Johann Zarco ended the inaugural day of MotoGP action around the Portimao circuit with the fastest time in a Portugese MotoGP FP2 session that saw just one second cover the top 18 riders.
Aboard the Avintia Ducati, Zarco was locked in a battle with Maverick Vinales to come out on top as they swapped positions in the closing minutes before the Frenchman prevailed with a 1m 39.417secs lap.
It was enough to demote Vinales down to second place on what was nonetheless a satisfying day for the Spaniard ahead of his bid to come out top of the six-way scrap for the runners-up spot in the overall standings.
Benefiting from being the only full-time rider to have experience riding a MotoGP machine around Portimao, Aleix Espargaro maintained his top three standing on the Aprilia, ahead of Fabio Quartararo and KTM’s Brad Binder, the latter making big gains between the sessions to hold down fifth overnight.
New champion Joan Mir looked threatening in sixth position on the best of the Suzuki pair, ahead of two more riders bidding to seal second overall in Andrea Dovizioso and Pol Espargaro. Jack Miller – who topped the order with eight minutes to go – was shuffled down to ninth, while Franco Morbidelli held down the remaining provisional Q2 spot with tenth.
Another rider with some experience of Portimao under his belt, Stefan Bradl was the highest placed Honda rider in 11th from Takaaki Nakagami, who suffered a heavy impact on his hand with a fall at turn four earlier on in the session.
Fastest in FP1,local hero Miguel Oliveira led the way for much of the session but lost time on his final run to leave him down in 13th.
Together with Nakagami, Alex Rins fell early on in the session at Turn 8 en route to 17th fastest, while Valentino Rossi was another faller to leave him 21st in what is proving a sobering first outing at Portimao.