Marc VDS Racing’s Tony Arbolino assumed the overnight lead on the Moto2 timesheets following Friday’s free practice sessions at Termas de Rio Hondo, followed closely by Filip Salac and Pedro Acosta.
Just days on from having marked the start of his 2023 Moto2 World Championship season with a run to third in Portimao, Arbolino struck to the front with just over five minutes of P2 remaining.
Stopping the clock at 1m 43.172s, though his benchmark remains some 0.8secs down on the Termas de Rio Hondo lap record, it was enough to edge out QJ Motor Gresini’s Salac by 0.076s.
Another strong single lap performance from the Czech rider, his front running pace on Friday in Argentina goes some way to proving his surprise maiden pole position in Portimao a week ago wasn’t a fluke.
Round one race winner Acosta loomed in third place on the Ajo KTM, the Spaniard unlucky to be baulked towards the end of a lap that was well on course to topple Arbolino at the top of the timesheets.
Jake Dixon survived a bucking bronco moment on the GasGas Aspar to end his day in fourth place, while Somkiat Chantra was another to show session-topping pace only for a potential best lap to be ruined by what appeared to be an empty fuel tank.
Aron Canet - who was second to Acosta in Portugal - made late gains on the Pons Wegow Los40 bike to take sixth position, ahead of Sam Lowes on the second of the Marc VDS entries.
2022 Termas de Rio Hondo pole sitter Fermin Aldeguer and team-mate Alonso Lopez squeezed into the top ten in eighth and tenth respectively, the Speed Up pair sandwiching SAG’s Bo Bendsneyder in ninth.
With patchy weather forecast for Saturday morning, the results at the end of P2 for the Moto2 riders could prove pivotal towards determining which 14 riders pass through to Q2 automatically.
As it stands, should P3 be wiped out by rain, it will spell good news for Manuel Gonzalez, Albert Arenas, Barry Baltus and Joe Roberts in 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th respectively, the latter having edged out fellow American Sean Dylan Kelly by a mere 0.002secs late on.
Big names currently outside the provisional Q2 spots include Fantic’s Celestino Vietti, Husqvarna IntactGP’s Darryn Binder and Ai Ogura, the 2022 Moto2 runner-up making slow progress in 26th as he recovers from injury.
Rory Skinner, meanwhile, completed his first day of mileage around the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in 27th place on the American Racing Kalex.