Jack Miller banged in a brave late effort on slicks on an ever-drying track to head the field in opening practice for the French Grand Prix at Le Mans.
Miller-who arrives at the French event of the back of his second MotoGP victory at Jerez two weeks ago-sat solidly within the top five for most of the session as the riders ventured out on wet tyres on the damp Le Mans circuit, though track conditions improved steadily throughout the 45 minute test.
Johann Zarco led the way as the fastest man on the wet rubber, the home hero etching away at the stopwatch to manage a 1:40.398s tour as the session rapidly approached its final ten minutes.
The racing line by this point began to look dry enough for slicks though, and the ever bold Miller elected to fit the dry weather tyres to try and fire in a fast lap that could guarantee him a Q2 place with rain expected for the rest of the weekend.
The Aussie-joined shortly afterwards by a slew of other competitors including LCR men Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Marquez as well as Suzuki’s Alex Rins- was able to get his tyres switched on sufficiently to fire in a 1:38.007s effort on his second flying lap to head Zarco by 2.391.
His benchmark would remain untouched though as the rain returned just moments after he crossed the line, leaving him as the only man able to improve on the slicks as the track conditions quickly deteriorated once again.
Zarco’s earlier time was enough to keep him second overall ahead of Joan Mir, who had to head out on his spare GSX-RR as his primary machine seemingly suffered an engine failure in the early goings.
Pol Espargaro was fourth quickest just ahead of Honda team-mate Marc Marquez, while Lorenzo Savadori was an encouraging sixth for Aprilia.
MotoGP points leader Francesco Bagnaia claimed the seventh best time ahead of KTM’s Miguel Oliveira, while Rins and the second Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro completed the top ten.
Alex Marquez’s gamble for slicks failed after he crashed while gearing up for a fast lap, meaning he ended the session 11th on the timesheets, team-mate Nakagami ending up 15th after his own switch to dry rubber failed to pay off.
Maverick Vinales suffered a bizarre crash in the closing seconds of the session as he exited the pits on wets, the factory Yamaha racer tipping into Turn 3 and sliding off at very low speed, the slippy painted line on the inside of the bend the likely culprit.
Fabio Quartararo took it steady during the opening test of the weekend on his way to 16th overall, the Frenchman the last of the four Yamaha M1’s entered for the weekend in the early goings of the event.