Johann Zarco of Ducati-Pramac was fastest over the two practice sessions for the Catalan Grand Prix at Montemelo pn Friday and the Frenchman said he felt 'at home'.
The Barcelona-Catalunya circuit hosts the seventh race of 21 on Sunday, when second-placed Zarco is hoping to close the gap on world championship leader Fabio Quartararo of Yamaha.
Outsider, Franco Morbidelli led the session on his Yamaha before Zarco edged the session by 0.021sec, with Quartararo in third.
The 30-year-old Zarco signed an extension deal with Pramac to continue with the Ducati satellite until the end of 2022 this week and was in festive spirits.
"It's a great life, this is my team now, my bike," he said.
"This Catalan GP is a bit like a home GP for French people from the south," he said of the event some 25km north of Barcelona and an hour's drive from the French border," said Zarco, who is from Cannes.
"Most of the fans here are French too."
Zarco said he had benefited from the support of the fans and from following fellow Frenchman Quartararo over the last few laps to gain a slipstream advantage.
Quartararo agreed with Zarco.
"I've just been chatting with him and we had a good laugh. He knows which wheel to follow," said the championship leader.
South African Brad Binder of KTM was fourth. The 25-year-old also took a boost from signing a contract extension this week.
There is a third free practice on Saturday morning before two qualifying sessions in the afternoon.
1. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati-Pramac) 1min 39.235sec, 2. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) at 0.021sec, 3. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha) 0.166, 4. Brad Binder (RSA/KTM) 0.427, 5. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Ducati) 0.525, 6. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) 0.586, 7. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati) 0.679, 8. Enea Bastianini (ITA/Ducati-Avintia) 0.742, 9. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 0.748,10. Pol Espargaro (ESP/Honda) 0.748
15. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 0.885, 19. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 1.601