Marc Marquez edged out Jorge Lorenzo to set the pace in the first practice session of this weekend’s MotoGP 2013 title decider at Valencia.
The two championship contenders were separated by just 18 hundredths of a second at the flag.
Marquez’s Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa completed an incredibly tight top three, finishing just six thousandths of a second down the road from Lorenzo.
Marquez can guarantee himself only the second rookie crown in premier class history by finishing fourth or higher on Sunday.
He therefore got his weekend off to the perfect start, running inside the top four for virtually the entire session before hitting the front with a 1m31.557s just one minute before the chequered flag flew.
That was just enough to shade Lorenzo, who had set the pace for much of the session and looked to have sealed top spot with a 1m31.575s set 15 minutes from the end.
Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith surged to fourth in the closing minutes, jumping ahead of factory stable-mate Valentino Rossi, who had enjoyed a spell at the top of the timesheets in the opening quarter of the session.
Alvaro Bautista got the better of Cal Crutchlow in the fight for sixth, with Stefan Bradl beating Ducati duo Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso to eighth. All five riders got within one second of Marquez’s benchmark.
Hayden, whose 2006 showdown with Rossi is the only other occasion MotoGP’s title has gone down to the wire in the last two decades, is making his final appearance for the factory Ducati squad this weekend.
Pos Rider Bike Time Gap Laps 1. Marc Marquez Honda 1m31.557s 21 2. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m31.575s +0.018s 19 3. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m31.581s +0.024s 18 4. Bradley Smith Tech 3 Yamaha 1m32.086s +0.529s 22 5. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1m32.237s +0.680s 23 6. Alvaro Bautista Gresini Honda 1m32.382s +0.825s 20 7. Cal Crutchlow Tech 3 Yamaha 1m32.434s +0.877s 21 8. Stefan Bradl LCR Honda 1m32.501s +0.944s 21 9. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m32.520s +0.963s 2110. Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 1m32.538s +0.981s 1911. Aleix Espargaro Aspar Aprilia 1m32.858s +1.301s 1512. Andrea Iannone Pramac Ducati 1m33.372s +1.815s 2113. Randy de Puniet Aspar Aprilia 1m33.570s +2.013s 1914. Michele Pirro Pramac Ducati 1m33.665s +2.108s 1915. Yonny Hernandez Pramac Ducati 1m33.712s +2.155s 1816. Claudio Corti Forward FTR-Kawasaki 1m33.801s +2.244s 1917. Hector Barbera Avintia FTR-Kawasaki 1m33.880s +2.323s 1918. Danilo Petrucci Ioda-Suter-BMW 1m34.025s +2.468s 2419. Hiroshi Aoyama Avintia FTR-Kawasaki 1m34.425s +2.868s 2120. Michael Laverty PBM Aprilia 1m34.444s +2.887s 2021. Colin Edwards Forward FTR-Kawasaki 1m34.872s +3.315s 1222. Luca Scassa Cardion Aprilia 1m35.043s +3.486s 1823. Bryan Staring Gresini FTR-Honda 1m35.530s +3.973s 2124. Damian Cudlin PBM-Aprilia 1m35.953s +4.396s 1825. Lukas Pesek Ioda-Suter-BMW 1m36.452s +4.895s 1526. Martin Bauer Remus-Suter-BMW 1m37.177s +5.620s 17