2018 Argentina MotoGP QP: Slicks as a Whistle

Jack Miller took the right risk at the right time and blitzed to his first-ever MotoGP pole position Saturday after his team fitted his bike with slicks for a final short run with time running out on the drying Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. Miller, like the rest of the riders on the grid, had started the Q2 session on rain tires.

But when a dry line began to form, he, Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow pitted for their backup, slick-shod bikes. But given the still-wet sections of the track, Marquez and Crutchlow quickly re-pitted for their original bikes. Not Miller. The well-liked Aussie decided the risk was worth it and nearly crashed in persistently wet Turn 13 on his second-to-last qualifying lap. 

Then on his final lap with time already expired, he crossed the line one-tenth clear of Dani Pedrosa who appeared to have his 50th career pole position locked up. Pedrosa, who ran the whole session on rain tires, will start second on the grid. Johann Zarco completes the front row, his sixth-consecutive front-row start.

With a fourth on the starting grid, Tito Rabat continues his revival season on a satellite Ducati. In a heaping serving of seconds, Alex Rins grabbed the second spot on the second row, his second consecutive, second-row start in the second race of the season. He is joined by a unfamiliar face in the neighborhood, Marc Marquez.

Fast every session and one second clear of the field in FP4, Marquez held the top time early in Q2 and then pitted for the slicks bike with water still on the track. One lap later, he returned to his rain-tire bike but could not reclaim the top spot as lap times plummeted with two minutes remaining. 

Aleix Espargaro, who briefly held the top time of Q2, leads the third row. Espargaro set the fastest time in Q1 to advance to the second qualifying round. He is joined by championship leader Andrea Dovizioso. Under normal circumstances, the runner-up to the 2017 championship would not be happy in eighth. But Argentina had not proved normal for the factory Ducati rider and his pace during Q2 resulted in his best wet-track times of the weekend.

Maverick Vinales, winner here last year, completed the third row as the top Yamaha factory rider (and second Yamaha overall). Cal Crutchlow rounded out the top ten. He also pitted for his backup, slicks-equipped bike but also returned to the pits unhappy with the grip on the drying track. And like Marquez, he didn't have the late pace to climb back up the grid.

Result:

Pos. No. Rider Bike Time Diff. / Prev.    
1 43 Jack MILLER Ducati 1'47.153        
2 26 Dani PEDROSA Honda 1'47.330 0.177 / 0.177
3 5 Johann ZARCO Yamaha 1'47.365 0.212 / 0.035
4 53 Tito RABAT Ducati 1'47.681 0.528 / 0.316
5 42 Alex RINS Suzuki 1'47.743 0.590 / 0.062
6 93 Marc MARQUEZ Honda 1'47.754 0.601 / 0.011
7 41 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia 1'47.845 0.692 / 0.091
8 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati 1'48.247 1.094 / 0.402
9 25 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha 1'49.044 1.891 / 0.797
10 35 Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda 1'49.304 2.151 / 0.260
11 46 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha 1'49.326 2.173 / 0.022
12 29 Andrea IANNONE Suzuki 1'49.975 2.822 / 0.649
13 17 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati 1'49.878 0.750 / 0.360    
14 99 Jorge LORENZO Ducati 1'50.063 0.935 / 0.185
15 45 Scott REDDING Aprilia 1'50.175 1.047 / 0.112
16 44 Pol ESPARGARO KTM 1'50.324 1.196 / 0.149
17 10 Xavier SIMEON Ducati 1'50.364 1.236 / 0.040
18 9 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati 1'50.449 1.321 / 0.085
19 19 Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati 1'50.606 1.478 / 0.157
20 12 Thomas LUTHI Honda 1'50.833 1.705 / 0.227
21 38 Bradley SMITH KTM 1'51.007 1.879 / 0.174
22 21 Franco MORBIDELLI Honda 1'51.012 1.884 / 0.005
23 55 Hafizh SYAHRIN Yamaha 1'51.142 2.014 / 0.130
24 30 Takaaki NAKAGAMI Honda 1'51.387 2.259 / 0.245

* Riders in Bold advanced from Q1.

Round Number: 
2
2018
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Comments

Wow. Two or three minutes to go in Quali I thought it was going to be very different.

Pole position Number one to go with MotoGp race win Numero Uno. He can ride a motorbike you know.

Wonder what Dovizioso thinks of the developement & "improvements" of the Gp18 compared to the 2017 Ducati ?

So much to consider alright. Great motivation to get out of bed at 3am my time. Would not miss this one :-)

Not wanting to "undermine" Jorge Lorenzo, five times world champion, but his comments regarding the relationship within the Ducati factory team would mean more if JLo99 could finish a race ahead of his team mate.

Amazing work by Jack Miller, sticking to the slick strategy long enough to see results. I particularly was impressed that he referenced the performance in Moto 3 by Pawi in his post-qualifying interview.