Delighted to finish on the Qatar podium after a difficult pre-season, Marc Marquez led an unexpected Honda surge during a slippery Friday practice in Argentina.
The double world champion began the day second to Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso, then slashed over two-seconds from his best lap time as rubber began to replace dust in the afternoon.
But the 'strange' conditions meant Marquez was still 2.5s seconds from lap record pace and he played down the significance of the Friday timesheets, which saw four Hondas in the top five.
Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa was a mere 0.025s behind Marquez. Suzuki's Maverick Vinales was then almost half-a-second adrift in third, followed by satellite Honda riders Jack Miller (Marc VDS) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR).
“Of course I'm happy because I'm at the top! But we must be honest and the conditions of the track are really strange, it's really slippery,” said Marquez, speaking in the paddock. “It looks like when we don't have grip on the track the Honda is working not so bad. But I think we are also losing in some points where we must improve tomorrow.
“You must also understand who put new tyres or not, that can confuse the result and [lap times]. Some riders tried the hard rear, some riders kept old tyres, some put new... Tomorrow we will see the reality.
“The key for this weekend will be to understand, practice-by-practice, where we can improve and try to adapt the set-up of the bike to the changing track conditions. At the moment the hard tyre is working well.”
Asked if he felt it was acceptable to have such a dirty track for the start of a MotoGP event, the Spaniard replied:
“This is MotoGP and every track must be different and you must adapt - rain, cold, warm. Of course these conditions are strange but you must adapt. During the weekend it will improve.”
That's assuming the forecast rain does not arrive on Saturday...
By Peter McLaren