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Business as usual as Marquez sets pace in Qatar

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Doha (AFP)

Defending world champion Marc Marquez shrugged off any lingering effects of shoulder surgery to set the pace in practice at the season-opening Qatar MotoGP on Friday.

The Spaniard, who has captured five of the last six world titles, shaved 0.3sec off the lap record at Losail on his Honda.

Compatriot Maverick Vinales was second fastest overall on his Yamaha with Australia's Jack Miller a surprising third on a Ducati.

Marquez underwent shoulder surgery in December but said on the eve of the trip to the Gulf that he was "close to 100 percent".

"I already said yesterday that I have already forgotten my injury. I feel ready to go, I feel well on the bike, I feel better than in the test. It's not any problem to ride like I want," insisted Marquez.

The champion again repeated his desire to see Sunday's race moved forward by an hout to combat the night-time chill and humidity in the desert.

"Nearly all the riders prefer to race at 7pm because there is less chance to have cold weather. But you never know. Today was very nice," he said.

Marquez's new teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who has switched from Ducati after a poor season which saw him miss four races with a wrist injury, was only 11th on Friday.

Veteran Valentino Rossi celebrated his 40th birthday last month but looked fresher than all his rivals in the first session on Friday, setting the fastest time on his Yamaha.

However, the Italian struggled in the second session, ending the day down in 16th place.

Miller said he was delighted with his pace ahead of what could prove to be a race played out in testing climactic conditions on Sunday.

"The lap time is important of course because we'll never know what the conditions will be tomorrow in qualifying," explained the Australian.

"It's good to have that in the bank. We don't know what the weather is going to be like, windy or sandy or whatever, here in the desert we never know."

Practice times:

1. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 1:53.380, 2. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) at 0.474, 3. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati-Pramac) 0.528, 4. Danilo Petrucci (ITA/Ducati) 0.673, 5. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha-SRT) 0.774, 6. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) 0.876, 7. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 0.895, 8. Alex Rins (ESP/Suzuki) 0.940, 9.Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 0.987, 10.Joan Mir (ESP/Suzuki) 1.022, 11. Jorge Lorenzo (ESP/Honda) 1.048

Selected:

16. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha) 1.668

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