Argentine GP: Qualifying roundup – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
A late crash couldn’t stop Marc Marquez from taking pole position with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo behind him on the front row.
It was a dramatic FP4 session as the red flag twice came out. With 19 and a half minutes remaining, Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) encountered an issue with the rear of his bike at Turn 6. The Brit was able to ride his bike off the track, but debris brought out the red flag. After a brief pause the session resumed.
Riders returner to the track but the session was then brought to stop again as with four minutes remaining, the red flag was deployed again on safety grounds. Race Direction chose to investigate the Redding incident fully. At 14:25 Local Time the session was resumed for the final four minutes.
As a result Michelin have withdrawn the two rear tyre options and replaced it with a ‘special’ rear featuring a harder construction to withstand the temperatures and demands of the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. An extra 30 minute Free Practice session will be held at 09:00 Local Time to allow riders to adapt to the new situation.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 duo Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith joined the top ten MotoGP™ World Championship riders for Q2. Track temperature was just above 40°C, slightly warmer than in FP3. All riders headed out with the hard front tyre and the medium option Michelin tyres for the start of the 15-minute session.
It didn’t take long for the fast times to come, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) ‘easing’ into the session with a 1’39.411, the fastest lap of the weekend. This time immediately put him a second clear of the rest of the field and saw the riders playing catch up.
Unlike in Qatar, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) returned to the pits after just a single flying lap, opting for a slightly different strategy to the rest of the field. His teammate, Valentino Rossi, chose to stay out for several laps and was the second rider to drop into the 1’39s by the half way mark of the session.
Two or three stop strategies didn’t matter as the session came to a close, Marquez untouchable in the session. A crash at Turn 1 with three minutes remaining saw the Spaniard unable to improve his time, but no rider was able to get with 0.3s of his 1’39.411. This is Marquez’s first pole position since Phillip Island in 2015 and his 13th consecutive front row start in the premier class. On each of his visits to the Termas de Rio Hondo, Marquez has started on pole.
A 1’39.786 saw ‘The Doctor’ as the only rider able to get within half a second of Marquez’s time. This is just Rossi’s 13th front row start since returning to Yamaha in 2013. Rossi’s last front row start came at the Malaysian GP in 2015, where he went on to finish third. The Italian proved in Qatar that if he can stay with the front riders he can battle for the podium, second on the grid gives him a perfect perch to launch from and stop Lorenzo and Marquez escaping.
Completing the front row is defending MotoGP™ World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, third his worst grid position since he was fourth at the Malaysia GP in 2015. His 1’39.786 was 0.533s back on Marquez’s time, both riders having fallen at Turn 1 over the course of the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina weekend. Due to his crash in FP4 the Majorcan had only one bike for the session, a second fall would have been devastating. The top three were the only riders able to drop into the 1’39s.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) will lead the charge from the second row, 0.6s behind his teammate. Fourth is a dramatic improvement over his seventh place start in Qatar. Pedrosa will be aiming to return to the podium after missing out in Qatar, the leading riders able to break away without him.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) starts as the leading Ducati in fifth; his early pace not lasting until Qualifying as both the factory Ducati riders struggled slightly some speed. His teammate, Andrea Iannone, will start just behind him in sixth, 0.074s dividing the two riders. Both have had historically strong races in Argentina and Iannone needs to finish in the points after crashing out of the Qatar GP.
After a promising start to the weekend, Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was only able to manage seventh on the grid. This may appear as a modest result, but is a three-place improvement over his 2015 Argentina GP start.
Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) secured the honours of top Independent Team rider once again as he grabbed eighth on the grid. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) fell at Turn 1 as he began his second flying lap, the Brit on his feet and running back to the pits for his second machine immediately. He will begin the race in ninth.
Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) will launch from 10th and ahead of brother Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Brit Bradley Smith’s (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) Q2 session came to a premature end as he fell at Turn 1, starting 12th as a result. All of the top 12 were within a second of a half of each other.
Colombian rider Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP) will start from 21st on the grid for his home round.
Racing begins at 16:00 Local Time for the premier class in Argentina, the race lasting 22 laps.
After a frustrating session, Sam Lowes secures pole position for the Argentina GP with Zarco and Folger joining him on the front run, under 0.3s splitting them.
As the final session of the day, Moto2™ Qualifying took place in arguably the best conditions of the weekend as ample rubber had been laid down before hand. The session progressed steadily with Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) taking an early lead with a 1’43.589, just 0.005s faster than Jonas Folger’s (Dynavolt Intact GP) best lap from practice.
Everything seemed set in stone until the final moments of the session. Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) had had a frustrating time throughout as he constantly found other riders in his path. All the tank bashing got the Brit fired up and as soon as he had clean track in front of him he flew, producing a 1’43.347. For just the fourth time in his Moto2™ World Championship career he will begin in pole position, his first pole since his home race in 2015. This is Lowes’ second front row start in 2016, having begun 2015 in a similar fashion.
Missing a repeat pole position, Zarco was a mere 0.119s behind the Brit. The Ajo Motorsport rider was not upset by missing out on pole, happy to start on the front row as he feels he has the pace to contend for victory. Throughout the weekend the Frenchman has looked strong, topping both Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2 and never leaving the top five.
Completing the front row is Jonas Folger, the German out for redemption after his unforced error in Qatar. His 1’43.637 saw him within a third of a second of Lowes, the pair having a near coming together on the circuit. It has been an incredible start to the 2016 season for Folger who secured his first ever back-to-back front row starts in the intermediate class. The last time Folger had back-to-back front row starts was in 2013 in the Moto3™ class.
Forced to settle for fourth, Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) had been primed to start from the front row until the final flurry of fast laps bumped him down. The Japanese rider has been much more consistent than in previous years and appears back to his best.
Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) repeats his Qatar GP Qualifying as he once again secured fifth on the grid. The hyper aggressive Italian came from 22nd to end the 2015 Argentina GP in fifth; no doubt he will be a contender come race day. Morbidelli showed in Qatar that he is capable of battling for victory, even against hyper experienced riders like Luthi.
Thomas Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten), Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP), Danny Kent (Leopard Racing), Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) and Axel Pons (AGR Team) formed the top ten. Ninth is a great result for Baldassarri given that he was forced to miss the Qatar GP just two weeks prior due to a double shoulder dislocation.
Edgar Pons (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) has withdrawn from the weekend and the Austin GP due to contract Hepatitis A. Three weeks complete rest has been prescribed by the doctor.
Racing in the intermediate class begins at 14:20 Local Time on Sunday the third of April.
Tactics were of critical importance in a crowded Moto3™ Qualifying session, Brad Binder leading the front row with Fenati and Navarro behind.
With track temperatures slowly increasing, the Moto3™ World Championship took to the track in the hunt for pole position. Ambient temperature was a comfortable 29°C with the track reaching 40°C, slightly warmer than in Free Practice 3 but not as severe as Friday. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was once again the early leader in the session, championship leader Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) just behind.
Due to his fast start, Binder found himself frequently followed by other riders looking for a fast time, the similar situation frequently occurring to Danny Kent in 2015. But by mid-session Binder was able to improve his time and set the provisional fastest lap of the weekend.
Ten minutes from the end, the customary final assault for pole began at the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina with new tyres fitted. None would be able to best Binder as the South African secured his first ever pole position in the World Championship. Not only is this his first ever pole, but it is just his second ever front row start. Binder is yet to win a race in the Moto3™ World Championship, despite having started every race.
Fellow KTM rider Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) was 0.324s back on Binder, unable to match his 1’49.767. This is the second straight race that Fenati will start on the front row, his best ever back-to-back Qualifying results. Fenati heads into the Argentina GP looking for his first podium since the Aragon GP in 2015.
Completing the front row is Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0), improving his pace slowly over the course of the weekend. After penalties were applied he was the only Honda in the top five on the grid.
Fourth in the session was Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia), an incredible result for the rookie. This is just his second year racing in Europe, the Malaysian showing incredible potential and natural talent on a motorcycle. Unfortunately he was handed a penalty for riding slowly and will start down in seventh place.
Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) was fifth in the session, again impressing with a 1’50.278. Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) was sixth, the top six a perfect divide of experienced campaigns and young up and comers. Pawi, Bulega and Mir have all come through the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship, the trio demonstrating the incredibly high level of the feeder series.
Khairul Idham Pawi and Karel Hanika (Platinum Bay Real Estate) were both handed three-place grid for slow riding during practice.
Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was penalised four places for the same offence as this was his second offence in two rounds.
With penalties applied the front row remains unchanged while, the second row will consist of Bulega, Mir and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) with Pawi leading the third row from Niccolo Antonelli and Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing). Times at the top remain incredibly close, the Moto3™ race building to be another nail bitter as in Qatar.
Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) fell early in the session at Turn 3 but sustained no serious injuries. Home rider Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA Racing Team) also fell early in the session at Turn 2, then a late fall at Turn 10. Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) also suffered a fast fall at Turn 5, ending his session prematurely.
Lorenzo Petrarca (3570 Team Italia), Karel Hanika (Platinum Bay Real Estate), Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing Team) and Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) were all involved in a large crash at Turn 2 as the flag came out. None were injured.
Warm Up for Moto3™ begins at 09:40 Local Time with the 21-lap race commencing at 13:00 Local Time on Sunday the third of April.