MotoGP: There were plenty of suprises after final practice for the Argentina Moto GP. Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo will all start the race outside the Top 10.
MAVERICK Vinales continued his blistering form on Friday by setting the fastest time in practice for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Argentina as several of his key rivals struggled.
The 22-year-old clocked a best time of 1min 39.377 sec after two sessions on the hot and dusty Termas de Rio Hondo circuit with defending world champion Marc Marquez second fastest on a Honda, 0.301 sec behind.
They were the only two of MotoGP’s five big names to crack the top 10; Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo all floundered on the opening day.
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But as shocking as the list of who didn’t make the top three was the rider who did.
Unheralded Czech rider Karel Abraham, aboard Aspar’s two-year-old satellite Ducati, was third fastest and 0.403 sec off the lead.
“The Ducati has always been a good fit for me,” Abraham said.
“I was close to finishing as the Rookie of the Year on it in 2011 and now I am back on a Ducati I can say I think this is the best bike I have ever ridden.
“I am happy to be near the top, we will keep working hard to stay here and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
“This morning we were already in the top five and to finish third at the end of the day is very satisfying.”
There was no surprise about the two men ahead of him, Vinales’s searing form through the preseason and Qatar looking no sign of abating just yet.
“I feel very positive. I feel great on the bike and physically I’m really fit,” said Vinales.
“Step by step we are improving and we still have some work to do for the race, but I think we have the speed, so that’s really important.”
Marquez, the 2013, 2014 and 2016 world champion, recovered well after managing a mediocre 11th best in the morning run which saw the Spaniard suffer a fall.
“As always happens here in Argentina, today the track was quite slippery in the beginning, and I crashed this morning because I was pushing a little too hard and went a bit off line,” he said.
“Anyway, after that we worked really hard and found a promising setup. We’re still missing something, and tomorrow we’ll try to improve in the second sector, especially the acceleration at turns 3 and 4.”
However, it was a miserable two sessions for nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, the teammate of Vinales, who was down in 16th in both sessions and ended the day 1.054 sec behind his Spanish Yamaha partner.
“We have a lot of problems to enter the corners fast with this bike and I don’t feel comfortable,” admitted Rossi, the winner at the track in 2015 and second 12 months ago.
Former champion Jorge Lorenzo, whose decision to join Ducati created the Yamaha vacancy for 22-year-old Vinales, fared even worse, ending the day in 18th place, 1.122 sec off the pace.
Rossi was third in the Qatar Grand Prix two weeks ago but Lorenzo, the 2010, 2012 and 2015 world champion, was a disappointing 11th in a race where his Ducati factory teammate Andrea Dovizioso was runner-up.
— with AFP
Originally published as Abraham pulls upset, big names in trouble