Alex Marquez will start the Argentinian MotoGP from pole position for the first time in his career after leaving it late on a drying track to prevail at Termas de Rio Hondo.
A landmark conclusion to an eventful qualifying session for the Spaniard, Marquez’s rise to the summit in the decisive Q2 session came after successfully progressing from the preceding Q1 session despite a clumsy tip-off in its final moments.
With a threat of rain looming large on Friday, the heavens finally opened for a short time prior to qualifying, leaving the circuit damp and slick initially but dry enough for soft rubber in the closing moments.
As such, the lattermost riders coming across the line felt the benefit, not least Marquez, who surged to the top as the final man to take the flag with a 1m 43.881s lap.
It means that - despite the absence of Alex’s brother Marc this weekend - a Marquez will have started both the Sprint Race and main GP feature from pole position for the second round in succession.
Marquez will lead an all-Ducati front row too, with Marco Bezzecchi getting away alongside him in second place on the Mooney VR46 Racing machine, while championship leader Pecco Bagnaia is well placed to extend his points’ advantage from third on the grid.
On a weekend that has seen him make a welcome return to the upper echelons on the timesheets, Franco Morbidelli continued that momentum into qualifying, the Italian thriving in the changeable conditions to head up row two in fourth place.
He will get away alongside pre-qualifying favourite for pole position Maverick Vinales, the Spaniard forced to settle for fifth as the weather checked Aprilia’s superior dry weather form this weekend thus far.
Johann Zarco rounds out the top six on the best of the Pramac Ducatis, ahead of the second Mooney VR46 Ducati of Luca Marini in seventh and Jorge Martin in eighth.
Tipped as a strong contender for pole position together with Aprilia team-mate Vinales, Aleix Espargaro has some work to do in the races from ninth position, as does Fabio Quartararo in tenth, though the Frenchman was at least able to break out of Q1 following Friday’s grip issues.
LCR Honda duo Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Rins round out the fourth row in 11th and 12th respectively, ahead of RNF Aprilia’s Raul Fernandez and Marquez’s Gresini team-mate Fabio di Giannantonio in 13th and 14th respectively.
Following its headline-grabbing lap times in Portimao last weekend, it was a chastening session for KTM Factory duo Brad Binder and Jack Miller in a lowly 15th and 16th. GasGas’ Augusto Fernandez and sole Repsol Honda representative Joan Mir rounded out the depleted 18-strong grid for the two races.