Four Hondas in the top five at the end of MotoGP Free Practice 1 & 2

Marc Marquez impressed finishing top of the timesheets whilst Suzuki rider Maverick Vinales was back on form. Tito Rabat came close to taking out Valentino Rossi whilst both Espargaro brothers crashed.

Four Hondas in the top five at the end of MotoGP Free Practice 1 & 2
Marquez dominates with an iron fist | Photo: @Box_Repsol

The sun has been cracking the flags at the Termas de Rio Hondo Circuit in Argentina where the MotoGP class completed the first day of Free Practice completing two sessions under the baking sun.

The track was quite dirty to begin with which has meant that the riders have had to be carefully accurate and some have found themselves losing control as they have come off the ‘clean’ line that has been created as riders have been able to lay the rubber down. The high temperatures meant that not only are the bikes - especially the tyres - being tested, but also the physical capabilities of the riders is being thoroughly put to the test as they have had to be carefully not to exhaust themselves in the heat.

The daunting part for the riders about being at this this track is the fact that this is only the third season of it being part of the MotoGP calendar. This year is the first time they will have took to the track on Michelin tyres as they are the new manufacturer for this season. The riders have not completed any tests here over the winter and so unlike Qatar, a lot of work has to be done in a much shorter timeframe.

Marc Marquez has finished top of the timesheets

It is Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez who has finished top of the timesheets after the first day of free practice at Argentina; the Spanish rider won here two years ago when it was first introduced to the calendar, but he crashed out last season. Marquez was second fastest in FP1 just behind Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso as they were the only riders in that session to break the 1:44 minute barrier, but then in FP2 Marquez was able to complete a time of 1:41.579 leaving him top. Dovizioso finished in tenth after day one as the fastest Ducati.

In true Marquez style he was seen wrestling with the bike as he flew round the track looking like he was once again struggling to turn it; at one point during turn five the back end of the bike slid which very nearly caused him to ‘high side’. Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa who has seemed to struggle so far this season finished second on the timesheet as the only other rider by the end of the day to break through the 1:42 minute barrier; he managed to improve his time from FP1 by over 2.5 seconds and finished the first day with a time of 1:41.604. The two Repsol Honda riders were the only ones who were able to lap under 1:22 minutes.

Pedrosa, second in Termas de Río Hondo | Photo: Repsol Media.
Pedrosa, second in Termas de Río Hondo | Photo: Repsol Media.

Vinales back to flying form

Spanish Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Vinales was back to flying form and was able to finish third fastest after FP2; he fell during FP2 at turn three and was unhurt. He split the four Hondas in the field that took up the first five places on the timesheet. Australian Jack Miller appeared to be comfortable on his Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda, he finished in front of British LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow. Brit, Scott Redding also looked strong again on his Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati finishing in sixth.

Rabat almost touched Rossi's rear wheel

In 2015 the Argentinian GP was won by Italian Movistar Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi who finished as the fastest Yamaha rider in seventh place with a time of 1:42.565.  During FP2 the Italian was being closely followed by rookie Tito Rabat who came a little too close towards the end of the session almost coming into contact with the back wheel of Rossi’s M1 after he missed his breaking point; luckily he missed and both riders escaped without consequence.

Vinales’ teammate Aleix Espargaro finished in eighth despite several falls which left the Spaniard looks less than pleased. Things have not been easy for Espargaro this season. The 26-year-old crashed at turn nine and was gesturing angrily to the rider he was following, he also fell off at turn one after again struggling with the front end of the bike; it would not turn and he lost the battle and the bike brought him out wide before he crashed.

Crashes for both Espargaro brothers

Aleix’s brother Pol also fell in FP1 at turn seven and in FP2 at turn one with six minutes to go. The incident in FP2 occurred when he was chasing Rossi; Pol went a little wide and hit a ‘dirtier’ line on the track which meant he lost grip and came off. He had a near miss when Yonny Hernandez, who had previously been spotted touring around Buenos Aires with the Espargaro brothers, got very close to him again on track. It is technically Hernandez’s home GP at Argentina, he looked like he had managed to close in several bike lengths on Pol Espargaro as they entered turn 1; he appeared to be trying to overtake on the outside but then the Columbian fell off, he was unhurt. Pol finished in thirteenth and Hernandez in seventeenth (despite finishing third after FP1).

Eugene Laverty finished 12th fastest on his Aspar Team MotoGP Ducati just over a second slower than Marquez. The Irish man almost crashed during FP2 twice, once during a flying lap where he ended up going into the ‘run-off’ area; the second incident occurred when he was practicing his standing start where he was pulled to the side of the track, fortunately he saved it both times.

Lorenzo shock results after day one in Argentina

The biggest shock seems has come from the 2015 MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo who seemed to have a difficult first day in Argentina. The Spanish Movistar Yamaha rider who won the season opener in Qatar is currently surrounded by speculation as we await news on his future career decisions as Ducati have admitted to be very interested him and Marquez. Maybe it was the pressure of this media interest and contract agreements that got to Lorenzo today, but he did not complete much time on track by the end of the two Free Practice sessions on day one.

Lorenzo, with problems in Argentina | Photo: Yamaha Motor Racing.
Lorenzo, with problems in Argentina | Photo: Yamaha Motor Racing.

By the end of FP1 Lorenzo was fourteenth on the timesheet with a time of 1:44.742; he spent the majority of FP2 in his pit garage and seemed reluctant to venture out.  Lorenzo was seen doing very animated gestures which indicated that he was not at all happy or confident with the performance from the front end of the bike; he appeared to describe that the bike felt like it was going to fold under him. The Spanish rider finished in fourteenth with a time of 1:42.819 which was 1.240 seconds slower than leader Marquez; he only appeared on track in FP2 with five minutes to go.

Ducati rider Andrea Iannone was another shock after day one, the Italian finished behind Lorenzo after a long hard day. He was followed by Avinitia Racing Team rider Loris Baz (his teammate Hector Barbera finished in eleventh), Hernandez, rookie Rabat and the two Aprilia Racing Team Gresini riders Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl.

Pirro replacing injured Petrucci

Michele Pirro is set to replace injured Danilo Petrucci in Argentina as Petrucci reinjured his hand that had previously been operated on after he broke it during practice in Qatar; the strain led to more damage which meant his rehabilitation suffered a major setback. Pirro did not yet make it out onto the track on the Ducati.

Despite the glorious weather at the track today, there are doubts as to whether the forecast will remain as well throughout the weekend. Riders were seen practicing quickly changing bikes in the pits in the efforts to not lose much time if the race was to be declared a wet race on Sunday.