond 2017 remains in doubt.
In the early stages of the first 45-minutes session of the weekend, it was fellow GP16-mounted runner Scott Redding – who is set to replace Sam Lowes at Aprilia next season – who led the way with a 1m26.126s.
The Briton was knocked off top spot by Valentino Rossi, who was comparing the standard fairing on his Yamaha with the older version aerodynamic one.
The Italian’s 1m26.079s stood as the fastest lap for all of one minute, as championship leader Marc Marquez shot to the top of the pile with a 1m25.583s, which he backed up on his next lap with a 1m24.953s.
With rain threatening proceedings later today and potentially on Saturday, the final few minutes of first practice turned into a shoot-out to secure a provisional Q2 place.
Barbera crossed the line in a time of a 1m24.631s to go fastest of all, though it looked like only for a brief moment as Dovizioso lit up the timing screens.
However, the Ducati rider – running the Italian’s marque’s new aerodynamic fairing having tested it at Brno last Monday – exceeded track limits on the exit of the Rindt corner and had has lap scrubbed, dropping him back to second.
Dani Pedrosa completed the top three, 0.113 seconds off the pace on his Honda, while Maverick Vinales jumped ahead of Marquez into fourth spot at the chequered flag.
Johann Zarco guided his Tech3 Yamaha to sixth, with Danilo Petrucci, early pacesetter Redding, Jorge Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow – who also had a late effort scrubbed – completing the top 10.
This weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix is an important one for KTM as it is the manufacturer’s first home race in MotoGP.
With expectation high after taking the team’s first top 10 finish in the premier class last time out in the Czech Republic, Pol Espargaro was an encouraging 11th on his RC16 ahead of Rossi, Jonas Folger, 2016 Red Bull Ring winner Andrea Iannone and Aleix Espargaro.
Mika Kallio returned to action this morning for the second of his planned wildcard appearances for KTM, the Finnish rider surviving an early off-track excursion at Turn 6 to finish the session 17th and just over a second off the pace.