It proved a difficult opening day in Argentina for the Yamaha WorldSBK riders, who had to contend with racing on a track with little to no grip as a result of a fine layer of sand and dirt that covered the entire 4.276km length of the Circuito San Juan Villicum. Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark, both finished inside the top ten, but it was Sandro Cortese who led the Yamaha charge, with the GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider ending the day in eighth place, having opted to run the softer option rear tyre in this afternoon’s second free practice session.
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Loris Baz, had his fastest lap of the day disallowed and, as a result, ended the day in 13th position, while GRT Yamaha’s Marco Melandri was frustrated to finish one place further back in 14th.
While circuit staff deployed brushes and air blowers in an attempt to clean the surface yesterday, their efforts and equipment proved woefully inadequate, with the result that track conditions remained treacherous as the riders took to the track for WorldSBK FP1 this morning. Many riders, having inspected the track immediately prior to the start of the session, opted to sit out most of the 50-minute practice, rather than risk injury on a track where grip was severely compromised by the dirty surface.
Conditions improved slightly for FP2, with a very narrow clean line appearing around the track, but times were still two seconds slower than the same session last year, despite almost perfect weather conditions. Deviation from the cleaned line resulted in a dramatic reduction in grip and a proportional increase in risk, as some riders discovered to their cost today.
With the track set to improve with more laps tomorrow, rendering anything learnt today irrelevant, the five Yamaha WorldSBK riders opted for a cautious approach, rather than risking all by chasing a fast lap time in the unpredictable conditions today.
To aid the teams and riders adapt to the changing track conditions, tomorrow’s third and final free practice session has been extended by 15 minutes.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P9 – 1’45.269
“I’m a bit disappointed with the condition of the track; it’s really dirty and it hasn’t improved as expected over the course of the day. The racing line is getting a lot better but if you get a bit offline then you’re on to the dirty part of the track. Hopefully the line will get a bit wider ahead of the race tomorrow. It’s a great track, the layout is fantastic, and the weather has been perfect today, but the problem with the dirty track means we’re a lot slower than we should be. But then the conditions are the same for everyone and we just have to deal with them the best we can. This afternoon we tried something with the bike that didn’t work as expected in the greasy conditions, which was important because now we know in which direction not to go tomorrow when, hopefully, track conditions improve.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P10 – 1’45.337
“It’s been a difficult opening day for everyone as the conditions were far from ideal because of how dirty the track was. We have to keep working, be patient and stay calm. You can’t go making many changes to the bike as the track is also changing, but at the moment I’m struggling to get the bike turned mid-corner, which is something we need to work on for tomorrow. This afternoon there was a bit more of a clean line, but it was so narrow and you couldn’t afford to drift off it, especially on corner entry. Anyway, as I said, it was the same for everyone and, hopefully, with more laps tomorrow then the situation will improve.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P8 – 1’45.144
“It was still quite a positive day for me, even if the track conditions were so bad. For me it’s unbelievable that we’re expected to race on a track in this condition. The track is beautiful, and the conditions were the same for everyone, but the surface dirt made it dangerous. Anyway, let’s hope for better grip tomorrow, because I really do like the track layout and I’m looking forward to racing here if the conditions improve.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P14 – 1’46.718
“Another frustrating day for me. This afternoon the clean line on track was just a metre wide and grip was so lacking that in some corners it was impossible to even touch your knee on the floor. If you go wide and onto the dirtier parts of the track, then it’s too easy to highside on the brakes. It was very bad today. I’m maybe not the right person to ask, as I will retire at the end of the season, but we shouldn’t have to race in conditions like we had today, as it’s just too dangerous.”
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P13 – 1’46.639
“Last year on the first day the track conditions were the same, but the first year at a track you can maybe understand, but to have an even worse problem the following year makes no sense. Today we couldn’t work on the bike at all in these conditions, basically we were just out there cleaning the track. For me the second session was more difficult, which I couldn’t understand, but then we saw an immediate improvement towards the end when we changed the rear tyre, so that could have been the problem. In the end they didn’t allow my fastest lap, but I am pretty confident for tomorrow. The conditions are difficult and, while they are the same for everyone, I hope will we see some improvement for tomorrow because, right now, it’s quite dangerous to overtake and this is something that needs to be addressed.”