Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo scored his first front row start of the season today, taking second in qualifying for tomorrow’s Gran Premio de la República Argentina at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. Teammate Valentino Rossi took a second row start with sixth place.
In an unusual move Lorenzo was the last to exit the pit lane today in qualifying, waiting for the pack to go before hitting the track in quiet space. The Mallorcan chose to go out with the harder option rear tyre for the first time attack, using it to score a best time of 1’39.248 to take fourth in the provisional standings. Lorenzo then returned to the pits to switch to the medium, softer option rear tyre and was back on track with five minutes remaining in fifth place. The softer tyre was the key to a front row, helping him to jump three places further up to second, securing his first front row start of the season with a 1’38.425 second lap.
Rossi also took his time to leave the pits for the qualifying session, exiting just before Lorenzo as second to last on track. The nine-time world champion got straight down to business, scoring a temporary fifth place on his first flying lap with a 1’39.421. A second flying lap saw him then enter the pits for fresh rubber 1.132 seconds from first with a 1’39.359. With just over five minutes remaining he was back out and breaking under the 1’39 mark. Rossi scored his session best on the sixth lap with a 1’38.949 to take sixth on the grid on the second row.
Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team’s Bradley Smith confirmed his status as the ‘one to watch’ for this season, by pulling off another positive qualifying performance. He cemented his 7th place on the grid for tomorrow’s inaugural race.
Smith focused on fine-tuning the race setup during the FP3 session, and evaluated which front and rear tyre compound would be the best for tomorrow’s race, considering the ever improving track conditions. The Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider showed complete resilience and sailed easily through from Qualifying 1 to Qualifying 2, even setting his best Q1 time on used tyres. He later confessed that the 15 minutes of extra track time had been an advantage as the young British rider rode his Yamaha YZR-M1 with agility around the meandering circuit and a best time of 1:38.958 which was less than a hundredth of a second behind multiple world champion, and Factory Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi. Tomorrow Smith will once again aim to challenge for a top 5 position, and battle with the Factory MotoGP bikes.
Pol Espargaro ran immediately at pace at the Circuito Termas de Rio Hondo, and displayed his persistent efforts and hard work today. The reigning Moto2 World champion walked away from a fall at the final turn in FP3, and was unhurt aside from a minor finger injury, but still qualified straight through to Q2. During Qualifying 2, the MotoGP rookie rode courageously to set a best lap of 1:40.407, and is confident of fighting for his second top ten points scoring finish in succession.
It was a great qualifying session for NGM Forward Racing rider Aleix Espargaro who set an excellent 1’38.794 that puts him at the head on the second row, only one tenth behind Dani Pedrosa, who closes the front row. Aleix was satisfied with his race pace and tomorrow he will take the start of the Argentina GP, aiming at finishing in the top five positions.
It was a positive day also for his team mate Colin Edwards, who was out of the Q2 for less than 3 tenths. Colin found a good feeling with his Forward Yamaha and was able to improve his lap times, recording a promising 1’40.476. Tomorrow he will start from the 14th position on the grid.
“We are trying to solve every challenge we can to be as competitive as possible. Today we made a small modification before the qualifying practice that proved to be good. It was better entering the corner and also gave us more traction so I could be a bit faster. I pushed at the maximum with the soft tyre to make a fast lap time and was able to make it. We are trying our best to be as competitive as possible and take the maximum so we are satisfied with the result.”
“I am happy about today, it was a good practice. This morning we improved a lot the bike and this afternoon I had a good pace and was quite constant. Unfortunately I wanted to make it better in the fastest lap but I was not able to make the last 10%. I am in the second row that is quite good, we have to work and decide the tyres but I have a good feeling. We will see tomorrow.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“Our situation is getting better. Once the circuit improved grip we automatically got faster. Combined with this we have also made big improvements to the setting and the track knowledge of the riders has improved. Now we are trying to find something else on both sides of the garage for the warm up where we can test it to be ready to start the race. Jorge delivered a really strong performance in qualifying; he showed what he is capable of with a great flying lap for second place. Vale did well and the second row is a good place to start for tomorrow’s race. We know his pace is good so we are confident he will be competitive and with the front guys. We expect to improve for tomorrow and we don’t expect the tyres to be an issue. We have our eyes firmly set on the podium.”
“I am really pleased with 7th position going into tomorrow’s race. Participating in Qualifying 1 wasn’t part of the plan, but during FP3 I was concentrating on doing long runs with used tyres to make the best choice for tomorrow’s race. But in the end, it even helped us, as the extra track time enabled us to test a few more setting changes. This was especially beneficial as the bike was struggling a bit in the braking areas, which we managed to amend. I was able to go quicker on a used hard tyre during Qualifying 1 and then could further lower my lap time on the soft in Q2. Still, things could have gone better, because I knew the track was improving but I made a small error on my first flying lap on the soft, so the tyre’s grip dropped. If this didn’t occur, maybe I would have had a chance at the second row. It will be tough tomorrow as the track is evolving all the time. I think we need to race with the hard rear tyre as it will be the most consistent. My aim is to get a good start and try to remain with the Factory Yamahas.”
“Honestly I am quite disappointed with my qualifying result of 11th, but I still feel confident of achieving a good result tomorrow as my rhythm was competitive during all the other sessions and I really felt comfortable on the bike. After the crash this morning, I felt a little bit confused but beside a small injury on my finger I was lucky to getaway unhurt and it will not be a problem for tomorrow. This afternoon I decided to try the hard tyre to improve my lap time in qualifying but this was the wrong choice. I felt stronger on it the whole weekend, but the changing grip level and higher temperatures did not put me in the best conditions to get the maximum out of my bike. We still have to try a few things during the warm up, and also the final tyre decision has to be made. In any case I will give it my all during the race, and with a good start I’m convinced I can battle with the other satellite riders.”
“I’m really happy of the work done today: I have a strong race pace and the feeling with the hard tyre is good, so I aim at finishing in the top 5 tomorrow. It’s a pity that with the soft tyre I couldn’t push as I wanted. As in Austin, I lost the opportunity to start from the front row for one tenth. Anyway I’m confident for the race and I start determined to get a good result.”
“Today we tested a new set up on the front and the feeling has improved. I’m not struggling so much compared to Qatar or Texas so this is very positive. Step by step we are improving and I look forward to get a good result tomorrow. My congratulations to Aleix, who is doing an incredible job and to the whole team.”
2014 MotoGP Argentina
Termas de Rio Hondo 26/04/2014
1 Marc Marquez Honda ESP 1’37.683
2 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha ESP 1’38.425
3 Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 1’38.651
4 Aleix Espargaro Forward Yamaha ESP 1’38.794
5 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati ITA 1’38.856
6 Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 1’38.949
7 Bradley Smith Yamaha GBR 1’38.958
8 Andrea Iannone Ducati ITA 1’39.237
9 Stefan Bradl Honda GER 1’39.297
10 Alvaro Bautista Honda ESP 1’39.429
11 Pol Espargaro Yamaha ESP 1’39.822
12 Nicky Hayden Honda USA 1’40.541
13 Scott Redding Honda GBR 1’40.238
14 Colin Edwards Forward Yamaha USA 1’40.476
15 Karel Abraham Honda CZE 1’40.615
Fastest Lap Ever:
(Marc Marquez, 27-4-2014)