Just 22 days after breaking his tibia and fibula in a dirtbike crash, Valentino Rossi returned to action in a wet first practice at Motorland Aragon, stunning everyone with an 18th place finish only 2.8 seconds off the pace of fastest man Marc Marquez.
Rain began to fall just as Rossi exited pitlane equipped with slicks on his first lap and he returned to his seat forthwith but a few minutes later, The Doctor was back out on wets to start a run of seven laps which culminated in a 2’04.066, good enough for tenth with eight minutes left to run.
Inevitably, he slid down the order as the track dried towards the end of the session but Rossi was still faster than team-mate Maverick Vinales, which will cause some consternation on his side of the Movistar Yamaha garage.
It also doesn’t look good for Michael van der Mark’s debut on the M1, which will more than likely go by the wayside as Rossi didn’t appear in any discomfort in the garage. But Rossi will only find out how much stress will be put on the leg if it is dry in FP2.
Marquez ended the session with more than half a second in hand at the top of the timesheets, setting a 2’01.243 on his ninth lap of ten with Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa in second on a 2’01.741.
Johann Zarco took third place on the Monster Yamaha after being the first man out on wets. He put in the most laps, sticking in 17 laps on the same set of tyres to finish on a 2’02.028.
Jack Miller ended in fourth place on the EG0,0 Honda while KTM test rider Mika Kallio finished in fifth place and a second off the pace. Jorge Lorenzo, who is relishing the Ducati in wet trim, was sixth, one ahead of Britain’s Cal Crutchlow.
Danilo Petrucci, Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso completed the top ten. Scott Redding and Sam Lowes were next along, just ahead of Jonas Folger, Karel Abraham and Aleix Espargaro. Pol Espargaro was a little under a second slower than Kallio while Bradley Smith’s RS-16 went pop on his first lap.