Aleix Espargaró takes first pole for Aprilia in MotoGP at Termas de Río Hondo

Aleix Espargaró – Termas de Río Hondo | © Dorna

Aleix Espargaró took pole position in the MotoGP class at Termas de Río Hondo on Saturday. In the second qualifying session, the Spaniard broke the eight-year-old lap record and took Aprilia’s first MotoGP pole. Jorge Martin qualified second with Luca Marini in P3.

On Saturday at 5:05 PM local time, 10:05 PM Dutch time, qualifying for the MotoGP class started at Termas de Río Hondo. The weather conditions were favorable with an outside temperature of about 27°C and an asphalt temperature of around 40°C, but there was a fairly strong wind on the Argentinian circuit.

The drivers who were classified outside the top ten after the two sixty-minute free practice sessions started in this fifteen-minute Q1 session. Some of the big names in this session included: Miguel Oliveira, vice world champion Pecco Bagnaia, Franco Morbidelli, World Cup leader Enea Bastianini and Pol Espargaró. The latter had only one machine at his disposal due to a crash in FP2.

As in FP2, Bagnaia was visibly frustrated in this Q1 session. The Ducati Desmocedici GP22 was unstable and the Italian couldn’t manage to string it all together in one lap.

Halfway through the session, Takaaki Nakagami was fastest with a 1’38.913 ahead of Enea Bastianini, shortly behind it were Miguel Oliveira, Franco Morbidelli and Pol Espargaró in the top five. All the drivers came in for a new rear tire to try again in the final minutes. Bagnaia was by far in last place at this point.

The Italian took it easy in the final phase and managed to set the fastest time for a few moments. Before long, Honda drivers Pol Espargaró and Takaaki Nakagami pushed Bagnaia out of the top two, making it a dramatic day for the vice world champion.

Pol Espargaró set the fastest lap time ahead of Takaaki Nakagami with a 1’38.501 enabling the two Honda drivers to advance to Q2. Enea Bastianini was only 0.043 seconds short with which the World Cup leader has to start from P13 on the grid on Sunday. Behind it are three big names: Pecco Bagnaia, Franco Morbidelli and Miguel Oliveira, Marco Bezzecchi, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Márquez and Fabio di Giannantonio finished in the top ten.

The twelve fastest MotoGP riders then battled for pole position in the fifteen-minute Q2 session. It was a false start for Joan Mir as the Suzuki GSX-RR he was going to take onto the track failed to start, forcing the mechanics to quickly change the tires to the second machine that was willing to start. In addition, Brad Binder only had one KTM RC16 at his disposal in this Q2 session due to a blown engine in FP2.

Aleix Espargaró, Jorge Martin and Fabio Quartararó got off to a good start and immediately set a good lap time. Jack Miller also started well but then crashed hard in turn 1. The Australian was unharmed but his Ducati Desmocedici GP22 was badly damaged, in addition the yellow flag was waved in turn 1 so that the drivers behind were unable to improve their lap time.

Halfway through the session, all the drivers came in and Aleix Espargaró was currently in pole position ahead of Jorge Martin and Fabio Quartararó. A new rear tire was fitted so they could all make one last attack on pole.

Quartararó was on his fastest lap so far as Miller had just left the pits with his second Desmocedici. The Australian got in the way and ruined the Quartararó lap, which the Frenchman was absolutely not happy about.

Jorge Martin then drove the first lap time under the 1’38 limit and seemed to have it done. However, Aleix Espargaró was still doing a sensational lap, with a 1’37,388 he set the fastest MotoGP lap ever at Termas de Río Hondo, breaking the record set by Marc Márquez in 2014 (!). This was Aprilia’s first pole in the modern MotoGP class and Aleix Espargaró’s first pole since Barcelona 2015, then on Suzuki.

It is also Aprilia’s first pole position in the premier class since Jeremy McWilliams on the Aprilia RSW500 at Phillip Island in 2000. Aleix Espargaró is also the first rider in the modern MotoGP class to achieve pole position on three different machines: Forward Yamaha, Suzuki, Aprilia.

Jorge Martin again qualified on the front row with an equally impressive Luca Marini behind in third. This left two Ducati Desmocedici GP22s in the front row, which leaves the factory team questioning.

Pol Espargaró eventually finished fourth on the Honda ahead of Maverick Viñales and a frustrated Fabio Quartararó, behind that Alex Rins, Takaaki Nakagami, Jack Miller and Johann Zarco completed the top ten.

The MotoGP riders will first come into action at Termas de Río Hondo on Sunday at 10:30 AM local time, 3:30 PM Dutch time for a forty (!) minute warm-up session. The 25-lap race will start at 8:00 PM Dutch time.

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