Updated: Saturday, 22 March 2014 01:07 | By Agence France-Presse

Espargaro peaks again, favourites struggle

Aleix Espargaro dominated practice for the second successive day for Sunday's season-opening Qatar Grand Prix as defending champion Marc Marquez and Yamaha rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi struggled for pace.


Espargaro peaks again, favourites struggle

NGM Forward Racing MotoGP rider Aleix Espargaro of Spain (L) drives during a free practice session of the MotoGP World Championship at the Losail International circuit in Doha on March 21, 2014 - by Karim Jaafar

Spanish rider Espargaro, on a Yamaha, clocked 1min 54.989sec which was 0.2sec better than his Thursday performance.

It was also 0.3sec faster than Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso in second spot on Friday with Honda rider Alvaro Baustista, who was second fastest Thursday, completing the top three.

Factory Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Marquez stepped up their pace in fourth and fifth respectively.

Marquez, who made history in 2013 when he became the youngest world champion in his rookie year, still looked uneasy, overcoming two wobbles on his bike as he tries to shrug off the effects of a broken right leg suffered in a dirt-biking accident six weeks ago.

Bradley Smith, on a Yamaha, Stefan Bradl, riding a Honda, and rookie Pol Espargaro made up the top eight.

Yamaha rider Esparago, the younger brother of Aleix, had crashed out early in the session.

Nine-time world champion Rossi, on the factory Yamaha, was a second off the pace in ninth with Italian compatriot Andrea Iannone behind him in tenth.

Lorenzo, the 2010 and 2012 world champion and Rossi's teammate, was down in 11th, at 1.183sec behind session leader Espargaro.

Lorenzo, runner-up to Marquez last season, goes into Sunday's race having undergone three operations in the winter to repair the collarbone he broke twice in 2013.

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