Dani Pedrosa is retiring at the end of the season, but he hasn't thrown in the towel. The 32-year-old Spaniard leapt from seventh in opening practice on Friday at Brno to first in the second session, shaving more than a second from his previous best. Pedrosa was the only rider who lapped the 14-turn, 3.36-mile Czech track under 1 minute, 56 seconds, but the two-time race winner and seven-time podium finisher cautioned against victory predictions.

"Today we did a good job, especially in FP2," the Repsol Honda rider said. "We started in the first part of the practice with a good pace working with the hard tire. Both runs were okay. Then we also ended the practice with a good job. We put on the soft, and I was able to improve my lap time. We have to keep our feet on the ground because not every rider put on the soft, and we have to repeat tomorrow in qualifying."

Teammate Marc Márquez, 10th, was one of those riders. "The base and electronic setup are working well, but the track temperature has changed a lot," he said, referring to a test held at the same track six weeks earlier. "When we were here, it was 40 degrees [104 degrees Fahrenheit]. Now it's 45 [113]. At the moment, I think the fastest guy on the track is [Andrea] Dovizioso. Then it's Dani, me, and two or three more riders with a very similar pace."

Márquez, who spent the entire afternoon session on hard-option front and rear tires, was asked if he was taking the same approach as Dovizioso—fifth quickest, third Ducati—whose focus is always on the Sunday prize, a race win. "Of course, I would like to go to sleep on the top with the fastest lap time," Márquez replied. "Last year, this was the strategy for Dovizioso: Work for the race. Sometimes it's riskier, but it's a way to understand well what you need."

Marc Márquez
Asked if Honda’s six victories (five for championship leader Marc Márquez) out of the nine races completed thus far this season had exceeded his expectations, HRC Technical Manager Takeo Yokoyama replied, “Exceeded? No. We are greedy. We want to win all of the races, which didn’t happen in the first part of the season.”Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

This approach doesn’t mean Márquez is riding conservatively, even with his current 46-point championship lead. “I will attack,” he confirmed. “Ten races still remain, and the mentality is the same: Attack. Why attack? Because it’s the best way to defend. This is my style. But, of course, maybe on Sunday there is another rider—Dovizioso, Lorenzo—who is faster. We need to be smart and take points. But if there is a chance to attack, we need to.”

Dovizioso was practically beaming. “Today was really good, better than what we expected,” he said. “It’s the best we can have on the first day because it gives you the chance to make more laps on the tires—new and used—and you are able to work for the race. We didn’t put in the soft tire at the end, but we were in the top 10 anyway, which is very positive. It’s not easy because the consumption of the tire is the biggest point.”

Andrea Dovizioso
Ducati has three wins this season, one in Qatar by Andrea Dovizioso (04) and two at Mugello and Catalunya with Jorge Lorenzo. “I’m quite happy about the improvement we did on the technical aspect of the bike,” Ducati Corse GM Gigi Dall’Igna said. “In the two races where we struggled a lot in the past, Sachsenring and Assen, we were quite competitive.”Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

Danilo Petrucci was a tick behind Pedrosa. The Pramac Ducati rider evaluated a new fairing, which provided what he called “positive sensations.” Both Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo expressed interest in testing the updated bodywork. “It looks good,” Dovizioso admitted. “If we have a chance, we will try it.” Added Lorenzo, “We will probably test it in the morning. I don’t expect a big improvement, but if it could improve some small things, it will be good for us.”

Álvaro Bautista
Ángel Nieto Team rider Álvaro Bautista posted the third-quickest lap on Friday at Brno. The former 125cc GP world champion was 0.168 second off the best lap of the afternoon. “I am happy with how today has gone,” he said. “I have got a really good feeling with the bike, even better than in Germany. We want to keep improving because we are in good form.”Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

Like factory Ducati riders Dovizioso and Lorenzo, Movistar Yamaha teammates Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi were slower than at least one of their independent counterparts, in the case of the latter duo, Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Hafizh Syahrin. “At the moment, we are provisionally in Q2,” the 24-year-old Malaysian said. “But, of course, we know that tomorrow morning will be interesting to really find out where we are.”

Rossi agreed with Dovizioso about tire wear. “For sure, it was a difficult day because the conditions are at the limit with more than 50 degrees [122 degrees Fahrenheit] on the asphalt,” he said. “It is also difficult to ride the bike at the maximum because the track has quite a lot of bumps compared to last year. But for me rear-tire degradation is a bigger problem. After three or four laps, I lose a lot of grip so it’s difficult to keep the right pace.

“I think everybody suffers, but it depends who suffers less because here, as always, the degradation is a lot. When you put on the new tire, you have two laps that you are so fast and you improve the lap time. But for 21 laps, you lose a lot of performance and a lot of time. I think the key for a rider to arrive on the podium is to try to suffer as little as possible compared to the others.”