Round 2 Argentina MotoGP- Termas de Rio Honda
Some mixed up weather conditions plagued the Argentinian round of the MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. Riders were faced with cold temperatures and rounds of rain, with rain expected to be present on race day.
Qualifying saw Miller set the fastest time to earn him pole position on a track that was drying. This pole position makes Miller the first Ducati Independent rider to claim pole. Miller was able to snatch pole from Dani Pedrosa on his final lap with Pedrosa performing well under the mixed conditions earning him second place on the grid with Johann Zarco in third. Notably Tito Rabat will start from fourth with this being his best ever MotoGP start. Dani Pedrosa had this to say about the Qualifying session:
“What a qualifying session. It was very tight and challenging with the mixed conditions. Once the rain stopped the track started to dry pretty quickly, and at a certain point there was a dry line. The problem was that turn 7 was completely wet, and then the final corner was pretty damp as well. Jack (Miller) made an incredible pole on slicks. After my first exit, which wasn’t perfect, I considered switching to slicks as well. In the end, I decided to stay with rain tyres and to try and push to the limit. I did a good lap and I’m very happy with the result, because being on the front row is important for tomorrow. Honestly, it’s difficult at the moment to know what tyre choice we’ll make for the race as conditions have changed so much over the weekend. So we’ll wait and see how the weather will be tomorrow, looking forward to a good race either way.”
Despite qualifying in sixth Marc Marquez was the favourite to win the Argentina GP displaying good pace all weekend and the ability to handle all the weather conditions thrown at the riders.
As the race drew closer the conditions were still unclear and it was eventually declared a wet race. The track however, was drying and this caused a lot of chaos and riders were leaving the grid at an alarming rate to change tyres. Jack Miller had already gambled on slicks with medium front and rears and was ready to roll and so the warm up lap saw only one rider on the grid.
The start was delayed and a quick restart procedure was put in place for the now reduced 24 lap race. It was a bizarre scene as all riders except Miller were required to start from the back of the grid. Marc Marquez added to the drama when his bike stalled on the starting grid moments before lights out. He wheeled the bike forwards and turned it around on the track before moving back into position. (This has caused a lot of controversy over whether it is technically allowed to be done). Marquez was later issued with a ride through penalty for the move.
Given the circumstances it was clear that Miller would take holeshot heading through turn one. Dani Pedrosa, Johann Zarco and Marc Marquez were quick off the mark and soon caught up with Miller. Zarco perhaps a bit too eager to reach the front had a moment and lost third to Marquez and then shortly after took second from his teammate Pedrosa. Marquez was clearly on a mission as he tried to pass up the inside of Miller but he remained in second. Zarco was next to make a move, he pushed his way up the inside of Pedrosa, making contact with him which forced Pedrosa wide and off the dry line where he highsided. Dani came down hard on both hands and is set to have his right wrist examined in Barcelona.
In the second lap Marquez was able to take the lead from Miller with Alex Rins joining the party ahead of Zarco, Cal Crutchlow, Tito Rabat, Dovi and Valentino Rossi.
A few laps later the white flags were flown to indicate that riders could come in at any time to swap bikes. As lap six rolled around Marquez was advised that he had a ride through penalty for the incident during race start. With Marquez’s exit Miller reclaimed the lead.
On completion of the ride through he returned back to the track in nineteenth ahead of Alvaro Bautista. Marquez was like a rider possessed as he tried to claw his way back to the top of the field. He took the inside line on Aleix Espargaro forcing him wide, acknowledge his aggression but carried on. He then made passes on Nakagami, Tom Luthi and Franco Morbidelli but was penalised one place as race direction deemed the previous move on Aleix too dangerous. He kept going passing Pol Espargaro, Scott Redding and by lap 13 he was in 12th. As Marquez’s barrage continued he picked off other riders but as he came upon Valentino Rossi who was in sixth he hammered up the inside of Rossi contacting and causing both riders to run wide. The result of this move saw Rossi crash at turn 13 with 4 laps to go. He managed to re-join but he was way down in the field.
Back up the front Miller still led at the half way point of the race with Rins, Zarco, Crutchlow and Dovi in the top five spots. Rins was now really applying pressure to the race leader but Miller was able to retain the lead. A few laps later however, the two were at it again and Rins led the race with nine laps to go with Cal Crutchlow running in third after passing Zarco. A lap later Rins ran wide allowing Miller, Crutchlow and Zarco through leaving him in fourth. Shortly after Bradley Smith crashed out of sixteenth at turn 1 with six laps remaining. During this lap Miller made an error and he dropped to fourth handing Crutchlow the lead. Crutchlow then came under pressure from Zarco who passed him and lead with four laps to go. Rins a lap later displaced Crutchlow to third. Crutchlow was having none of that and in the penultimate lap he came out of the slipstream to reclaim the lead. From here the British rider was able to hold the lead to take the win after starting from tenth on the grid. Zarco crossed the line in second followed by an ecstatic Alex Rins who pulled a wheelie over the line to celebrate his first podium in the premier class.
Jack Miller headed over the line in fourth from his pole start. Marc Marquez finished in fifth but after investigation into the move on Rossi, Marquez was to be penalised with another ride through but given there was not enough time to complete it he was instead given a 30 second penalty which placed him eighteenth and outside the points. Rossi who was the victim of Marquez finished behind him in nineteenth.
Marquez’s relegation saw Maverick Vinales promoted to fifth with the top ten comprising of Andrea Dovizioso in sixth, followed by Tito Rabat, Andrea Iannone, rookie Hafizh Syahrin and Danilo Petrucci in tenth.
The win sees Crutchlow now leading the Championship, the first British rider to do so since Barry Sheene in 1979.
1st: Cal Crutchlow
“I knew it was going to be a good race today, no matter what. I felt I played my cards very well because I didn’t need to take any risk. I didn’t want to take any risk on the wet patch, and I saw a lot of riders take a risk on the wet patch, and I felt very good with the momentum I had. I pounced when I needed to pounce, it’s as simple as that.”
“I think we managed the situation well, although it was very difficult for all the riders and Michelin as well. We asked for Michelin’s advice and they gave us the correct one about the tyre choice. I am not sure if the front was the right one for me, I think I should have chosen the harder one, but at the start of the race I didn’t want to take too much of a risk, so went with the medium. Overall we are happy, the rear tyre worked well and performed very well, especially considering the track conditions The track was very dirty and we were constantly going on and off the wet parts, which is not very good for the tyre, but we were still able to be fast and competitive at the end of the race with the lap-times, so overall we are very pleased.”
2nd: Johann Zarco
“Cal took the lead and I said ‘I can’t give up’ and I try thinking maybe I can get an opportunity, but I was on the limit and didn’t want to do a silly mistake, so he deserved the victory and with me pushing this way, I’m pretty happy with the second place.”
3rd: Alex Rins
“I have no words to describe this podium, I am very happy, thanks to the team as they did a really good job in Japan over the winter. Before the start I was so nervous with all the start delays and everything. Just in the last lap, I ran off a little bit on turn 7 and I was thinking maybe Miller was on the back and I push to the limit and finally we came home third so I’m very very happy.”
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