Maverick Viñales has once again topped the timesheets in the MotoGP class in Argentina, putting in a late charge to open a gap of three tenths over the rest of the field. Marc Marquez sits in second, while Karel Abraham once again showed strong pace to set the third quickest time.
With dry weather and high temperatures, the riders spent the first half of the session chasing race setup, a lot of riders spending a lot of time on the hard rear tire. But with rain threatening for Saturday, the last ten minutesof FP2 turned into a full-on shootout for a place in Q2, riders all chasing a single hot lap. That shootout saw big winners, and big losers.
Viñales and Marquez were the biggest winners, but given their consistent pace, this should be no surprise. Marquez had led for most of the session, with Viñales some way behind, but once the Movistar Yamaha rider put in a soft rear, he quickly gapped the Repsol Honda.
The Aspar team were big winners, Karel Abraham taking third ahead of teammate Alvaro Bautista, though Abraham had used Bautista as a tow. Danilo Petrucci put the Pramac Ducati into fifth, and with Loris Baz on the Avintia GP15, that made it four Ducatis in the top six.
Cal Crutchlow took seventh on the LCR Honda, ahead of Jonas Folger on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. Aleix Espargaro was ninth on the factory Aprilia, finishing just ahead of Andrea Iannone on the Suzuki GSX-RR. If it rains tomorrow morning, that will be the ten riders who go through automatically to Q2.
The closeness of that middle section of the field made it tough on a lot of riders, and especially some big names. The gap from Loris Baz in sixth to Jorge Lorenzo in eighteenth is less than half a second. Lorenzo was not the only big name to miss out on Q2: Dani Pedrosa ended the session in thirteenth, after having small off in the middle of FP2. Andrea Dovizioso was fourteenth, nine tenths off the pace of Viñales. Valentino Rossi was sixteenth, over a second slower than his teammate, and held up a couple of times by other riders after misjudging his exit in pursuit of a fast lap.
Rossi, Dovizioso, Pedrosa, Lorenzo and the rest will be hoping it is dry on Saturday morning, to give themselves one more shot at Q2. But the forecast is not looking good: rain is expected tomorrow morning, though when it starts is still uncertain. The riders stuck in Q1 will be hoping it holds off until the end of FP3.