Jerez de la Frontera - Britain's Cal Crutchlow was quickest in Friday's practice sessions at the iconic Jerez de la Frontera circuit, where world champion Marc Marquez, despite a fall, was notably faster than championship leader Andrea Dovizioso on a Ducati.
Marquez won the Grand Prix of the Americas last time out to close the gap on the pace-setting Dovizioso to a single point in the standings with the Spaniard poised to roar past him at this weekend's Spanish GP.
"This track is usually a bit challenging for me, but this year I feel good on the bike and am ready to fight for the podium and even the victory," said the 25-year-old.
The winner in Argentina, Crutchlow posted 1min 36.614sec on Friday but was only slightly quicker than Dani Pedrosa, Johann Zarco and Andrea Iannone.
Marquez, showing his trademark cornering to wow the Jerez crowds close to the Atlantic coast in western Andalusia, was fifth at 0.249sec, notably faster than Dovizioso at 0.454 in sixth.
The Honda man has learned to temper his swashbuckling style, but had Spanish fans holding their breath when he cornered out, albeit at around 100km/h at the end of the second session, only to clamber up apparently unscathed.
"I had a small crash in the end with a front tyre that already had 27 laps on it, but it was mainly my mistake because I just braked too late into the corner," added Marquez.
Conversely Maverick Vinales, second at Austin, was outside the top ten at 0.9sec and looked very much out of sorts Friday, but can salvage his placement on the grid Saturday in qualifying.
Fastest times after second practice:
1. Cal Crutchlow (GBR/LCR Honda) 1:38.614, 2. Dani Pedrosa (ESP/Honda) at 0.028sec, 3. Johann Zarco (FRA/Yamaha Tech3) 0.091, 4. Andrea Iannone (ITA/Suzuki) 0.095, 5. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 0.249, 6. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) 0.454, 7. Jorge Lorenzo (ESP/Ducati) 0.462, 8. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati Pramac) 0.488, 9. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha) 0.634, 10. Pol Espargaro (ESP/KTM) 0.697