Round Two – Argentina
Five out of six makes good reading for Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as the reigning Champion took a fifth pole at Termas de Rio Hondo on Saturday, setting himself up for a charge at another victory at the track. This was Marquez’ 81st pole position, and his 53rd pole in the MotoGP class, two less than Valentino Rossi, and his first pole position since Malaysia last year.
Marc Marquez – P1
“In Qualifying I was really focused to push to the maximum and fight for pole position. On the second tyre I made a small mistake at the first corner so I cancelled the lap and went back in. We had planned to do three runs and my team was ready. I am happy because it’s never easy to get pole position here, especially this weekend. Our rhythm is there but we need to wait and see what the weather does!”
There’s more than a couple of riders well within touching distance of the spectacular Spaniard, with Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) just 0.164 back in P2 and Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) only another 0.010 further off – a tantalising prospect for when the lights go out at 0500 AEDT Sunday morning.
With Maverick Viñales qualifying second the grid, this is the first time he has started from the front row three times in a row since Silverstone, San Marino and Aragon back in 2016.
Maverick Viñales – P2
“If you told me on Friday this was going to happen, I would have said ‘No’. Yesterday, we were a bit lost, we struggled a lot, but we worked really hard. Every session we improved the bike. There’s still room for improvement, so we keep working. We need our work to pay off. We need to start well, be at the front in the first laps, and I’m going to try to ride aggressively in the first laps. Let’s see where that takes us. I’m going to try my best. I think it’s going to be a difficult race, because everyone is very close. We don’t know the race pace yet, but tomorrow we’re going to try to reduce the gap to the front even further.”
With Andrea Dovizioso starting from the front row of the grid, the #04 will be aiming to become only the second Ducati rider to win three races in the premier class in a row after Casey Stoner.
Andrea Dovizioso – P3
“I’m very happy with our speed here so far, we’ve been competitive in each session and this first row shows it. Over the last few years we had to play defense here in Argentina, but now we have further confirmation that our base has improved. We managed to get progressively closer to Marquez, he is still the man to beat here but he’s not far. There are several riders with a strong pace and weather conditions may change tomorrow, so it was particularly important to start at the front. It’ll be a tough race, but I’m quite confident about our chances to go on the attack.”
It’s not just the front row in the spotlight, however. Plenty of eyes will be on the second row as 2015 Argentina GP winner Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) lines up fourth and directly behind Marquez, with 2018 polesitter and top Independent Team rider Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) keeping the ‘Doctor’ more than a little honest in fifth. From Marquez to Miller the grid is covered by just 0.244.
Valentino Rossi – P4
“It was a good Friday and a good Saturday. I’m happy to start from the fourth position because my lap was good, not so far from the pole position. I also had a good feeling with the bike and with the race tyres I have a good pace, it’s not so bad. It’s true that we have another five to six riders who are very strong. It will be a tough race, for sure. It will be important to try to work on the small details tonight and after we have to wait and see the conditions tomorrow, because the forecast is difficult. If it’s a wet race, it’s like we’re starting from zero. Nobody knows. In the last races in the wet I was not so bad, but here I don’t know. We hope that if it will be a wet race, we can also have a wet Warm Up.”
The tiny margins continue in sixth and seventh, too. Sophomore Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) took P6 and his best ever premier class qualifying position to lock out Row 2, with rookie teammate Fabio Quartararo once again the fastest debutant on the grid and just point blank fast. The Frenchman was only 0.011 off Morbidelli, and will be hoping to avoid his dramatic start to the Qatar GP.
Franco Morbidelli – P6
“I am very happy with today. It was a great qualifying session for us. Today we focused especially on the rear of the bike, and in general we have worked very well all weekend. I rode my hot lap in Q2 alone and I made some mistakes, but it was still a quick lap. Tomorrow we have to choose the right tyre; I think it will be a race in which there will be groups and we can be up there with the frontrunners. The key is going to be sticking in the front group until the end. It will be a fun race, like in Qatar, but the important thing is that we are able to enjoy ourselves right up until we see the chequered flag.”
Fabio Quartararo – P7
“It was a very positive day at a circuit where I had never ridden a MotoGP bike before. In Qatar we had three days of testing beforehand, and we started with a base setup. Here everything is new and we started from scratch in FP1. It’s good to know that our performance in Qatar was not a coincidence and that by working hard we can achieve good results. It seems that everything is pointing to the weather changing tomorrow, but we hope the race will be dry. We have done a great job so far, achieving all the goals that we had set out, and now we will try to have a good race. We had a good FP4, we have a good pace and the setup of the bike is working well, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow and to fighting for a good result.”
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) took P8 and he’s aiming for the podium having won from P10 on the grid last season, with the British rider joined by teammate and Q1 graduate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) on Row 3.
Cal Crutchlow – P8
“I’m very disappointed today with the result of qualifying. On my final run (in Q2) I didn’t have a great feeling with my rear tyre grip and I couldn’t properly stop the bike anywhere in many of the corners. I made two mistakes, both in turn nine, and so I didn’t manage to better my time from the first run. We have to look at the situation for tomorrow now, I’m eighth on the grid and I have to be ready to fight at the start of the race. It will make for a difficult race, but I’m optimistic and I’m looking forward to it. We know our pace is good and we’re working hard to be competitive tomorrow.”
Takaaki Nakagami – P9
“I’m pretty happy about the second day here in Argentina because we are improving session by session. We were also quite competitive in FP4 in terms of race pace. In qualifying I was a bit disappointed to have to go through Q1, but I tried to make a step forward in that session. We went through to Q2 as the top rider, and then did my level best to take ninth place again. I’m really happy about how the LCR Honda IDEMITSU team has worked, so a big thanks to them. Importantly for tomorrow it looks like the weather will be tricky, but we will try and do the best with what we get. If it’s dry, I believe we can definitely fight for the top seven or eight, which is positive progress.”
Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) completes a top ten covered by 0.789 at Termas de Rio Hondo, with Q1 graduate Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) starting from P11.
Danilo Petrucci – P10
“We’ve made a step forward compared to yesterday, regardless of our position on the grid. I’m a bit disappointed, also because during our second attempt we had some issues with our rear tyre and I couldn’t achieve the lap time I expected. Fourth row slightly complicates our plans for tomorrow, but we managed to progressively improve our base and this leaves me confident ahead of the race. Weather conditions may change significantly but, at any rate, I’m determined to race on the attack, and to this end we’ll need to be particularly smart managing the tyres.”
Pol Espargaro- P11
“The track is not the easiest for me and the low grip makes things a little bit harder. Anyway, I made a good lap in Q1, even with a mistake that could have given me a couple more tenths but it was enough for Q2. It makes me really happy that we could manage this here. In Q2 I had no more tyres to make a lap time so I put a Soft front and Medium rear and I was pretty close. I’m happy overall. We don’t know what will happen with the weather tomorrow but we have a good position for the race.”
Jorge Lorenzo’s (Repsol Honda Team) fastest lap was cancelled due to exceeding track limits – the five-time World Champion will start from 12th, nevertheless a solid Saturday as he continues both his adaptation to the Honda and his recovery from injury.
Jorge Lorenzo – P12
“This morning we went very well and improved the setting of the bike even more. The circuit had more grip and I was riding well so I was able to set a strong time and finish eighth. Then unfortunately in qualifying the temperature increased and with some setup changes I lost some feel on corner entry. This meant I couldn’t repeat my time from the morning and is why I was starting 11th and now finally 12th after exceeding track limits. We will keep working to improve the setting and obtain more kilometres.”
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) starts P13 ahead of another impressive performance from Red Bull KTM Tech 3 rookie Miguel Oliveira who will likely fancy his chances at some good points, with Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing) putting in a solid showing in P15.
Aleix Espargaro – P13
“We did a good job. In terms of pace, we have the potential to finish in the first eight. Unfortunately, qualifiers complicate things a bit. On my last lap, I was very fast, but I lost a few tenths in the finale and Q2 got away from us. Tomorrow managing grip will be fundamental, as well as tyre wear, because it is particularly high here. From this point of view, we are ready. The second half of the race will be crucial and we are prepared as best as possible. As long as the track is dry tomorrow, which I hope, but especially I would prefer stable conditions, unlike last year.”
Miguel Oliveira – P14
“Overall it has been a positive day. We improved our Qualifying position from the last race, which is a good fact. I’m very close to get into Q2, so it was not a bad day. I felt better with the bike, the team worked really good and we just keep improving all the time. I understand more how to ride the bike – many steps forward, so now I’m just excited to do the race tomorrow.”
A major shock in Q1, however, was 2018 Argentina GP podium finisher Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). The Spaniard’s success at the track last year was his first rostrum in the premier class but in 2019 he’ll line up in P16. Can he mount a comeback from there?
It’s a tight looking grid after qualifying at Termas and the race looks sure to be a stunner. That’s even before we mention the weather that could well mix everything up again…
MotoGP Qualifying Results
Vierge on pole as just 0.012 covers Moto2 front row
EG 0,0 Marc VDS’ Xavi Vierge will once again start from pole position at the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina, 12 months on from securing his first pole position and after bettering Johann Zarco’s fastest ever Moto2 lap around Termas de Rio Hondo with a 1:42.726. It’s blink and you’ll miss the gap though as both Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) got almost too close to comfort with their last laps; Schrötter just 0.011 off and a single thousandth in further arrears.
Vierge’s EG 0,0 Marc VDS teammate Alex Marquez will front row two of the grid thanks to a 1:42.773, making it the top four riders who all bettered Zarco’s previous best ever lap from 2015. Dynavolt Intact GP’s Tom Lüthi is in the middle of the second row, before top KTM Brad Binder who put his Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto2 machine in P6.
After showing strong pace all weekend, Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) will start Sunday’s race from seventh on the grid. The Australian’s Q2 lap was over a tenth slower than the lap that saw him top FP3 earlier in the day.
Qatar race winner and Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) is eighth on the grid, joined on row three by compatriot and top rookie Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46).
Rounding out the top ten after ending Q1 quickest, is veteran Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2). With the top 13 covered by three tenths of a second, Sunday’s race at is not one to be missed!
Maiden pole forJaume Masia in Moto3
Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) will start the Moto3 race at the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina from his first ever pole position after FP1’s fastest man struck back to set the pace on Saturday afternoon. His benchmark 1:48.775 puts him over three tenths clear of Q1 graduate Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) in second, with 2018 polesitter Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) completing the front row in third.
The qualifying session at Termas de Rio Hondo initially saw riders neglecting to set laptimes and that set up a frantic finish; classic Moto3 style. Red sectors lit up the timesheets and after first trailing Canet by 0.002, Masia then pounced soon after to leapfrog his compatriot and set the 1:48.775 – the lap that would ultimately give him his first pole position. Canet remained second, with Arbolino than snatching the final place on the front row on his final flying lap by just 0.007.
The man to lose out and who now heads the second row is Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing). The all-Italian Row 2 is completed by fifth place Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and sixth on the grid, Andrea Migno (Bester Capital Dubai), another rider who came through Q1.
Former Argentina GP winner Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers) starts from seventh, with Qatar GP winner Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) and compatriot Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) locked close together in eighth and ninth respectively. Rookie and reigning FIM CEV Repsol Moto3 Junior World Champion Raul Fernandez (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team) impressed once again to start tenth on his first appearance at Termas.
Less than a second splits the top fifteen in Moto3 qualifying and with the likes of termas podium finisher John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and home hero Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) starting from outside the top ten, we’re set for a stunning lightweight class battle.