Spanish Marc Marquez (right), of Honda, and Italian Valentino Rossi , of Yamaha, in action during the qualifying round of the Grand Prix of Argentina MotoGP, in the Termas de Rio Hondo, Santiago del Estero, Argentina. EPA
Spanish Moto GP rider Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) (right) and French Moto GP rider Loris Baz (Ducati) (back) during the first free practice session of the Argentina Motorcycling Grand Prix. EPA

TERMAS DE RÍO HONDO: World champion Marc Marquez claimed pole position for the Grand Prix of Argentina on Saturday as the Spaniard dominated in the pouring rain of Termas de Rio Hondo.

The Honda pilot edged Karel Abraham of the Czech Republic in a Ducati, who took a shock second spot on the front row for a career best performance, with Cal Crutchlow, on another Honda, in third spot.

“In qualifying the conditions were not the best for my riding style, as it was half wet and half dry, but we managed and tried to do a great lap and ultimately got the pole,” said 24-year-old Marquez, the only rider to clock under 1 min 48 sec.

“I’m very happy to start from the front row tomorrow. They say it will be dry, so the race will be another story, but we’ll try to find a way to fight for the podium.”

It was a session to forget for world championship leader Maverick Vinales who won the season-opener in Qatar on his Yamaha debut after a winter of domination in testing.

The Spaniard was only sixth fastest at 1.706sec behind three-time world champion Marquez.

“I’m not disappointed. We struggled a bit with the rear grip and I don’t know why. I felt some strange sliding on the wet, completely different than on the dry, so we have to analyse it,” said 22-year-old Vinales.

“It was the first time I went out on the Yamaha in the rain, so there is a lot of work to do on the wet set-up, but I’m happy.”

Vinales’s teammate Valentino Rossi, who won at the Argentine track in 2015, was seventh fastest and will start Sunday’s race from the third row.

Rossi, 38, is racing in his 350th grand prix.

“This is P7, it’s nothing fantastic because in the wet I wasn’t able to go fast like I was last year,” said Rossi.

Triple world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who was a poor 11th in Qatar, was only 16th on Saturday on his under-performing Ducati.

In Moto 2, Portugal’s Miguel Oliveira took pole on a KTM ahead of the Kalex machines of series leader Franco Morbidelli and Alex Marquez.

Britain’s John McPhee, on a Honda, took front row honours in Moto3, two weeks after finishing second in Qatar.

Italy’s Nicolo Bulega on a KTM and Honda rider Jorge Martin fill out the front row.--AFP

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