Moto GP: Lorenzo, Rossi set pace in Qatar

Lorenzo won the 2015 title in the last race of the campaign in Valencia in controversial fashion after team-mate and challenger Valentino Rossi had been moved to the back of the grid for knocking Marc Marquez off his bike at Sepang two weeks earlier.

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MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo

Defending MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo topped the timesheets in the first practice session of the new season in Qatar.

Lorenzo won the 2015 title in the last race of the campaign in Valencia in controversial fashion after team-mate and challenger Valentino Rossi had been moved to the back of the grid for knocking Marc Marquez off his bike at Sepang two weeks earlier.

And the Movistar Yamaha rider set his stall out for the new season in FP1, clocking 1 min 55.440sec and edging Rossi by 0.267 seconds at the Losail International Circuit in Doha.

The Ducatis of Andrea Iannone and Hector Barbera were third and fourth fastest at 0.296sec and 0.370sec behind Lorenzo.

However, the Honda machines of Dani Pedrosa and two-time champion Marc Marquez were only seventh and eighth on the time-sheets, a disappointing start for a team which is traditionally Yamaha's greatest rivals.

"I had a good start. From the first run I was able to have the best lap time and probably also the best pace, but we still have a margin for improvement both in lap time and pace," said Lorenzo, who claimed a third world title last year by just five points from Rossi in a last-race decider.

"We will keep working on the setting and the electronics to improve in some areas for Friday. The track will also be better with more grip level tomorrow and the lap times will be faster."

There are two more sessions planned at the desert venue on Friday before qualifying on Saturday for Sunday's night-time race -- the first of 18 rounds.

Italian legend Rossi is starting his 21st season in the world championship and is desperate to make up for the controversy of 2015.

"The first practice was positive. I'm quite satisfied, it was a strong way to start the season, because the second position is good and also the lap times are already not so bad," said Rossi on Thursday.

"The condition of the track changes a lot session by session and together with the team we have to deliver good work so we will be ready when the grip becomes better."