Reigning MotoGP World Champion bagged pole position for tomorrow’s race at the Termas De Rio Hondo circuit by a little under a second as Karel Abraham put his ageing Pull and Bear Ducati GP15 into second with Britain’s Cal Crutchlow in third.
Marquez was a country mile ahead of the opposition to take his fourth pole at the Argentine circuit in wet conditions with a 1’47.512 but smart riding from Abraham saw him tail the Spaniard and fellow Ducati man Loris Baz around to snatch second place with a 1’48.275 to beat Crutchlow LCR by three one-thousandths of a second.
Rain came down at the end of Moto3 qualifying and free practice four was the first time the MotoGP men had tried the 2017-spec Michelin wets. Marquez bounced into the lead on the first run in qualifying two using medium-compound wets all round, setting a 1’48.571 to go a second ahead of the pack and knock Baz off top spot.
He was never headed in the session after that but the fight for second place proved interesting. Maverick Vinales and Crutchlow were in the fight with 1’50.213 and a 1’49.707 respectively before Dani Pedrosa swung back in with a 1’49.008 as Baz clung on to third spot.
Octo Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci demoted him one place further back with a 1’49.136 and then the second runs began to kick in. Andrea Iannone went out on slicks for an experiment but decided discretion was the better part of valour and came back in again.
Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi put in a 1’49.530 to claim fourth place and then Marquez put in his pole lap with Abraham behind him for second place. Crutchlow found a 1’48.278 for third place as Petrucci was in close attendance for fourth with a 1’48.908. Pedrosa’s earlier time was enough for the middle of the front row while Vinales slipped back to sixth with his 1’49.218.
Rossi’s best of 1’49.272 kept him on the third row with Aleix Espargaro and Baz for company. Alvaro Bautista, on the second Aspar bike, finished in 11th, one ahead of Jonas Folger with Iannone in 12th.
It was a disaster for the factory Ducati team as neither Andrea Dovizioso or Jorge Lorenzo made it out of qualifying one. Dovizioso was the only rider not to use a soft rear and missed out on a Q2 place by fractions of a second while Lorenzo, who did use a soft rear, was a mile away in 16th place overall.
Johann Zarco went out on a medium rear and stayed out for the whole session. His gamble didn’t pay off and he finished in 14th, one in front of Scott Redding. Jack Miller’s Estrella Galicia team got their strategy wrong and the Australian - who is good in the wet - was left with not enough time to change tyres for his last run. There was swearing. Probably.
Pol Espargaro was the first of the KTMs in 18th with Bradley Smith in 19th. Sam Lowes suffered a crash and ended in 22nd.