The weather was threatening for day two of Free Practice and Qualifying at the Termos de Rio Hondo, however, for the Moto3 class, the track remained dry and they still had to continue with the challenges faced from the wind.
Track dry despite bad weather forecast
Firstly they made their way on to the track for Free Practice 3 prior to Qualifying. They were lucky with the dry track that ensured they had vital dry time with the weather being expected to be good for race day. As rain was expected and a dry track wasn’t, the 250cc riders made their way out on track, there was so much traffic as they practiced, that it was like the race had already gotten underway.
It was Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) who made his way to the top of the timesheets and after 15 minutes he was the man to beat with his time of 1:50.752. The conditions started to catch riders out, as some picked up penalties and had lap times cancelled as they went wide and did what they could to save coming off on the slippery paintwork surrounding the track, some were penalised including Pagliani who picked up a 12 place grid penalty for dawdling on the track.
Martin runs wide at turn three
Jorge Martin (Pull & Bear Aspar) was one of those caught out, running wide at turn three of the track. Gabriel Rodrigo (RBO ROE Racing Team) had returned to form; it turns out he wasn't affected by his broken collarbone during Free Practice 2, but they had experienced an electrical fault that they were able to overcome overnight.
Mir makes his way back to the top of the timesheets at midway point
At the midway point of the final Free Practice session, Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) who had dominated on day one, reclaimed his lead at the top of the timesheets with a lap time of 1:520.560. Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Spiranelli) made his way up to second just 0.05 seconds behind.
A few minutes later, despite the fact they were displaying poor second sectors (indicated by yellow markers) Mir was able to again improve on his time, as did Fenati in second because of his final sector.
Big improvement from Antonelli
With 12 minutes later, Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) shot from 18th to top with a lap time of 1:50.181. Fenati was also flying, but it was Scotsman John McPhee (British Talent Team) that was even quicker. Both came across traffic in the final sector which prevented them from making a better impression than third and second respectively.
A few minutes later both Antonelli and Philipp Oettl (Sudmetall Schedl GP) began to make further improvements; Antonelli had a poor third sector but Oettl was able to progress up to third. On his next lap however, Antonelli became the first rider to lap under 1:59 minutes when he set a time of 1:49.995, but there were many still pushing for the top spot.
Near miss for McPhee
Around the same time, McPhee had a moment, not to dissimilar to the one he experienced during the race the year previous. He ran slightly wide, hit the kerb and ended up out of his seat as the bike wobbled. He was able to continue without further disruption once he got over the adrenalin hit he received from his near miss.
As Rodrigo made his way up to second a few minutes later, Mir also avoided an incident when he was seen running over the grass at turn nine of the track. He had missed his braking point on the approach to the corner and was offline when he had to bail and take an even more slippery detour over the grass verge; he recovered well without further incident.
Bulega tops the timesheet with clear track ahead of him
Everyone was out on track for the final few minutes. With a clear track ahead of him, Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) was flying and was able to lap at 1:49.792 that sent him to the top of the leaderboard.
As the session came to a close, Guevara came off at the fast turn 11 as he approached the left hand turn of the chicane. Both he and the bike slid into the gravel, but although the bike was damaged and the session came to an early and non-pre-empted end, he was unhurt.
The flag went out to symbolise the end of Free Practice 3 for the Moto3 class. The riders were still completing their final laps that they had squeezed in in time. Both Martin and Mir were displaying red indicators in the first sector, but resorted to personal best times in Sector 3 and 4. On their final lap, both Bulega and Martin had their laps cancelled as they ‘over-used’ the track t turns 14 and 10.
Bulega tops the final Free Practice session in Argentina
It finished up as Bulega being the fastest man by the end of Free Practice 3 ahead of Mir and Canet. Martin was fourth ahead of Rodrigo, rookie Tony Arbolino (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) in seventh. Oettl, Antonelli, McPhee, Fenati, and rookie Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) completed the top 12 heading into Qualifying ahead of the Argentinian GP.
Rain held off in time for Moto3 Qualifying
As soon as the final session of the day for the 250cc class got underway the riders all made their way out on track as rain was still expected. The track got bit all of a sudden and the riders took their time in getting going as they were reluctant to be the one at the front giving the others a tow; in this situation, some riders have their eye on other particular riders who they know are fast and they can benefit from following. Immediately, Mir was able to make his way to the top with a time of 1:50.199, a competitive time as the timesheet filled up behind him.
Big crash for Arenas at turn 13
Just five minutes into Qualifying, Albert Arenas went down at turn 13 of the track. He suffered a high-side and was thrown over the bike which landed on him. Both he and the bike tumbled into the ;gravel shortly after he landed on the ground his bike hit him. Arenas tucked his arms in as he rolled sideways in order to allow the airbags in his leathers to do their job. Fortunately, he was able to get up to his feet moments later. He then went to the medical centre where he was checked for concussion.
Francesco Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) was able to make his way up to second. Both Oettl and Migno were challenging for the top spot on track before they went wide; Martin ran wide at turn one. The fourth sector was proving to be difficult for many riders and it in turn spoiled their lap times.
The lap times began to drop as the session went on. With around half an hour remaining, Bulega and Migno were able to smash through the 1:50 minute barrier with Mir going top. Riders continued to get caught out and ended up running wide ontot he painted area where they had to take extra care.
Several riders take over the top spot before rain hit
Riders continued to make improvements however as Rodrigo made his way up to fifth. Guevara had a lap time cancelled, and despite displaying yellow indicators in sector three McPhee was able to go top with a time of 1:49.525. His potential pole position did not last for long however as along came Canet to knock him down to second, as Fenati, Di Giannantonio and Martin filed in behind him.
With 12 minutes remaining, what turned out to be a vital time for the Scotsman, he was able to lap at 1:49.094 which ended up being enough to secure him pole position ahead of the second round of the Moto3 season in Argentina. This is because, a few minutes later, when the majority of riders made their way out of the pits for the final time to complete their last time-attack, rain began to fall.
The last few minutes is usually when the fierce lap times come, however the rain prevented this, and some riders from leaving the pits at all. Despite the rain, Bulega was still brave enough to improve and did enough to progress up to second on the timesheets.
McPhee on pole for the Argentinian Moto3 round
By the end of the second day at the Termos de Rio Hondo in Argentina ahead of the Gran Premio Motul de la Republica Argentina, McPhee, on just his second race with the new British talent Team sponsored by Dorna, had managed to secure pole position. Bulega will join him on the second row in second, which will be completed by Martin in third.
Canet will start the race from the start of the front row in fourth ahead of Di Giannantonio and Fenati in sixth. Guevara was pushed down to seventh, heading the third row beside Migno and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) in ninth. Oettl will start from 10th on row four along with Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) and Livio Loi (Leopard Racing) in 12th.
Great qualifying result for injured Rodrigo
Rodrigo, despite his injured collarbone will start from 13th ahead of Antonelli and 2016 Moto3 championship contender Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) in 15th. Despite his spectacular efforts previously, Mir will start from 16th on the grid ahead of Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and the quickest rookie in the pack, Toba.
Despite not returning from his crash, Arenas qualified 19th and made it 18 riders within one second of pole position man, McPhee; he also finished as the highest placed Mahindra rider on the grid. The only female in the pack, Maria Herrera (AGR Team) will start from 20th and they will be joined on the seventh row by Adam Norrodin (SIC Racing Team).
Jakub Kornfeil (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) qualified in 22nd ahead of rookies, Marco Bezzechi (CIP),Tony Arbolino (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and,Ayumu Sasaki (SIC Racing Team). Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Aspar Mahindra Moto3) lines up behind them in 26th ahead of Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate), Jules Danilo (Martinelli Rivacold Snipers), Manuel Pagliani (CIP) who has a 12 position penalty, and rookies Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) and Patrik Pulkkinen (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) who completes the qualifying in 31st.