On pole and fighting for the podium in Argentina one year ago, Jack Miller was again a front-running contender during Friday practice for the 2019 event.

The Pramac Ducati rider finished second quickest in both sessions, lapping 0.353s behind Marc Marquez (Honda) in FP1 then just 0.009s from Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) as the Termas de Rio Hondo track got cleaner and quicker in FP2.

"It was very good. Positive all round. Happy with the way the bike and everything is working and looking forward to qualifying," said Miller, who was riding with a modified #43 in tribute to the Christchurch shooting victims (his parents are from New Zealand).

"Last year we were able to get the pole here simply because we lucked out. We put the right tyre on at the right moment. But I feel this year we have a good chance of challenging for it on an even playing field."

Despite the improving conditions, the Australian provided a graphic example of what can happen if a rider ventures off the perilously thin racing line when he slid from his GP19 while trying to pass Valentino Rossi early in the afternoon session.

"It's so difficult to pass out there at the moment because as soon as you go a little bit out of the line it's completely filthy and as you saw - too much lean angle on too much dirt and down," he said.

"You saw, I was clearly faster than Vale, I'd sized him up probably three or four corners before, but I felt there of all places I should be able to do it because it's quite a safe corner to pass.

"I was right on his arse coming out of Turn 15, braked maybe a metre inside because he was on the racing line, and when I grabbed the brakes the actual whole bike went sideways.

"I had to release and grab again and when I got back on the racing line I started running wide and then got off [the clean line] again, just tried to commit to the corner and you saw as soon as I leant it over and started releasing the brake to try and bring the bike back in, it just went on me.

"I think it's getting better but it's sketchy off line. Even Turn 1, I turned in a bit early on one of my laps and actually just ploughed the front. So it's going to be interesting.

"I think most of the overtaking will have to be done prior to the braking, so you can almost move your way back onto the racing line because I followed Abraham who was on a cool-down lap along the back straight and it was like a dust storm. It was incredible how much dirt was flying up."

Miller's other asphalt concern is over the apparent slow-drying nature of the track.

"I walked the track last night and there was no water on the track. Then this morning there were damp patches and it didn't rain so I don't know if they washed it last night and it didn't dry completely.

"But it'll be interesting to see if we do get a shower how long the patches stay wet."

Another grip-related topic was the clear use of Ducati's holeshot device during Miller's practice start, which lowered the back of his bike, much to the amusement of Alex Rins.

"My practice starts are always pretty average, but it's not the same as the real thing," Miller said. "You're not in the same frame of mind, you don't hold it on the limiter as long so your starts are always not as good. But you saw [the practice start] compared to the other guys there like Rins."

Referring to the recent protest against Ducati's rear tyre cooler, Miller quipped: "How long until either that [holeshot device] gets protested or the others start making one? The sheep start following us…! We'll see.

"I've had it since Japan last year. I've been very happy with it," he added. "The only track I didn't use it at was Phillip Island simply because you don't get enough weight transfer into turn one [to release the rear suspension]. For the rest, it works great."

Rins wasn't the only rider involved in some banter with Miller after practice, with the #43 waving his hands wildly at another good friend, Cal Crutchlow.

"I was just telling him to hurry up," Miller said. "Cal and I always have a bit of banter. He was behind me and he's always making - I don’t even know what it is, no-one knows what the sign language is! - when I am behind him.

"This time he was behind me, so I started to wave my hands around to let him know that I knew he was behind!"

Miller will be seeking his first points of the season on Sunday after being forced out of the Qatar season-opener when his seat foam became detached.

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