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Brad Binder tops first practice at Qatar MotoGP

South Africa’s Brad Binder surprisingly set the pace on his KTM during the first practice session Friday at the season-opening Qatar MotoGP.

Reigning champion Fabio Quartararo could only manage 11th while last year’s runner-up Francesco Bagnaia was 18th after crashing on the Losail circuit.

Binder was marginally quicker than Japan’s Takaaki Nakagami with Suzuki rider Alex Rins third.

Factory Honda duo Pol Espargaro and six-time world champion Marc Marquez, whose past two seasons have been derailed by injuries, rounded out the top five. 

The second session is scheduled as night falls at 1500 GMT, the same time as Saturday’s qualification and the race on Sunday.

Several riders wore helmets with stickers reading “Give Peace a Chance” in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Riders on Thursday posed for the traditional start-of-season grid photo behind a banner proclaiming “United for Peace”.

The Qatar MotoGP is the first of a record 21 races this season, which ends on November 6 in Valencia.

It will be the first this century without the recently retired Valentino Rossi, who announced Friday the birth of his first child, a daughter named Giulietta.

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