GP of Argentina, raceday roundup – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
A faultless flag-to-flag race by Marc Marquez saw him dominate the Argentina GP, running away with victory from Rossi and Pedrosa.
Issues with the rear tyre of Scott Redding’s (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) Ducati during Free Practice 4 on Saturday saw a raft of changes brought in. Michelin and Race Direction were unsure about the safety of rear tyres brought to the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina, and came to the decision to reduce the race from 25 laps to 20. As Warm Up had been held in wet conditions and the race started dry, riders were required to come in on their ninth, tenth or 11th lap of the race and change to their second bike. There were therefore no concerns about fuel or tyre life, riders able to give it their all on both stints.
Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was the only rider to opt for the harder rear tyre. The entire front row started with hard fronts and medium rears. With dark clouds looming overhead the race got underway, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) getting the holeshot into Turn 1. Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) got a great start but came into contact with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), forcing them both wide and dropping Pedrosa outside the top ten.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) used the power of the Ducati to hit the lead early with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) behind. The factory Ducati would head the field across the line on lap one with Rossi just behind, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) an ever-present threat. Meanwhile, Lorenzo plummeted down the field and soon found himself in sixth.
As the first lap came to a close, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) and Aleix Espargaro fell, both able to re-join the race. Carving his way through field, Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) was up to seventh as the second lap began, slotting in behind Lorenzo and then passing him soon after.
The leading trio continually tightened, Valentino Rossi sniffing up the inside of Dovizioso at every chance he got. This opened the door for Marquez, the Spaniard sliding through on both Rossi and Dovizioso to begin lap four in the lead of the race.
Miller’s charge would be unfortunately short lived as the Australian rider fell on lap four at Turn 3. All the while, Marquez pushed ahead and attempted to open a gap, the top three divided evenly by half a second. Dovizioso then found himself with teammate Iannone for company, Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) eagerly waiting to pick up the pieces of the Ducati battle.
Riders frantically glanced at their pit boards as they roared down the straight, their teams doing all they could to keep them up to date with bike change strategy. Lorenzo’s race would get even worse as with 15 laps to go he suffered yet another fall at Turn 1, ending his race. After the perfect weekend in Qatar, few imagined the World Champion would fail to finish in Argentina.
Marquez and Rossi continued to sprint away at the front, Marquez 0.8s ahead with Rossi two and a half second in front of the all-Ducati battle for third. The gap wouldn’t stand as a distinct hint of déjà vu began to appear, Rossi rapidly closing in on Marquez. On lap nine of the race, Rossi took the lead down the back straight but Marquez responded straight away to cut back ahead.
It wasn’t only Marquez who made movements, while eyes were fixed on the leaders, Viñales was able to get ahead of the Ducati factory pair for third. Iannone and Viñales were the first riders to enter the pits on lap nine to change their bikes, Pedrosa, Baz, Barbera, Laverty and Bradl following suit as Marquez and Rossi tussled in the lead. With 11 laps to go, the pair came into the pits, Marquez just ahead as they were both forced to respect the 60km/h limit in pit lane.
Marquez would re-join the race in first position with Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) in second, as he had not yet pitted. With Rabat as a buffer, Marquez pushed as hard as he could to break away from Rossi and opened up a lead of over two seconds. The gap would open to a massive three seconds as the final nine laps of the race began, Viñales two seconds back on Rossi as the Suzuki rider was able to retain third after the bike changes.
As the leading three settled into their rhythm, Redding used the power of the Ducati GP15 to blast past Pedrosa and move into six behind the Ducati factory pair.
Rossi’s pace soon settled in the 1’41s, not fast enough to catch Marquez and ‘The Doctor’ quickly found himself fending off Maverick Viñales. The Ducati factory pair continued to swap positions behind them, all four riders in the fight for second as Marquez’s lead grew with each lap. Rossi was able to up his pace as soon as Viñales was with him, the young up and comer giving as good as he got with the old master.
Redding encountered a technical problem with five laps to go and was forced to retire, the Brit on course for a top six finish.
Viñales came under pressure from Iannone at Turn 1 as the 18th lap of the race began, unfortunately crashing out of the race. This gave Rossi a small amount of breathing room, Iannone over half a second behind his compatriot. But the cushion wouldn’t last for long, Iannone blasting up the inside of Rossi and opening the door for ‘Demso Dovi’ to come up the inside of them both.
The last lap began with Dovizioso in second as Iannone held onto the final step of the podium, Rossi hunting for a way past the powerful Ducati. Every time they ran across a straight the Ducati was able to stretch its legs, Rossi trying all he could on the brakes. Iannone did not defend; instead he began to attack his teammate Dovizioso, the pair crashing out together at Turn 12 after an overly enthusiastic move from Iannone. This pass was seen as overly optimistic by Race Direction and Iannone was handed a three place grid penalty for the race in Austin and a penalty point. Iannone, appealed the decision at the MotoGP Court of Appeal, which will meet within the next 4 following days.
Their incident promoted Rossi to second and saw Dani Pedrosa take a surprise third place finish. Determined to finish, Dovizioso showed true grit and determination to push his Ducati across the line for 13th place.
Just off the podium was Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP), the Irish rider ending fourth and as the top Independent Team rider. This is by far Laverty’s best result in MotoGP™, besting Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) by 0.169s.
Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) secured a solid sixth ahead of Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), who secured Aprilia’s best race result since returning with a factory entry. Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), completed the top ten.
Aleix Espargaro finished 11th after his early fall.
There were also crashes for Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP) and Michele Pirro (Octo Pramac Yakhnich). Both were unharmed and Pirro remounted to finish 12th. Cal Crutchlow and Loris Baz also failed to finish the race.
Johann Zarco kept his cool during a hectic Moto2™ race to take his first win of 2016 ahead of Lowes and Folger.
A dry race was declared for the Moto2™ World Championship round at the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina, the second race of 2016. Conditions were not perfect as damp patches littered the circuit. All the riders lined up on slick tyres, the Moto3™ race before demonstrating this as the clear choice. Everyone chose the medium front and hard option rear tyre, a level playing field for all 29 riders on the grid.
As the lights went out it was Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) who charged into the lead as the intermediate class ran down into Turn 1. As in Qatar, the German pushed immediately but had Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) and Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) for company. Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) was within touching distance as the leading quartet opened up a two second lead over the rest of the pack.
At the start of lap 2, Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) slid off at Turn 1, re-joining the race down in 29th before retiring. He has failed to finish both races so far in 2016.
Meanwhile the top four closed up, Folger maintaining his lead and perfectly navigating the wet patches out on track. The battle behind was not as calm as the likes of Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) and Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) tried to gain on the leaders, but the gap continued to grow with each lap.
With 20 laps to go, Sam Lowes struck, jumping into the lead and pushing Folger back down into the clutches of Zarco and Morbidelli. Lowes’ bike squirmed beneath him as the Brit opened up a gap, half a second clear of Folger as lap four began. Fastest sector after fastest sector came from the leading four, all pushing each other to the limit as they sparred for victory. Turn 1 saw all of the leading four to bunch together with each lap, no one able to open up a lead of more than half a second in the opening stages.
Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten) was a man on a mission, the Swiss rider quickly catching and passing Syahrin and Rins with 19 laps to go. But Syahrin upheld his reputation as a rider who shines when conditions are at their most difficult, the Malaysian able to re-pass Aegerter soon after. The pair would duel for the majority of the race.
On lap nine, Lowes was able to drop into the 1’46s and open up a lead of over half a second for the first time in the race. His rivals immediately responded on the next lap, all able to drop into the 1’46s as well. But it was Folger who upped his pace the most, the German able to produce a 1’45.726 to drag himself from a distant fourth to a fighting third as the race approached mid-distance.
After a slow start to the race, Alex Rins rallied and cut past Aegerter, the Spaniard up to sixth. He then set his eyes on Syahrin just ahead, the leading four now almost seven seconds in the lead. But Rins continued to go faster and faster, able to drop into the 1’45s and exceed the pace of the leading riders by almost a second for multiple laps in succession.
A classic slipstream manoeuvre down the back straight on lap 13 saw Johann Zarco charge into the lead. With clear track ahead of him, Zarco went about opening up a comfortable margin from Lowes, the Brit turning his attention to fending off Morbidelli as the laps ticked down. Zarco remained calm in the lead, focusing on staying as smooth as possible, a stark contrast to Lowes’ aggressive-sideways style. Just as one of the leading four thought they had their position secure, another would immediately close the gap.
Although Rins had broken away from them, Syahrin and Aegerter continued to push each other and produced a thrilling battle for sixth place. The Qatar GP race winner, Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) was unable to close down on the pair and spent much of the Argentina GP in a lonely eighth place.
Fastest laps continued into the closing stages, Alex Rins trying all he could to close down on the leading four and return to the podium, constant battling ahead giving the Spaniard hope. As the final five laps began, the leading four upped their pace; a mistake from Lowes saw the Brit drop down from second to third at Turn 7 on lap 19. This gave Zarco clear track yet again, the Frenchman not wasting his time nor his second opportunity and opened up an advantage of one second on the 20th lap, focusing on slowly growing it in the final stages.
Fastest sectors continued to flow as the leading five dropped into the 1’44s but on the 22nd lap of the race, Franco Morbidelli fell at Turn 1 as he attempted to push past Lowes. The Italian remounted but finished outside the points in 25th. Morbidelli’s fall solidified the top three, Zarco’s one-second lead unbeatable, despite Lowes’ best efforts.
Zarco returns to the top step of the podium for the first time since the Malaysian GP in 2015 and wins the Argentina GP for the second time in his career. Lowes took second, 1.347s behind the Frenchman with Jonas Folger completing the podium.
It was a valiant effort from Alex Rins as he attempted to come back from his poor start, the Spaniard reducing the gap to the podium to 3 seconds as he wrapped up the race in fourth. Dominique Aegerter would eventually get the better of Syahrin for fifth.
Hafizh Syahrin, Thomas Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten), Axel Pons (AGR Team), Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) completed the top ten. Thanks to his seventh place finish, Luthi retains the lead in the Moto2™ World Championship with 34 points, Zarco moving to second after his win.
Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) crashed out at Turn 9 on the 13th lap.
The Moto3™ World Championship round in Argentina was declared a wet race, the surface of the track somewhere in between wet and dry. All riders came to the grid on wet tyres, but some thought that slicks would be the best option. The Termas de Rio Hondo is a track with high grip levels, the situation reminiscent of the 2015 Indianapolis GP. It was tense on the grid as a number of riders weighed their potential options, all riders hiding their tyre choice until the final seconds.
Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) was the only rider to opt for wet tyres, the rest of the field, hoping the track would improve and that they could keep heat in their tyres, chose to run with slicks.
Starting from pole position for the first time in his career, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) made a solid start. But it was Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) who shot into the lead, the only rider on the front row who started on a dry patch of tarmac. His lead would not last as Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia) shot ahead and quickly opened up an advantage of over half a second by the middle of the first lap.
But with wets fitted, Loi was in hot pursuit out the front, able to push immediately. His plan was clear: sprint ahead while the track was wet and attempt to defend his lead if the track dried. Loi tagged onto the back of Pawi as the duo charged ahead, four seconds in front of the rest. Pawi’s performance was almost unbelievable given the fact he was on slick tyres, Loi unable to stay with the Malaysian’s demonic pace.
Adam Norrodin (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) was able to break away from the chasing group as well, three seconds ahead of Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing) who was in fourth. As the pack battled away behind, Pawi set fastest lap after fastest lap, consistently three seconds faster than everyone else on track.
Championship leader Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) found himself outside the points with 18 laps remaining as he was in 17th, his title rival Brad Binder staying steady inside the top ten, involved in the battle for fourth.
With 15 laps to go, Adam Norrodin slipped past Livio Loi, the pair swapping positions for several corners as Pawi continued to set fast laps, his lead now 20 seconds. The battling of Norrodin and Loi allowed Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) to catch them, Navarro and Norrodin able to wrestle past Loi. With a third of the race gone, Loi was clearly struggling with his wets on the rapidly drying track.
However, the rain flag came out again soon after. This didn’t deter Navarro and Norrodin as the two continued to swap positions. With the race now in a more or less stable rhythm, Binder began to pick his way through the field and found himself up in fourth as the middle of the race approached.
The rain flags offered Loi no relief, the Belgian rider dropping back with each lap. All riders forged ahead, Pawi given multiple warning signs that he was near the limit as his bike bucked beneath him. Still the lap times came, Pawi setting a 1’58.127s, the fastest lap of the race at that stage, with 11 laps to go.
Positions continued to change behind him, Antonelli fighting into the points as the likes of Fenati and teammate Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) dropped outside the top 20.
The battling raged behind, Brad Binder and Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) charging into the top five. Fourth produced a stunning battle with the likes of Binder, Locatelli and Mir all trading places. Unfortunately Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) suffered a fall at Turn 7 as he attempted to stay with the other riders. Meanwhile Navarro and Norrodin were locked together, Navarro’s experience allowing him to just remain ahead until midway through the final lap.
After an almost unbelievable race, Pawi would cross the line a staggering 26.170 ahead of Jorge Navarro. Navarro and Norrodin’s battle would go down to the penultimate corner, Norrodin high siding as he tried all he could to end second. This promoted Brad Binder to third, continuing his perfect podium record in 2016.
Pawi is the first Malaysian rider to take a Grand Prix victory, doing so in just his third race on the world stage.
Norrodin stood up and pushed his bike across the line for 11th, drawing applause from all those in the crowd and pit lane.
Andrea Locatelli produced his best ever Grand Prix finish with fourth ahead of teammate Mir, who also produced his best result and the fastest lap of the race.
Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia), John McPhee (Peugeot MC Saxoprint), Jorge Martin (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3), Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) and Niccolo Antonelli completed the top ten.
Brad Binder takes the lead of the Moto3™ World Championship with 36 points.