Marc Marquez will start from pole for the inaugural G.P. Red Bull de la República Argentina at the 14-turn, 2.9-mile Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo. It’s Marquez’s third pole this year. Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa, will join their fellow countryman on the front row for the 25-lap race. With the exception of opening practice, headed by Lorenzo, Marquez has led every session thus far this weekend. As track conditions continued to improve, the 21-year-old Spaniard steadily lowered the lap record, culminating in his pole-winning time of 1:37.683. Marquez was the only rider to circulate quicker than 1-minute, 38 seconds. “Always when it’s a new track you improve the lap time,” Marquez said at the post-qualifying press conference, where tire performance dominated the conversation. “Yesterday I feel a big improvement about the grip of the track from FP1 to FP2. Today I expect even more but was not like that. It was more or less the same, but we improved a lot the lap time, and we have a good base for tomorrow. “Warm-up will be important to try some things. It will be interesting tomorrow to manage the tires because I think everybody is struggling to finish race [distance] in a good pace.” About the track, originally built in 2008 and updated last year, Marquez said, “The layout is nice. It has some fast corners that I enjoy because you spin quite a lot.” This is Lorenzo’s first front-row start of 2014. The 4-time world champion qualified fifth at the previous rounds in Qatar and Texas. “Finally we are in the first row again,” Lorenzo said. “I hope to make no mistakes in the first lap and just concentrate on my pace.”
Lorenzo crashed out of round 1 on the opening lap and jumped the start at COTA. After a ride-through penalty, he finished 10th and is currently 16th overall in points. “We made a big improvement in the bike before qualifying, so let’s see tomorrow,” he said. “If it rains, we’ll have a completely different race. But if it’s dry, we have a good setup. Looking at the lap time, the pace drops so much after a few laps, but I think we can save a little bit of the tire, and a podium will be a great start to the season.” Lorenzo also complimented the design of the track. “I’m enjoying it a lot,” he said, “especially when the tarmac is getting better. If the tarmac is good, this circuit is wonderful for the riders.” Pedrosa has finished third and second this year and is second overall in points. “This is a track where you spend a lot of time on the edges [of the tires],” he said. “So, for sure, the tire is crucial. The track has some interesting corners. It doesn’t feel very long, but it’s good.” According to spec-tire-supplier Bridgestone, the hard-compound rear slick was the preferred choice today among Factory Honda and Yamaha riders, while the medium-compound option was favored by Ducati and other Open-class pilots. Andrea Dovizioso was the quickest Ducati rider in fifth, just behind NGM Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro and one spot ahead of Valentino Rossi.
“This morning we still had a big problem,” Dovizioso said. “Our [tire performance] drop was 2 seconds [per lap] after just 4 laps. But we improved a lot the situation in FP4 and Qualifying. So we are able to keep a similar lap time of the competitor. I’m happy to start on the second row.” “The track surface improved again today,” Bridgestone’s Shinji Aoki said. “In today’s practice sessions, we could see some riders were able to still set quick lap times on tires that had completed almost race distance, so this bodes well for tomorrow’s race. Perhaps the best example of this was Marquez setting the quickest time in FP3 on a rear tire he had run more than 20 laps on.” Americans Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards will start from the 12th and 14th spots on the grid, respectively. In Qualifying 1, Hayden went out on an extra-soft rear tire but quickly returned to pit lane for the harder option, whereupon he set his quickest lap of the weekend, a 1:40.198, second in the session to the 1:39.888 of Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Yamaha’s Bradley Smith. Edwards only managed a 1:40.476 and did not advance to Q2. “Our goal was to reach Q2,” Hayden said. “But with the way the weekend has turned out, we reached the second qualifying session without new tires to use.” Hayden’s best lap in Q2 was 0.3 seconds slower than he had gone in the previous session. Rossi summed up the performance of the frontrunners. “With these guys, always in the qualifying, they are able to go incredibly fast and make some lap times that you cannot imagine the day before.”