MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2014
Repsol Honda RC213V rider Marc Marquez added a few more lines to his growing legend in Argentina today, claiming a third pole position in the first three races of the 2014 season, after a third successive dominant performance throughout practice and qualifying.
While the defending 2013 World Champion – the youngest in history – maintained a comfortable gap over his rivals throughout two days of practice, Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa took a leading role among them, returning to the front row for a second successive race after qualifying a close third.
The riders in the factory-backed team will start tomorrow’s race separated by second-fastest Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha).
Marquez, previously 125 and Moto2 champion, has taken a strong early lead in the championship after winning the two opening rounds in Qatar and the USA, both from pole-position starts.
The 21-year-old Spaniard displayed his prowess again in Argentina with a typically flamboyant display of on-the-limit riding. His technique for learning a brand-new track was spectacular as he explored the outer limits from the first session. Brimming with confidence, he was also learning the layout and pursuing a careful tire-management strategy, on a surface that punishes even the hardest choice of tire compound.
Pedrosa as usual took a more measured approach to learning the new track and fine-tuning the settings on his RC213V Honda to get the most out of it. He saved his final effort for the important qualifying session, closing to within just under a second of his team-mate’s final devastating run, displaced by only two tenths by Lorenzo.
Pedrosa lies a strong second overall in the championship, after two successive rostrum finishes – third in Qatar and second in Texas. The experienced Spaniard, former 125 and double 250 World Champion, is known for his consistent podium strength.
German former Moto2 champion Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda RC213V) qualified ninth, in spite of missing half the qualifying session after heavy tumble. Bradl walked away, but did not go out again, thwarting his hopes of repeating his front row start in the USA two weeks ago. Bradl finished fourth in that race.
Spanish former 125cc champion Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Honda RC213V) was less than two tenths and one place down in tenth. Bautista has an extra role, race-testing Nissin brakes and Showa suspension, made by Japanese companies with strong links to Honda.
Honda’s 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden – back with the marque on one of the new “Open” RCV1000R production racers – was the next best, in 12th. For the first time this year the popular and experienced American won through from Q1 to take his place in Q2, fighting for the front three rows.
Scott Redding (GO&FUN Honda RCV1000R) was disappointed to fail to make the top two in Q1 so as to have a chance in the “senior” Q2 session, but he was beaten by Hayden by four hundredths of a second. The ex-Moto2 class rookie will start from 13th, at the head of row five.
Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) placed 15th at the far end of the same row, the Czech rider’s best position so far this year as he continues to recover from major shoulder surgery that cut short his season last year.
Hiroshi Aoyama (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R) was one place down in 16th. The Japanese rider won the last ever 250cc World Championship for Honda, and also returns to the marque this year.
Moto2 honours were fiercely contested, as ever in a class where identical race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines are supplied by the organizers to guarantee reliable and ultra-close racing on evenly matched machines.
So it proved in Argentina, with 19 riders within one second of pole time.
All the same, nobody could stop points leader Esteve Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) from securing a third successive pole this year, with a series of blistering laps at the close of the session. Rabat won the opening round in Qatar, and was second in Texas.
Rabat pushed late-stages leader Johann Zarco (Caterham AirAsia Caterham Suter) to second by 0.010 of a second. Zarco is yet to score, after crashing out of the first two races. In a sensational late run Federal Oil Gresini Suter rider Xavier Simeon moved into third place to complete the front row.
This displaced class rookie and reigning Moto3 champion Maverick Vinales (Pons HP 40 Kalex) to the second row, ahead of free practice leader and fellow class rookies Jonas Folger (AGR Team Kalex) and Luis Salom (Pons HP 40 Kalex). Vinales won the GP in Texas, his second Moto2 race.
In the Moto3 class, where Honda is in combat with other manufacturers, the new NSF250RW maintained its full house of front-row grid start, with SaxoPrint-RTG rider Efren Vazquez qualifying a close second, half of a tenth of a second behind pole-sitter Jack Miller (KTM).
As ever in the extremely competitive class times were close, and with big groups of riders all seeking the all-important slipstream on the long straight the order was shuffling until the very end.
Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0.0 Honda) was the next-best Honda rider, just seven tenths off pole time but placed eighth, in the middle of the third row. His team-mate Alex Marquez was only two tenths slower, but placed 11th on row three in the final grid-position lottery.
Scottish rider John McPhee (SaxoPrint-RTG Honda) qualified 13th to head row five. Ongetta-Rivacold Honda rider Alexis Masbou was 20th. The French rider missed half the session after a heavy crash, where another rider knocked him flying at speed.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia Honda) qualified 25th, in a field of 33.
The 4.806-km new Termas de Rio Hondo circuit is fast and rhythmical, well-suited to motorcycle racing, and earned praise from all the riders. Marquez’s pole average speed of 177.1 km/h makes it the second-fastest circuit on the calendar. But the little-used surface proved dusty and abrasive, causing rapid tire wear, although improving with more use.
|1||Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)||F|
|2||Jorge LORENZO (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)||F|
|3||Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)||F|
|4||Aleix ESPARGARO (NGM Forward Racing)||O|
|5||Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)||F|
|6||Valentino ROSSI (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)||F|
|7||Bradley SMITH (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)||F|
|8||Andrea IANNONE (Pramac Racing)||F|
|9||Stefan BRADL (LCR Honda MotoGP)||F|
|10||Alvaro BAUTISTA (GO & FUN Honda Gresini)||F|
|11||Pol ESPARGARO (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)||F|
|12||Nicky HAYDEN (Drive M7 Aspar)||O|
|13||Scott REDDING (GO & FUN Honda Gresini)||O|
|14||Colin EDWARDS (NGM Forward Racing)||O|
|15||Karel ABRAHAM (Cardion AB Motoracing)||O|
* F=Factory option, O=Open category
|1||Esteve RABAT (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|2||Johann ZARCO (AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing)|
|3||Xavier SIMEON (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2)|
|4||Maverick VIÑALES (Pons HP 40)|
|5||Jonas FOLGER (AGR Team)|
|6||Luis SALOM (Pons HP 40)|
|7||Mattia PASINI (NGM Forward Racing)|
|8||Alex DE ANGELIS (Tasca Racing Moto2)|
|9||Simone CORSI (NGM Forward Racing)|
|10||Takaaki NAKAGAMI (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)|
|11||Jordi TORRES (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2)|
|12||Marcel SCHROTTER (Tech 3)|
|13||Sandro CORTESE (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|14||Mika KALLIO (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|15||Franco MORBIDELLI (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|1||Jack MILLER (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|2||Efren VAZQUEZ (SaxoPrint-RTG)|
|3||Danny KENT (Red Bull Husqvarna Ajo)|
|4||Jakub KORNFEIL (Calvo Team)|
|5||Romano FENATI (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|6||Francesco BAGNAIA (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|7||Niklas AJO (Avant Tecno Husqvarna Ajo)|
|8||Alex RINS (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|9||Livio LOI (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|10||Alessandro TONUCCI (CIP)|
|11||Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|12||Juanfran GUEVARA (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3)|
|13||John MCPHEE (SaxoPrint-RTG)|
|14||Miguel OLIVEIRA (Mahindra Racing)|
|15||Niccolò ANTONELLI (Junior Team GO & FUN Moto3)|