The times tumbled in Practice 2 as Aprilia Racing hit the ground running in Termas – but Fabio Quartararo encounters troubles
1st and 2nd in Practice 1, 1st and 2nd in Practice 2 – it doesn’t get any better than that for Aprilia Racing as Day 1 at the Gran Premio Michelin® de la República Argentina belonged to the Noale factory. Ending Friday on top was Aleix Espargaro after the 2022 Termas race winner got the better of teammate and P1 pacesetter Maverick Viñales in the afternoon session, while Portuguese GP podium finisher Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) claimed P3.
How the automatic Q2 top 10 battle played out
It wasn’t until the final 20 minutes that we started to see plenty of movement on the timesheets in Practice 2, as Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) pounced to demote Viñales to second after the latter had produced a dominant performance in Practice 1 to lead the field by a couple of tenths. On his second flying lap, Martin moved the goalposts further as his 1:39.092 became the time to beat, as Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) climbed to P3.
With all eyes focused on grabbing a top 10 spot ahead of Saturday morning’s qualifying, Practice 2 lit up. Aleix Espargaro set a new benchmark as Viñales slotted into P2, 0.009s off his teammate, before Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) then went top of the pile with a 1:38.969. Then, Viñales was back at the summit – but not for long.
Bezzecchi was now the pacesetter, with teammate Luca Marini going third fastest. Meanwhile, with 10 minutes to go, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) was in P13 and 0.9s off P1.
With three minutes to go, Quartararo was still in P13 having been shuffled down a couple of spots. The gap to P1? 0.6s. In contrast, Viñales found an extra dose of pace and went back to P1, but his stablemate would make sure that didn’t last long. Aleix Espargaro set a 1:38.518 to beat Viñales by 0.162s, as Quartararo remained outside the top 10 with seconds to go.
And that’s where he stayed. Quartararo ended Day 1 in Argentina in P14, 0.746s shy of Aleix Espargaro’s table-topping time – differing fortunes for two of the top contenders.
Behind the top three, Marini bounced back from a disappointing opening weekend with a solid Friday P4 in Termas de Rio Hondo, with Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) rounding out the top five. Reigning World Champion Bagnaia settled for P6, 0.4s off Espargaro, with Martin, Nakagami, a rebounding and upbeat Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and Alex Rins (LCR Honda Idemitsu) acting as the final automatic Q2 qualifiers on Saturday morning in P7, P8, P9 and P10 respectively.
Some big hitters will be battling it out in Q1 at 10:50 local time (GMT-3), including Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), 2020 World Champion Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing duo Brad Binder and Jack Miller, and Quartararo. Do not miss qualifying on Saturday morning, it’s going to be a barnstormer.
Alongside Rins’ Turn 1 crash in Practice 1, reigning Moto2™ World Champion Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) was unhurt in a Practice 2 Turn 1 crash.
Saturdays = qualifying & Sprint!
So that’s it from Friday in Argentina. An intriguing day to say the least as the second instalment of the Tissot Sprint fast approaches. Can Quartararo bounce back from a difficult day? Who will get themselves into the pole position shootout? It all starts with Free Practice at 10:10 local time (GMT-3)!
Top 10 combined:
1. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – 1:38.518
2. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) + 0.162
3. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.249
4. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.315
5. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.391
6. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.426
7. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.488
8. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 0.553
9. Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) + 0.562
10. Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) + 0.599