The Japanese star, riding for Gresini, overcame the recent death of his brother in a road traffic accident to lead the way ahead of Thomas Luthi and the ever impressive Marc Marquez. As ever the intermediate class was incredibly competitive with just 0.053s separating the trio with Scott Redding fourth after his strongest showing of the year.
The Englishman has struggled with his Suter chassis throughout the season and there was mounting speculation that he would change chassis manufacturers in the month long break between races. He was two tenths adrift of the fastest time but comfortable ahead of Michelle Pirro and Mika Kallio. The Finnish rider will celebrate his 150th Grand Prix this weekend and looked very confident in the opening practice session.
Bradley Smith continued to build on his impressive Spanish performance and outpaced Stefan Bradl after the German kept his powder dry for much of the session. Only a late lap moved him from the midfield to the top ten. Andrea Iannone, winner last time out, was ninth fastest and it is crucial that he starts to perform well in qualifying if he is to take advantage of his race pace this weekend.
Alex de Angelis rounded out the top ten with Julian Simon once more failing to impress. The Spaniard was 15th fastest, 0.75s off the pace.
While Smith and Marquez have firmly established themselves as leading Moto2 contenders their fellow 125cc graduate, Pol Espargaro, is still struggling to adapt to the 600cc machines. The Spaniard was 27th fastest almost 1.5s slower than Takahashi.