That the Termas De Rio Hondo track is in better condition this year was obvious from the outset, and underlined by the times set by the MotoGP riders. Maverick Viñales' best time in FP1 was faster than the time set by Marc Marquez last year in FP3, after a day and a half of riding on the track.
Even more impressive about Viñales' time is the fact that he set it on a hard rear tire, at a time when everyone else was out chasing a fast time on the soft and medium rears. Race Direction had obliged all of the riders to do at least 5 laps on the hard rear Michelin during either FP1 or FP2, to ensure it was a safe tire to race on, but Viñales' time proves it is not only safe, but also competitive, at least on the Movistar Yamaha.
Behind Viñales, an interesting cast of characters lined up. Danilo Petrucci pushed hard late on to take second place on the Pramac Ducati GP17, two tenths behind the Movistar Yamaha, and just squeaked ahead of the two Monster Tech3 Yamaha riders, Johann Zarco edging out his teammate Jonas Folger. Karel Abraham was an impressive fifth fastest, on a two-year old Aspar Ducati GP15.
Andrea Iannone was the first Suzuki home, the Italian just a fraction slower than Abraham and a fraction quicker than the first Factory Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso, who took seventh. Hector Barbera set the eighth fastest time on the Avintia Ducati GP16, ahead of Jack Miller and Alvaro Bautista.
Though conditions so far have been very good, with clear skies and a strong wind, the weather is expected to turn. If it does rain in the afternoon, that would put a lot of riders in trouble. Marc Marquez, Aleix Espargaro, Scott Redding, Cal Crutchlow, Jorge Lorenzo, and Valentino Rossi are all outside the top ten, and provisionally in Q1 should the rain fall.
There were a couple of minor incidents for the two championship favorites. Maverick Viñales had a very violent headshake as he changed direction through the last corner, which set off the airbag in his leathers. Marc Marquez came off worse, crashing out at Turn 2 early in the session, and taking a tumble through the gravel. Both men went back out again afterwards, though whether they picked up any minor aches and pains is unclear.