Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) is the toast of Noale as the number 41 made history for Aprilia at the Gran Premio Michelin® de la República Argentina, taking the factory’s first pole position in the MotoGP™ era thanks to a 1:37.688. It’s the Spaniard’s first pole position since the 2015 Catalan GP and third overall, each of which has been taken on a different motorcycle, which creates another first in the MotoGP™ era. Add to that, Sunday marks the number 41’s 200th premier class start.
Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) will started second and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) third, with plenty of shake ups on super Saturday at Termas de Rio Hondo.
Some of those shake ups were clear from the roll call in Q1, including Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team), Championship leader Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and winner last time out, Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). Ultimately it was a Honda 1-2 moving through, with Pol Espargaro fastest from Nakagami and plenty looking for a Sunday comeback. There is, however, a much longer Warm Up to work with…
Q2 then burst into life, at east for 10 of the 12 riders as Pol Espargaro sat patiently in his box, and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) encountered an issue when trying to fire up his number one GSX-RR. There was frantic action inside the box to swap the tyres onto his second bike, but thankfully, Mir didn’t lose too much time.Martin went P1 early doors. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) grabbed P2 before the Australian tucked the front at Turn 1, rider ok, but it meant the yellow flags were out. Next up Aleix Espargaro went 0.3s clear at the summit to lay down a real gauntlet in Q2, with Quartararo P3 at the end of the first efforts behind Martin. Miller was P4, Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) P5 and Marini P6, before Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) pounced up to provisional P5.
So could anyone bridge the 0.3s gap for Aleix Espargaro in the final five minutes? Quartararo was certainly trying but came across Miller, who was on an out-lap, at Turn 7. That lap was then gone for a frustrated reigning World Champion, but there was movement elsewhere as Martin pulled out a beauty to go provisional pole.
Aleix Espargaro wasn’t done yet, however. The Aprilia rider was 0.2s under at the third split, and kept the red sectors rolling to the line for a momentous first pole position for Aprilia in the MotoGP™ era, beating Martin by over a tenth. Marini snuck onto the front row late on, Pol Espargaro made gains and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) adds a little more history for Noale in fifth.
Aprilia head the grid for the first time ever, ahead of Martin on the hunt for his first points of the year and Marini enjoying an impressive second premier class start.
Pol Espargaro impressed with P4 after coming through Q1, and the Spaniard edged out compatriot Maverick Viñales by less than a tenth – so that’s P5 for Top Gun and his best qualifying result in Aprilia Racing colours. It’s also the first time with two Aprilias in the top five on the premier class grid.
Quartararo cut a slightly frustrated figure at the end of qualifying, and the Frenchman will start from P6, locking out the second row. Still, as MotoGP™ returns to Termas for the first time since 2019, it’s his best at the venue – and 22 places higher than one of the toughest weekends of his career in Moto2™ before that…
Rins and Mir go two-by-two for Suzuki on Saturday, with Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) completing the third row of the grid. Nakagami rounds out the top ten as he returns to the fold, although the Japanese rider didn’t technically miss any track action after his delayed arrival to Argentina..
Miller wasn’t able to improve on his best time after his Turn 1 tumble, and the Australian finished P11. To add a little insult to timesheet injury however, for riding slowly on the racing line and disturbing Quartararo’s lap, the Australian has also been handed a three-place grid penalty.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was made to rue a mistake at Turn 7 that cost him a lap that was set to take him onto – at least – the front two rows, and the South African had to settle for P12 that becomes P11 after Miller’s penalty.
Behind them await the likes of Bastianini and Bagnaia, with plenty to race for on Sunday. The extended Warm Up gives the premier class another 40 minutes of track time, but then it’s time to go racing as the lights go out at 15:00 (GMT -3) at the Argentinean GP. Don’t miss it!