April 4 (Reuters) - MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo started the season with a fastest lap as Yamaha swept the top three places in Thursday’s first free practice for Sunday’s floodlit Qatar Grand Prix.
The Spaniard lapped the Losail desert circuit with a best time of one minute 56.685 seconds set right at the end of the session.
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow, on a non-works Tech3 Yamaha, was second fastest in 1:56.743 ahead of Lorenzo’s Italian team mate Valentino Rossi in 1:56.756.
“It’s a very good way to start the season, on top. To have three Yamahas in the first three positions like in (the final test in) Jerez means this track can be positive for us,” said double champion Lorenzo.
“We need to improve though because the other guys will come in the next practice.”
Spanish MotoGP debutant Marc Marques, last year’s Moto2 champion, was the fastest Honda rider in fourth place. Team mate, compatriot and title favourite Dani Pedrosa was eighth. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by John Mehaffey)