Triumphant in the Qatar season opener, Andrea Dovizioso sunk to a shock 24th and last during Friday afternoon practice for the Argentina MotoGP.

The Italian's quicker morning time was still only good enough for 15th overall as Ducati's trio of factory-backed riders were left 14th, 15th and 16th on the combined timesheets.

"For sure I didn't enjoy to ride the bike in second practice," said Dovizioso. "I had to close the throttle in turn four, in the straight, in acceleration because the bike was moving, so it was scary."

The problem, in a nutshell, was simply a lack of grip.

"Unfortunately it's similar to the past! This confirms that this kind of track is more difficult for us, compared to other tracks," said Dovizioso.

The low grip nature of the rarely-used Termas de Rio Hondo asphalt is compounded by the need for hard tyres to withstand wheelspin through the long corners.

"The track was dirty at the beginning, which is normal," said the Italian. "But I think it will not change too much, also because the tyre we have to use is very hard.

"There is a lot of spin and slide here because of the layout of the track and they have to bring hard tyres. So just from the tyres it's difficult to find the grip."

The 2017 title runner-up added: "Every tyre you use, there is no grip and almost no difference. The difference is just a little bit the warm-up of the tyres, some are better or worse.

"But we can't find the grip to be faster [by changing the tyres] so we need to find in a different way."

Dovizioso was quick to state that part of the much-needed progress can come from him, while he hopes rain will stay away long enough to get at least one more dry session.

"For sure there is also one part from my side, I didn't ride the bike in a perfect way and I didn't have a normal feeling to push and make a good lap time.

"This is not an excuse, it’s the reality and we need to work, like in the past when we did almost second place [Argentina 2016] we didn't start competitive.

"I hope to have a minimum of one dry session tomorrow to work on that."

Like most riders Dovizioso praised the partial resurfacing for removing bumps, but felt the grip of the new asphalt was actually lower. However, "I never feel a normal grip in Argentina."

On the other side of the Ducati garage, team-mate Jorge Lorenzo felt wind was a factor in the GP18s being ranked behind all three of the older 2017 Ducatis.

"I think the conditions today, especially the wind multiply the weak points of the bike, that is the front wheel is a little bit less in contact than the old one.

"For example in the fast corner before the long straight, I lose half a second in that corner because I couldn't open full throttle, because I couldn't feel safe enough to do it. And in the rest of the track, I also didn't feel great. Very strange conditions, special conditions."

Unlike the GP18s, the GP17s are running last year's wing fairing, putting added load on the front tyre.

Why the GP18s are not at least trying the latest version of that wing fairing, seen in testing, is still unclear (assuming it was homologated in full wing form).

Asked if he intends to evaluate the downforce fairing, which he favoured so much last season, Lorenzo hinted at some sort of issue preventing its use:

"No. Let's see what we can do for tomorrow or the next tracks. But it's a complex thing at this moment."

Changing subject, Lorenzo refused to be drawn further on an interview to be broadcast by Spanish TV on Sunday, in which he appears to criticise Dovizioso (it is thought Lorenzo is asked to respond to something the Italian has said).

"Now we are in race mode and maybe next Thursday we will speak about that," Lorenzo said of the interview. "Now, we must concentrate on race questions, and you can see the interview. I never lie, always say what I think, and what I think is the truth."

Quickest of the GP18s on Friday was Pramac's Danilo Petrucci, in 14th overall and 1.468s from Honda's Marc Marquez.

"We already knew this morning the feeling was not the same as Qatar, Thailand or Sepang," said the Italian.

"This afternoon the situation got worse because we started to try something different. We [also] started to try different tyres on the rear - I put the soft one but it didn’t work.

"It seems there is no grip for us on the track and we struggle a lot to let the tyre work on our bike. After ten laps our tyre seems to be new.

"It's very very strange because the feeling is that the bike is not predictable lap-by-lap, which means you cannot push as much as possible or give advice for the set-up."

While the GP18s are staring down the barrel of Qualifying 1, unless they can break into the top ten on Saturday morning, Avintia's Tito Rabat was a surprise fourth overall to head the Ducati challenge on last year's GP17.

"We had a great first day," said the Spaniard. "We found a strong pace and also put in a fast lap time. In the first practice session, the track was a little dirty, but this afternoon, the conditions were almost perfect for me. Every day I feel better with the Ducati and with my team.

"Now we have to focus on qualifying tomorrow, because I want to improve further and get a good position on the grid for Sunday’s race. We mainly have to work on tyre life and we will also try to go a little faster."

Pramac's Jack Miller was tenth and Aspar's Alvaro Bautista eleventh.


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