Ducati riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone had lucky escapes when their Desmosedici GP14 bikes suffered serious engine issues in opening practice for Sunday’s Argentine Grand Prix.
For Dovizioso it was a setback to his hopes of building on the third place podium finish for the troubled Ducati squad at last week’s Texas GP in Austin.
Ducati has not won a race since Casey Stoner’s Phillip Island victory in October 2010.
Dovizioso only just avoided crashing in a fast section of Termas de Rio Honda circuit in the second free practice session. Iannone was not so fortunate with an engine issue triggering a crash in which he was uninjured.
Ducati has the concession of using 12 engines this season, as per the Open class rules, compared to the limit of five for the factory bikes from Honda and Yamaha.
The extra numbers will come in handy especially for Dovizioso having lost an engine from his allocation at the just the third race.
“We had a problem and I was lucky in the moment when the rear locked because I was able to pull the clutch in and not crash,” said Dovizioso of his close call with the engine issue.
“It was a fast part of the track because you arrive on the left and you continue to brake on the right, so if it locks on the left or the right it is difficult to pull the clutch in.
“It started to lock when I started to pick up the bike, so I was in a position to pull the clutch in and that was positive.”
Dovizioso finished day one practice fifth fastest but a massive 1.7s behind Honda flyer Marc Marquez who continued his early-season domination of MotoGP.
Alone amongst the top riders, Marquez appears to have few major concerns about rear tire degradation on the new track surface which Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi and Dovizioso say is a big concern.
“I went out on the second bike I’d not even used. But I made a really good lap time in the middle of the session but the consumption of the rear tire is a big problem for everybody,” Dovizioso said.
“I hope tomorrow the track will improve a lot because like this it is difficult to make the race.”
Lorenzo, who had hopes the layout of this track would favor his style and Yamaha M1, was ninth fastest and looking for setup options to improve excessive tire wear.
Lorenzo said grip levels were like riding in the rain.
Rossi, eighth fastest and two seconds slower than Marquez, did an eight-lap run on a rear tire and was dismayed to see the amount of graining and degradation.
“The tire was very bad and I needed to slow down a lot. We have to work improve the performance but also to have a good balance and rhythm because the race is 25 laps so it will be a long race for the tires,” Rossi said.
“For sure the track will improve as will the behavior of the tires but we have to find the balance to go fast and stay constant.”
Meanwhile Marquez, who again showed his innate skill at being instantly fast at new circuits, appeared outwardly at ease with his position at the top.
“In the second practice the track improved a lot and the lap times were three seconds faster and I’m happy with the bike and tyres and I think we can improve, on every run the track was better,” Marquez said.
“I am sliding everywhere and the track grip is not yet perfect, not like in Austin, but it will improve. If the tarmac improves the times will be closer.”
Marquez is aiming to win his third consecutive race in Argentina on Sunday.
———————————————–Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone, Argentine GP, MotoGP