Swiss Moto2 veteran Tom Luthi topped the opening free practice at the Qatar Moto2 round but was chased hard by former Moto3 king Jorge Martin and series rookie Aron Canet.
The Liqui-Moly Intact rider, who struggled here in the pre-season test, finished with 1’59.168 but the Red Bull Ajo of Martin was only 0.017s in arrears.
Canet, who is competing in the intermediate class for the first time, was a further 0.030s behind in a tight top five.
Augusto Fernandez finished in fourth place with American sensation Joe Roberts picking up fifth with a 1’59.259 to end his morning only 0.091s off the pace.
Britain’s Jake Dixon, who is still nursing a mangled finger, was 25th but only 1.188 while the crocked Sam Lowes was three places further back on a 2’01.121.
It wasn’t an ideal start for three riders as turn six claimed Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing), Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) and Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up), the first crashers of the year.
Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP 40) had a fast turn 15 crash in the final moments, thankfully the Italian escaped unscathed.