Espargaro leads Aprilia one-two in Argentina MotoGP practice

Aleix Espargaro. Picture:

Aleix Espargaro. Picture:

Aleix Espargaro turned the tables on his Aprilia team-mate Maverick Viñales to top Friday practice at the Argentina MotoGP round.

Viñales had set the pace in the opening practice session with a 1:39.207s which was just under three tenths of a second quicker than Espargaro’s best lap.

However, it was the latter who completed the day at the summit of the timesheets at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit on his factory RS-GP.

Espargaro’s time of 1:38.518s put him 0.162s ahead of Viñales as the threatened afternoon rain never arrived, while Marco Bezzecchi was the fastest Ducati in third for the VR46 team, 0.249s off the pace.

The Argentinian venue holds fond memories for Espargaro, who bagged his first premier class success in 2022 and Aprilia’s maiden MotoGP victory.

He now looks to have a strong chance of repeating the feat this weekend, with Saturday’s Sprint race offering an extra bite at the cherry ahead of the main race on Sunday.

Bezzecchi’s teammate, Luca Marini, was fourth fastest ahead of Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati), while 2022 champion and Portimao double winner Francesco Bagnaia improved from 10th in the morning session to sixth on the Lenovo Ducati, four tenths behind Espargaro.

Jorge Martin, third in first practice, slipped to seventh on the Pramac Ducati. The Spaniard was ahead of Takaaki Nakagami – the leading Honda rider for LCR – while Franco Morbidelli ensured he went straight through to Q2 on the Monster Energy Yamaha, taking ninth ahead of Alex Rins (LCR Honda).

Morbidelli’s top 10 position heaped more misery on team-mate Fabio Quartararo, who could only manage 14th, seven tenths off the top time.

Alex Marquez (Gresini Ducati), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM), and Joan Mir (Repsol Honda) were 11th, 12th, and 13th respectively.

Fabio Di Giannantonio was 15th on the Gresini Ducati ahead of Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM), with MotoGP rookie Augusto Fernandez (GasGas Tech3) and Raul Fernandez (RNF Aprilia) finalising the 18-strong field.

Augusto Fernandez, 13th in the morning session, lost the front and was sent sprawling into the gravel early in FP2 at Turn 1, hampering his progress.

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda), Pol Espargaro (GasGas Tech3), Enea Bastianini (Lenovo Ducati) and Miguel Oliveira (RNF Aprilia) are all missing this weekend as a result of injuries sustained at Portimao.

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