Clement Desalle took his red-plated Factory Suzuki RM-Z450 to fourth position and the same spot in the gate for the Grand Prix of Argentina at Villa la Angostura and in front of a busy and excited crowd.
The third round of 18 in the FIM Motocross World Championship took place at the new circuit close to the Chilean border and around a fast and loose layout formed from dark volcanic soil.
With more than 8000 tickets pre-sold for the first Argentine GP this century, the site in the region of Neuquen was prepared for a bumper attendance and the fan-enclosures on Saturday were already full.
The fine yet lumpy dirt covered a hard base and riders scratched their heads to find the best solution for traction. Desalle and the Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MXGP crew tried two different tyre compounds and profiles before electing for one particular Pirelli model that served the MXGP World Championship leader well for the qualification sprint.
Desalle already made his mark earlier in the day with provisional pole position and the fastest-lap at Neuquen. A bright start in the heat race was ruined after he collided with Max Nagl in the opening stages and he then made a small mistake at almost half distance that dropped him down to eighth. The 25 year old recovered well and passed Jeremy Van Horebeek to take fourth place. Brand-mate Glenn Coldenhoff also suffered a crash but his speed brought him from outside the top 20 to 17th.
“The track is a bit tricky. You see something and when you hit it then it turns out to be something else! I had a good start and was second but in the second corner Max [Nagl] had a ‘kick’ and pushed me completely outside. I lost a couple of positions there. I was then fifth, third and made mistake myself and went back again. I kept concentrating and knew that anywhere in the top 10 would be good for the start here. My riding was OK but I hope things will go better tomorrow. I have the red plate but I want to win!”
MXGP of Argentina Qualification Heat: 1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 25:10.966; 2. Ryan Villopoto (USA, Kawasaki), +0:01.596; 3. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Husqvarna), +0:07.567; 4. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), +0:16.819; 5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:17.981; 6. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:18.994; 7. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Honda), +0:24.378; 8. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:37.733; 9. Todd Waters (AUS, Husqvarna), +0:43.773; 10. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +0:45.716. 17. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), +1:14.380.