It was raining ahead of the final Free Practice session for the MotoGP class at the Termos de Rio Hondo which completely switched up the results on the timesheets ahead of Qualifying.
The final 30 minute session got underway and while the track was slightly damp after a light shower began at the end of Qualifying for the Moto3 class, the riders from the elite class made their way out on track as soon as possible to get what dry time in that they could.
Miller makes a great start in the wet
After familiarising themselves with the track conditions, it was Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) who initially took to the top of the timesheets, before Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso set a time of 1:53.755 to allow him to take over the top spot.
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) was next to visit the top, before Scott Redding’s time on the Octo Pramac Ducati knocked him down to second. Miller continued increasing his pace however and reduced Redding’s time by over two seconds with a time of 1:51.565. The riders battled it out behind him as for a few minutes he remained just under a second quicker than anyone else on track.
Espargaro making tracks in the wet with the new KTM?
Pol Espargaro of all people on the new Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine made his way up to second on the timesheets, becoming the only other rider after 15 minutes to lap under 1:52 minutes. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) soon picked up his pace and went top with 14 minutes remaining with a low 1:51 minute lap (1:51.194). The British rider, who has looked much more settled than he did in Qatar improved even further on his next lap setting a time of 1:50.547.
Crutchlow looked to be the one to finish on top until in the final few minutes of FP4, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) found his form and set a time of 1:50.36 which knocked the Brit off the top spot. It was the first time that Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) had looked worried as he seemed to struggle with his new M1 in the wet since he transferred from Team Suzuki Ecstar.
Marquez finished Free Practice 4 on top
It was almost as if conditions were becoming gloomier as a mist appeared to transcend over certain parts of the South American track. It did not stop the riders from pushing however, as they knew this time on track was vital for them to do well in Qualifying. In the final stages of Free Practice 4, Marquez managed to set another fast lap which left him on top with a time of 1:50.297.
This in turn pushed Dovizioso down to second ahead of Crutchlow in third. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) was fifth ahead of Miller who remained fifth with his time from earlier on in the session. Rookie Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was sixth ahead of Pedrosa, Vinales, Loris Baz (Reale Avintia Racing) and rookie Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) who completed the top 10.
Many big names missing from the top ten after FP3
After a cool Free Practice session 3, many of the usual suspects normally found at the top of the timesheets did not make it into the top 10. Qualifying one was the chance to try and advance further into Qualifying 2, so that whoever made it could be in with the chance of starting on the front four rows. Having finished 11th and 12th on combined times after FP3, it was Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Redding who were the favourites to progress.
It was Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) who was first to make his way out on track when the short 15 minute Qualifying session began. With a clear track ahead of him, and a full wet setup as rain continued to fall in Argentina, he was immediately able to beat his personal best time of the weekend so far and topped the timesheets with a time of 1:50.591 which would have placed him fourth during FP4.
Miller on top for a moment
Miller was pushing however, and beat the Spaniard on lap times which meant he was top and in with a chance of progressing forward. Zarco and then knocked him down, before Dovizioso came along and set a lap time of 1:49.488 to send him to the top. Double Moto2 champion Zarco slotted in behind him, his time was over half a second slower.
Just over four minutes remained and riders made one final and brief visit to the pits to consult with teams before returning to the wet track for what could be their last time attack of the day should they not finish in the top two.
Redding improved, but it was only enough to temporarily secure him second on the timesheet; it would have been enough to see him go through to Qualifying 2. It was an unwanted early end to Miller as his mechanics appeared to encounter problems with his rear tyre in the final minutes which meant he had no time to improve further.
Pedrosa and Rossi progress to Qualifying 2
Nine times world champion, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) who was 17th on combined times after FP3 was pushing hard and at one point was seen running extra wide at turn four. He continued on though and was able to set a fast enough lap on his next and final one which saw him go top, before Pedrosa on his last lap took it from him. The Spaniard and the Italian where to go through to Qualifying 2 with the others; Dovizioso just missed out as did Zarco.
Lowes crashes out
Sam Lowes (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) experienced a late crash at the end of the session The British rookie rider in the MotoGP class came off at turn one but he appeared OK as he returned to the pits via a relief scooter.
Nervous start to the final session of the day
It looked like a nervous start to the final session of the day for the MotoGP class as Qualifying 2 got underway. They clearly meant business and after a few minutes five riders were able to improve on Vinales’ fastest time so far pushing the Spaniard down to a potential sixth on the grid.
Pedrosa led for a few minutes before Frenchman, Baz took the top spot from him, With less than nine minutes to go, Marquez was pushing, and as he overtook Rossi on track, he set a lap of 1:48.571 which provisionally secured him pole. With just over seven minutes remaining, Vinales retaliated and did enough to gain third briefly before Crutchlow pushed him back down to fourth.
Final stint on track for the MotoGP class
Just a few minutes remained as the riders returned to the track for the final time after their last visit to the pits to change tyres. Baz looked relaxed in second, but it was not safe as Pedrosa and Petrucci pushed him down to fourth. It still wasn’t over however as Marquez was able to improve on his own time by over a second, and Abraham, who was following Marquez on track benefited and finished just 0.7 seconds slower and slotted into second on the grid.
Marquez called it a day after his time and went off line not allowing the Czech Republican to benefit further. He remained on track to complete his practice start. Crutchlow then came along and set a fast lap that managed to get him onto the front row in third for now. There were further improvements further down the rankings as riders achieved their personal best times but the front row did not change.
Marquez on pole for the Argentinian GP
Marquez was on pole ahead of Abraham who was the fastest Ducati on second on the grid, and Crutchlow completed the front row. Petrucci will head the second row in third and will be joined by Pedrosa in fourth and Vinales in sixth. Rossi was able to work his way up to seventh, at the front of the third row ahead ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Baz was pushed dwn to ninth.
Alvaro Bautista (Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati) is 10th on the grid ahead of rookie Folger who was the highest placed rookie in 11th. Iannone ended Qualifying 2 on the bottom of the timesheets but it was enough to secure him 12th on the grid, completing the front four rows
Qualifying 1 results determine remainder of the grid
Dovizioso had to settle for starting in 13th on the grid and is joined on the fifth row by rookie Zarco and Redding. Lorenzo, who appears to have struggled with the Ducati in Argentina, will start from 16th on the grid along with Miller and Pol Espargaro on the sixth row. His teammate Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is 19th ahead of Rabat, Hector Barbera (Reale Avintia Racing), Lowes and injured Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who broke his ankle in a training incident after Qatar, who completes the grid in 23rd.