World Supersport gave us the fight we were hoping for and the drama we have come to expect.
The clouds over Assen let the sun peek through, but it was still a cold 9ºC air temperature and a 15ºC track. Pirelli advised riders that the soft A rear (SC0) likely wouldn't last the distance, but eight riders chose it anyway, including Chaz Davies and Sylvain Guintoli.
2015 Argentina MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Ducati Disadvantage, Tire Choices, And How Great Tracks Create Surprises
Fast tracks are good for racing. Phillip Island demonstrates this every year, and the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit is confirming it in 2015. The mixture of fast sweepers and tricky braking sections places an emphasis on bike handling and rider ability, over and above sheer engine power. This gives enterprising riders opportunities to excel, and overcome any horsepower disadvantages they may have.
Today was a case in point. The Suzukis had shown yesterday that they were extremely fast around the Argentinian track, and Aleix Espargaro came into qualifying as a favorite to take pole. The medium tire (the softest compound available, which the Hondas and Yamahas do not have in their allocation) gave Espargaro plenty of speed, but would it be enough to stay with Márquez? Perhaps some sleight of hand would be needed. With the hard tire his only race option, Espargaro had some mediums to play with. Taking a leaf out of Marc Márquez' Big Book Of Strategy, he and crew chief Tom O'Kane decided that his best hope of getting pole would be a two-stop strategy: coming in twice to change bikes, using three new tires to chase a top time.
The trouble with stealing from Marc Márquez' Big Book Of Strategy is that you find yourself going up against the man who wrote it. It was at Argentina last year that Márquez and crew chief Santi Hernandez saw that a two-stop strategy might be possible, putting it into practice at the next race at Jerez. "Already last year, when I finished the qualifying practice here, we spoke with the team and saw that it was possible to use three tires, because the good lap was on the first lap," Márquez explained at the front row press conference in Argentina. They had done it at Jerez last year, and went for it in Argentina as well. He was amused that Espargaro had gone for the same trick. "We did it, and Aleix also, I saw that he had the same strategy as me. It was interesting."
Heading into Superpole, Chaz Davies had the quickest time and it was set in the afternoon on Friday, where track conditions would be similar to those in Superpole. Fresh from a win last weekend, Davies would be looking for a front row start to best allow him to stay with the other fast men.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying at the Termas de Rio Honda circuit in Argentina:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying in Argentina:
Press releases from the World Superbike teams after qualifying at Assen:
In the tire selection contest known as FP4, Marc Marquez emerged as the fastest rider as the first qulaifying session loomed. Cal Crutchlow continued his strong showing one-tenth of a second off Marquez pace. Jorge Lorenzo, looking quick for the first time all weekend, grabbed third as all of the riders worked less for time and more for determining which tires combinations will work for a full race distance on the hot, abrasive track.
World Supersport qualifying took place with the top men battling for the front row.
Sam Lowes set a new lap record at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit to claim the top spot in FP3 Saturday. Lowes was the sole rider in the 1'42s. Even so it's a tighly bunched field with a one second margin from first to 21st.
However Lowes, who was first in Austin one week ago, finished only four-hundredths of a second over Johann Zarco (2nd) and eight hundredths better that Alex Rins (3rd). Tito Rabat claimed fourth.
The first through fourth FP3 ranking mirrored the finishing order in Texas one week ago. Qatar race-winner Jonas Folger was fifth as temperatures continued to climb.
Superpole One at Assen took part in sunny weather, warmer than it's been so far this weekend. Sylvain Guintoli and Ayrton Badovini were the most likely to advance, twelfth and fourteenth quickest in timed qualifying.
Marc Marquez managed to pull a slim advantage over the field in the third free practice Saturday at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina. Marquez's narrow margin over Cal Crutchlow -- three hundredths of a second -- mirrors what ended up as the smallest differential for the entire field this year: Less than a second separates first through 13th and it is less than three seconds between top spot and 21st and last bike, Alex De Angelis' ART.
The Andreas' Ducatis grabbed the next two slots -- Ianonne 3rd and Dovizioso 4th -- closely followed by the story of the weekend thus far: Aleix Espargaro's factory Suzuki which led the first two practices. The factory Yamahas of Jorge Lorenzo (6th) and Valentino Rossi (7th) spent much of the session outside the top 10. But late in FP3 with a slightly softer rear tires in place, both climbed into the top 10 and earned a spot in Q2. Danilo Petrucci put his satellite Ducati into 8th. Right on his heels is the second factory Suzuki of MotoGP rookie Maverick Vinales.