World champion Marc Marquez claimed pole position for the Grand Prix of Argentina on Saturday as the Spaniard dominated in the pouring rain of Termas de Rio Hondo.

The Honda pilot edged Karel Abraham of the Czech Republic in a Ducati, who took a shock second spot on the front row for a career best performance, with Cal Crutchlow, on another Honda, in third spot.

"In qualifying the conditions were not the best for my riding style, as it was half wet and half dry, but we managed and tried to do a great lap and ultimately got the pole," said 24-year-old Marquez, the only rider to clock under 1 min 48 sec.

"I'm very happy to start from the front row tomorrow. They say it will be dry, so the race will be another story, but we'll try to find a way to fight for the podium."

It was a session to forget for world championship leader Maverick Vinales who won the season-opener in Qatar on his Yamaha debut after a winter of domination in testing.

The Spaniard was only sixth fastest at 1.706sec behind three-time world champion Marquez.

"I'm not disappointed. We struggled a bit with the rear grip and I don‘t know why. I felt some strange sliding on the wet, completely different than on the dry, so we have to analyse it," said 22-year-old Vinales.

"It was the first time I went out on the Yamaha in the rain, so there is a lot of work to do on the wet set-up, but I'm happy."

Vinales's teammate Valentino Rossi, who won at the Argentine track in 2015, was seventh fastest and will start Sunday's race from the third row.

Rossi, 38, is racing in his 350th grand prix.

"This is P7, it's nothing fantastic because in the wet I wasn't able to go fast like I was last year," said Rossi.

Triple world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who was a poor 11th in Qatar, was only 16th on Saturday on his under-performing Ducati.

QUALIFYING RESULTS

1 Marc Marquez Honda 1m47.512s -

2 Karel Abraham Aspar Ducati 1m48.275s 0.763s

3 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda 1m48.278s 0.766s

4 Danilo Petrucci Pramac Ducati 1m48.908s 1.396s

5 Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m49.008s 1.496s

6 Maverick Vinales Yamaha 1m49.218s 1.706s

7 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1m49.272s 1.760s

8 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 1m49.323s 1.811s

9 Loris Baz Avintia Ducati 1m49.630s 2.118s

10 Alvaro Bautista Aspar Ducati 1m49.724s 2.212s

11 Jonas Folger Tech3 Yamaha 1m49.825s 2.313s

12 Andrea Iannone Suzuki 1m50.725s 3.213s

13 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 1m49.488s -

14 Johann Zarco Tech3 Yamaha 1m49.916s -

15 Scott Redding Pramac Ducati 1m50.048s -

16 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati 1m50.310s -

17 Jack Miller MVDS Honda 1m50.319s -

18 Pol Espargaro KTM 1m50.673s -

19 Bradley Smith KTM 1m50.676s -

20 Tito Rabat MVDS Honda 1m50.910s -

21 Hector Barbera Avintia Ducati 1m51.058s -

22 Sam Lowes Aprilia 1m51.199s -

23 Alex Rins Suzuki 1m52.340s -