Journal De Bruxelles - Spain's Pol Espargaro sets pace at scorching Indonesian MotoGP

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Spain's Pol Espargaro sets pace at scorching Indonesian MotoGP
Spain's Pol Espargaro sets pace at scorching Indonesian MotoGP

Spain's Pol Espargaro sets pace at scorching Indonesian MotoGP

Repsol Honda's Pol Espargaro defied testing conditions to go fastest in opening practice on Friday for the first Indonesian Grand Prix in 25 years.

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The 30-year-old Spaniard has never won a MotoGP race but fired a warning with his leading time of 1 min 33.499 at the new Mandalika circuit on the tropical island of Lombok.

Second in the first practice session for Sunday's race was Portugal's Miguel Oliveira on his KTM, just 0.044 secs off the pace, with Spain's six-time world champion Marc Marquez third.

The weather made it tough going for the racers, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) at the track and damp, overcast conditions.

Italy's Enea Bastianini, who won the season-opening Qatar GP earlier this month, was eighth-fastest for Gresini Racing.

But it was a tough start for reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo, who could only manage 16th on his Yamaha and looks off the pace so far this season.

Motorbike-mad Indonesia hosted motorcycle grand prix in 1996 and 1997 near the capital Jakarta, but its ambitions of becoming a mainstay of the sport were torpedoed by the Asian financial crisis.

There were teething problems for Indonesia's return to world-class motorcycling, with the Mandalika track requiring substantial resurfacing for this week's action.

During testing in February, MotoGP riders complained that the circuit was dirty and breaking up in places.

The new MotoGP campaign boasts a record 21 races this season, ending on November 6 in Valencia.

Leading practice times:

1. Pol Espargaro (ESP/Honda) 1:33.499, 2. Miguel Oliveira (POR/KTM) at 0.044sec, 3. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 0.079, 4. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha) 0.382, 5. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati) 0.743, 6. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 0.753, 7. Brad Binder (RSA/KTM) 0.776, 8. Enea Bastianini (ITA/Ducati) 0.828, 9. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Ducati) 0.858, 10. Joan Mir (ESP/Suzuki) 0.980.

Selected:

16. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha) 1.294

M.Kohnen--JdB